LAHORE - No proper efforts are being made by the government or the State Bank to increase housing supply and improve the overall conditions in housing as well as housing finance market, as there is acute housing shortage, particularly for lower income groups, which make up a substantial part of the population.

This was stated by Mian Ayaz Anwar, the Managing Director of the Zaitoon Group, a real estate development company, during an interview with The Nation.

He observed that it is responsibility of the State Bank of Pakistan to launch a First Home Mortgage Scheme on marginal interest for all income groups to bridge this gap of demand and supply.

If the housing sector grows the allied industries of construction material, including cement, steel and a long chain of several other industries will also get boost, ultimately enhancing the GDP growth of the country. So, it would be vital for the central bank to give special attention to housing sector, as it is directly related to the growth of our economy as well as employment generation, he stressed. 

He said that one of the major components of the social infrastructure is housing, the lack of which begins to offset the positive effects of economic development. He pointed out that the housing sector is believed to affect an economy in different ways. He said if the majority of the population has access to adequate housing, they are more likely to participate economically, socially and politically in their communities, he observed.

He said that Pakistan is facing severe problems of housing shortage. According to an estimate, there is a shortfall of 8 million houses in Pakistan, which is growing with the ratio of 600,000 annually. Quoting the SBP’s own report, he said that the formal financial sector caters to only 1 to 2 percent of all housing transactions in the country, whereas the informal lending caters up to 10 per cent of such transactions.

Govt should work as a regulator and provide incentives to private sector for the provision of subsidized homes to public, he recommended.

Mian Ayaz asked the govt to have strict control on prices of building materials. Further government may provide subsidized building material to ensure timely completion of houses. He said that a rapid urbanization has become a common phenomenon for developing countries across the globe. However, it is a good sign because rapid urbanization indicates economic development.

Responding to a question, he said the living standards of people are changing in cities, which is forcing us to add value to the communities. Now buyers want security, community centres, hospitals, cinemas, parks, and even golf clubs all within their own neighbourhood so that they do not have to commute long distances,” he said.

He said that Zaitoon Group comprises of ten companies, engaged in real estate development, real estate investment and construction. The Group has good reputation, which has been due to success in providing quality project management and construction.

He said that our group initiated the trend of constructing commercial plazas in Gulberg, which diverted the rush of customers from Hall Road and Anarkali and brought unprecedented commercial activity to Gulberg while releasing pressure of traffic from the older commercial centers of the city. He said that Zaitoon Group’s basic principle is to deliver the future today. It is committed to put forth novel ideas and deliver new concepts.

Talking about the salient features of his new project of New Lahore City, he said the City is poised to reclaim the long lost glory of our illustrious heritage. The planned green spaces will be 40 per cent of the total area earmarked for the project, he added.

Responding to another question, he said that 80 percent small farmers were always ignored in the budget. He said ground realties of the agriculture should be highlighted in the budget and policies be evolved in accordance with that. He said that Pakistan can grow rapidly by introducing agro-based industry, which has huge export potential.

He said that hydel power projects were politicised due to which country was facing an energy crisis. He said industrialisation was also stopped. He maintained that the privatisation of power sector is the only solution to the prevailing loadshedding in the country.

He urged the government to evolve a mechanism to privatise all the public sector enterprises that are generating a loss of billions of rupees annually. He said that their privatisation would not only help the government in getting rid of huge losses but would also strengthen the government’s revenue position.