Visakhapatnam: The Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) has made a fervent appeal to the government to help the realty sector which was going through difficult times due to COVID-19.

Talking to reporters here on Monday, the Chairman of CREDAI-Visakhapatnam Chapter Peela Koteswara Rao said that building activity had been adversely affected due to multiple problems like enhancement of land value, increase of registration fees, severe shortage of sand, steep hike in the price of cement and steel. The realty sector is the second largest provider of employment after agriculture and the present crisis in this sector would have an adverse impact on employment opportunities and hundreds of daily workers would be jobless, he noted.

The enhancement of the land value and registration fees would ultimately increase the cost of the housing units and keep potential buyers at bay. Postponement of enhancement of land value by at least one year and reducing the registration charges from the present 7.50 per cent to about two percent would go a long way in attracting prospective buyers leading to the spurring building activity, he felt.

Non-availability of t-sand had become a permanent problem for the builders, hampering construction activity and rendering hundreds of workers, both skilled and unskilled, jobless, he said. “Due to severe shortage of sand, and the manipulations of greedy sand mafia, the construction activity has come to a grinding halt in north Andhra and the unforeseen COVID-19 has only worsened the situation. On top of this, rainy season has also set in to further compound the problem of sand,” Koteswara Rao observed.

The problem was special for builders in Visakhapatnam as there were no river beds in the entire district, and they had to get sand from far off neighbouring districts. He urged the authorities concerned to take this into consideration and do the needful to ensure uninterrupted supply of sand to builders in Visakhapatnam.

Though the new sand policy announced by the government was aimed at provision for online booking with the aim of eliminating hurdles in supply of sand and ensuring uninterrupted supply of quality sand to builders and others, it had not been helpful to the builders mainly because of the issues involved in implementation of the policy, he stated.

Sand syndicates were at work at stock point and sand is sold in black market at exorbitant rates. While the price fixed by the government at the stock point is Rs.375 a ton, it is being sold at a price ranging from Rs.1600 to Rs.2000 per ton in the black market, he said Referring to hike in price of cement and steels, Koteswara Rao said it had resulted in rise in cost of housing units and dampening the enthusiasm of potential buyers.

Of late, cement price had gone up by more than Rs.100 per bag and that of the steel by about Rs.10,000 per ton. Manufacturers of cement were supplying cement to the government at Rs.235 per bag but builders had to spend Rs.350 per bag, he said.

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