During a pandemic like COVID-19, there is a strong rationale for living in integrated townships. These self-sustaining, compact urban ecosystems are now more than just lifestyle upgrades - they provide the kind of controlled environment that makes a big difference during such an outbreak. Gated communities offer security, but integrated townships let residents get through the prolonged siege-like situation of a pandemic with a much lower impact on quality of life.
Anuj Puri, Chairman - ANAROCK Property Consultants says, “Going forward, dispersed offices and flexible workplace policies around WFH will spur housing demand on city peripheries, beyond the city-centre hotspots. This will lead to higher demand for large township developments which, because of their massive size, have been developed on the peripheries. However, they account for a mere 2% of all housing supply since 2010, so their numbers are currently inadequate to meet the coming demand.”
Integrated townships began their Indian innings primarily as a lifestyle statement - the conveniences and address value come at an added cost which does not appeal to budget home seekers. The subtle luxury quotient, a function of the surrounding infrastructure rather than in individual properties, resulted in townships catering to a niche rather than to the masses. Also, very few developers have the expertise and resources to deploy integrated townships. As a result, the supply of integrated townships remained restricted even as other formats proliferated.
As on date, the top 7 cities have just over 101 township projects (launched since 2010 till date), accounting for around 3.16 lakh housing units. (Besides mixed-use developments, townships with more than 2,000 housing units are also considered).
This is only a minuscule 2% share of overall housing projects launched during this period. Clearly, this is a hugely under-served segment whose underpinning relevance and importance has been emphatically brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of the 101 projects, nearly 57 are large purely residential projects with some basic facilities like a retail shop, pharmacy, salon and some form of entertainment. The remaining 44 are full-fledged mixed-use developments with dedicated retail, entertainment, education, commercial, health and residential spaces. NCR and MMR have the highest saturation of townships.
“Beyond superior conveniences and security, townships offer a sense of community which is extremely important in times like the coronavirus pandemic," says Puri. "Living in such projects also helps work-from-home professionals to maintain optimum productivity while being assured of their and their families' health and safety. Many townships even offer a walk-to-work option."
Apart from the expertise to plan and execute such large projects, integrated townships also require gargantuan investments in capital, land and other resources. Resultantly, integrated townships will largely remain the purview of Grade A developers.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the most important features of townships probably are their considerable distance from mid-city infection hot zones and their superior security and sanitation. It has also been confirmed that the virus is more easily transmitted in areas polluted by excessive traffic. The reduced and regulated traffic and large, air-cleansing green zones in integrated townships are therefore a compelling argument. In townships where they are available, schools, shopping and healthcare nearby are distinct advantages. Multi-level security arrangements can ensure very effective segregation from surrounding areas, as well as contact tracing, if the need arises.
However, the main value-adds in such projects predate the pandemic. Most townships are well-planned layouts where optimum space is utilized. Landscaped gardens, jogging tracks and dedicated play areas enhance the overall liveability quotient. Integrated townships also tend to have advanced waste management and rainwater harvesting.
Given the nature of the times, we may soon see more such projects being announced. Various government and nodal development agencies have already incorporated various townships-focused changes in their city planning, such as better road connectivity, utilities supply and sewage.
Some of the more promising areas for future development include Kalyan-Bhiwandi and Boisar in MMR, Sohna in Gurugram, North Bengaluru, Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida, Gahunje in Pune, and West Hyderabad, among others.
These locations meet the most important criteria of being well-connected and having enough contiguous land parcels to accommodate integrated townships.
Anuj Puri, Chairman of ANAROCK Group is a highly respected industry authority and thought leader with 30 years' experience in leveraging Indian and global real estate opportunities. His company ANAROCK has a staff complement of over 1800 qualified and experienced professional, with offices in all major markets in the country, dedicated services in Dubai and a global footprint with over 80,000 preferred channel partners.