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How Mumbai should deal with its FSI policy

Posted by : Arundhati, Mumbai, India, Urban Planner | Architect
04 Jan, 2021 22:27:00

Currently, the base FSI in Mumbai 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, for residential spaces it 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, higher FSI would generate more built space, leading to higher density and with existing limited infrastructure, the city would become unworkable urbanization. Other concerns were shown like increasing FSI will lead to congestion on streets, it might favour developers etc. (Firstpost, 2018, April 19)

I completely disagree with the above statements as limiting FSI in Mumbai couldn’t limit the density or population growth, similarly, additional FSI cannot increase the people density in the city. Quoted by Alain Bertaud (Mumbai FAR/FSI conundrum),” change in urban density depends on two factors,1. How much land can be developed each year & 2. How many people added to a city each year through natural growth and migration.” Currently, in order to limit city growth, restricted FSI has only increased the unaffordable housing and slums.

FSI is usually different in various 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 more effective use of land through the redevelopment 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, driving up property prices, make unaffordable housing and fuel the expansion of slums.

In comparison with current restricted & proposed increased FSI scenario, the continuation of limited FSI would lead to stay, floor space constant over time which would increase floor space consumption per person by paying high prices per square meter. With the adverse effect of people moving out of the city, staying in sub-urbs 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.