One out of every four

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Over a hundred out of the four hundred housing societies in the Punjab capital are illegal schemes, reports the Lahore Development Authority. The question: whether the urban development body does this reporting with a straight face? Regulating housing societies is, after all, one of the LDAs principal mission statements, along with the provincial revenue departments. These are the bureaucratic gauntlets of red tape that have to be waded through in order to set up a housing society.

The LDA is a most notorious hot bed of corruption. This is evident not just from the mushrooming of the fake housing societies but also from the large albeit now curtailed trend of building structures much higher than the permissible height. It is possible for a drug inspector, say, to miss out on fake drugs hidden in a godown somewhere. But for a shady developer to hide an eight-story building from an LDA inspector?

The speculative boom in the real estate sector has all but subsided to reveal a genuine demand, and a consequent shortage, of housing units. The desire to have a home of ones own is a very natural, essentially middle-class attribute. Saving up for the plot of land alone is a long, relentless slog. It is sad that many of the people who have invested in the same are now probably never going to see that money again.

On a side note, even the housing societies that are legal arent planned well. Lahores town planning has left much to be desired, with urban sprawl becoming a serious concern. Such cities, especially when they have an urban transport setup as bad as Lahores, become increasingly elitist and anti-poor. The LDA needs to be made into a modern, proactive and humane organization. It should not only improve its planning paradigm but also be vigilant against those who violate its rules.

It is high time for an extensive crackdown on all fake housing societies, especially now that the Punjab government is spending a large sum of money in one of its own. The government is beseeched to ensure that the shady operators are apprehended before they can manage to get away with the money deposited by the unsuspecting public.