Those who live in housing societies under Lahore Development Authority (LDA) know very well that if they put an inch outside the permissible construction demarcation, the LDA will be at their door in no time. Illegal construction in houses as small as 5 Marla never goes unnoticed while housing schemes spreading in acres are allowed to do business. LDA has recently asked PTA to ban illegal housing scheme ads on social media, a toothless effort to stop the illegal development of housing schemes.
Since COVID-19, the only industry that has shown signs of life is the real estate industry. In the last six months or so, the mainstream media was buzzing with commercials related to residential plots or houses. Al-Jalil Developers, Omega Residencia, City Housing, Al-Hafeez Garden, and Bismillah Developers among others ran aggressive campaigns. These housing schemes among many others need to have the NCO from LDA before they could run their campaigns on TV, those who couldn’t get the required documentation utilized the platform of social media.
Now, as I pointed out earlier, LDA has asked PTA to ban those schemes on social media as well. LDA is trying to stop the fire without cutting off what’s fueling it. If several housing societies are illegal, there should be strict legal action against them. PTA might stop their message on social media but they will still exist. Their marketing and sales offices will continue to lure customers into buying plots that may not be there.
The problem is that most housing schemes, including some of the bigger players, start a project without acquiring the required land. They sell more plots than they actually have on the ground. The biggest example in the recent past is the Eden Housing Society. The trust of the common man in the ‘Eden’ brand was betrayed. The scam is estimated to involve multi-billion rupees.
Stopping illegal, non-LDA approved housing projects by LDA or PEMRA is not the solution. Legislative bodies at both federal and provincial levels should make laws to plug the technical loopholes. But the situation is not as academic as it seems. Those who are to solve such issues are part of the problem. As long as land mafia and land grabbers continue to serve at the highest state institutions, illegal housing schemes could only be stopped by PTA on social media.