In order to overcome the shortage of new housing units, the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has notified new building and zoning regulations (BZRs) for implementation in the provincial capital.
The new BZRs are aimed to pull real estate, housing and construction sectors out of stress as construction activity has come to a grinding halt due to the change in taxation and the high cost of construction materials.
According to the new regulations, the authority has relaxed the plot size and the building height requirements for the construction of multi-storey residential apartment buildings. For a residential apartment building, the city developer has reduced the minimum plot requirement from 4 kanal to 10 marla and allowed a building height in different zones that ranges between 48-foot and 120-foot. An apartment on non-converted residential site (which falls on declared commercial road only for residential purpose) ranges between 48-foot in low-rise height zone, up to 90-foot in medium rise-1 zone, 120-foot in medium rise-2 zone, up to 200-foot in high rise-1 zone and up to 300-foot in high rise-2 height zone.
As per the new regulation, there is no height limit for commercial buildings having an area of 12-kanal and above. These buildings will have mandatory requirement of rooftop garden, rain water harvesting, parking and firefighting systems. In commercial buildings, it is mandatory for building owners to install a solar power system equivalent to 20% of the energy requirement of the building. Strict implementation of fire and safety regulations will be ensured in the construction of new buildings to avoid any untoward incident.
To streamline the building plan approval process, the authority has decided to establish counters of different government agencies in LDA offices to expedite the process. New rules and regulations, after consultation with the Pakistan Engineering Council and construction industry stakeholders, have also been notified for engineers and architects. According to the new regulations, all government agencies and departments would be bound to make a decision on the issuance of no-objection certificates within 15 days.
Available data suggests that there is a huge gap between the demand and supply of housing units in the country, especially in urban centres. Estimates indicate that the urban housing demand in Pakistan is around 350,000 housing units per year, while the supply is around 150,000 units per year, which is almost half of the demand. The country also faces a huge backlog of over 8.5 million residential units and this number is increasing to 0.2 million units every year.
A recent survey of the Punjab agriculture department revealed that every year around 10% of agricultural land in the suburbs of the provincial capital is being converted to residential colonies. The horizontal growth of major cities has not only put pressure on existing infrastructure but has also created various environmental and social issues.
Experts highlight that horizontal growth of cities has exerted stress on the underground water table as concrete and pavements create a barrier in the natural process of underground water table recharge. Change in land use has also increased agriculture commodities prices in cities as earlier the provincial metropolis was being fed by neighbouring rural areas but now commodities are being transported from the far end.