Cities dealing with it’s FSI policies

Aerial View of Mumbai City
PC@ Unequal Scenes

Currently, the base FSI in the Mumbai city is 1.33, which has now been modified and increased to 5 for commercial and 3 for residential spaces. While the base FSI for commercial development in Mumbai suburbs has been increased to 5. The FSI for residential spaces remains unchanged at 2.5. The FSI for commercial structures has been linked to the width of the road, which means wider the road, more the utilization of space.

For a long period of time, Mumbai’s FSI has been restricted under the assumption, that higher FSI would generate more built space, leading to higher density and with existing limited infrastructure, the city would become unworkable urbanization. Few other concerns were also shown as increasing FSI will lead to congestion on streets, it might favour developers etc. (Firstpost, 2018, April 19)

Disagreeing with the above statement, my opinion is limiting the FSI in Mumbai couldn’t limit the density or population growth, similarly, additional FSI cannot increase the people density in the city. As quoted by Alain Bertaud (Mumbai FAR/FSI conundrum),”change in urban density depends on mainly two factors,1. How much land can be developed each year and 2. How many people added to a city each year through natural growth and migration.” Currently, in order to limit the city growth, restricted FSI has only increased the unaffordable housing and slums. Hence my recommendation would be in support of increasing FSI as per new policy mentioned above.

FSI is usually different in different part of the city depending upon street layouts, public transport or zones. In the case of Mumbai, it has exceptional topography which reduces the amount of developable land and the current policy of restricting the floor space which can be built on the limited land available. However, Mumbai could overcome the topographical constrain by various tools like the more effective use of land through development of obsolete land and increasing floor space that would generate more built space and people would end up consuming more real estate. FSI can fetch a high price and be a rich source of revenues. However, restrictive FSI limits create an artificial scarcity of floor space, forced people to make crowding, driven up property prices, make unaffordable housing and fuel the expansion of slums.

If we compare the current restricted FSI and proposed increased FSI scenario, the continuation of limited FSI would lead to stay, floor space constant over the time which would increase the floor space consumption per person by paying high prices per square meter. With an adverse effect of people moving out of the city, staying in suburbs and increase in their commuting time. However, in the increased FSI scenario, the floor space area would increase over the years, simultaneously improvement in infrastructure will raise the consumption of floor space leads to the availability of affordable and formal housing. People won’t be pushed on suburbs or outside the city. The spatial expansion of the city will be stopped. As rightly mentioned by Shirish Patel,( Life between Buildings, The Use and Abuse of FSI)”Undoubtedly, the more compact a city is, the more efficiently it will function.

FSI is not the only tool, to make successful use of extra floor space, adequate infrastructure should be provided. Proper water supply, sewerage, ROW of roads should be taken care of as well as public amenities and open space crowding and traffic is supposed to be managed. The special areas like transit nodes, where the public footfall is high, transport capacities should be increased. Planners play a crucial role in framing regulations for a city. The fewer time they try to command and control, where and how much floor space to build, instead of letting firms and household do this, leads to promote the inefficient use of land and city stops responding to economic changes.

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