Dr Amir Ahmed, Head and Assistant Professor of the Department of Real Estate at Daffodil International University, elaborates on the new Detailed Area Plan (DAP), improving gender balance in the real estate industry and ensuring access to adequate, safe and affordable housing for all in the country.
Last year, the government approved the Detailed Area Plan (DAP 2022-2035). We are curious how the new DAP intends to make Dhaka more livable.
The Detailed Area Plan (DAP) aims to make Dhaka a more liveable city by keeping the population density of different areas proportionate to civic amenities and developing planned infrastructures in a broader area to accommodate 60 lakh more people by 2035. At the same time, a recommendation has been made to maintain a population density of 200 people per acre in central Dhaka and 250 per acre in the Old Dhaka areas. The DAP has also proposed a population density of 180 people per acre in Gazipur, Narayanganj, Savar, Purbachal and Jhilmil urban areas and 150 people per acre for other metropolitan areas. DAP claims the plan perfectly aligns with the vision for every city area evenly populated by 2035.
To make Dhaka livable, DAP has several features such as density zoning (area-wise floor area ratio), block-based development, urban lifeline (3207 km), transit-oriented development (TOD), prioritising public transport and non-motorised transport (6 metros, 2 bus rapid transits, 6 elevated expressways, 2 ring roads, and circular waterways), special consideration for bicycle lane (222 km), transfer of development right, low-income housing (58 locations), school district concept (627 schools, 285 colleges, and 287 hospitals), regional park (5 regional parks, 55 water parks, 14 eco-parks). The inter-regional connecting roads in Dhaka would be increased to 291 km from 228 km. There is also a plan for creating a 202 km cycle lane and 574 km waterways in the new DAP. Overall the new DAP intends to make Dhaka more liveable by decentralising urban areas.
While aggregate housing prices continue to soar beyond the reach of the lower and middle-income segment, many are leaning towards the second-hand property market. How would you assess this development for the industry and for the consumers?
The trend of the lower and middle-income segment leaning towards the second-hand property market can be a response to the increasing unaffordability of new properties. While this may provide a more affordable option for consumers, it can have positive and negative implications for the industry. However, the demand for second-hand property has existed in the housing market for a long time. On the positive side, the demand for second-hand properties can stimulate the industry and create opportunities for owners to sell their properties at a premium. With second-hand properties in the market, there is no supply shortage. According to Bproperty CEO Mark Nosworthy, the secondary property market is about 25 times the size of the primary property (new apartment) market. It is why most of the real estate giants in Dhaka city are gradually entering this market. Whether you want to invest in real estate or move in with your family, a second-hand property can cater to your residential needs.
Moreover, the price of such properties tends to be lower than a brand-new one for obvious reasons. They are immune to any construction price fluctuations. Additionally, every second-hand property tends to come in a ready-to-move-in condition with utility connections and all the residential amenities. So you have the option to generate a monthly cash flow by putting the property up for rent. Regarding long-term ROI, the property appreciation rate is usually much higher than the inflation rate, which means you can sell your property at a much higher rate than the purchased value. On the negative side, while the trend towards the second-hand property market may offer some short-term solutions for the affordability issue, the industry and policymakers need to focus on creating a sustainable and affordable housing market that can cater to the needs of all income segments.
The real estate sector is also one of the biggest employers in the country. However, it is overwhelmingly a male-dominated industry in Bangladesh. What are the underlying reasons behind this? How can we ensure a more gender-balanced workforce for the sector?
While I do not fully agree with the premise of the industry being male-dominated, I would have to concur that there is an existence of a predominant gender imbalance in different segments within the industry. A possible reason is the various segments of work areas in this industry. In simple terms, we can divide the work areas of a real estate company into two distinct categories, for example, in-office work such as architectural and interior design development, site and area planning, sales and marketing and so on. In these areas, we have a good number of female officers in most of the top-ranked real estate companies. In contrast, the second category, construction management, supply chain management, procurement, and so on, is a male-dominated area in this industry where women may feel uncomfortable. However, the ratio may be 7:3, and a possible reason for this gender imbalance is the lack of awareness about the vast and diversified employment opportunities for women in this particular sector.
However, the gender balance has drastically improved in the industry over the last decade. Recently, I visited an upcoming real estate company in Uttara, where one of my female students is an Assistant Manager of the customer care department. I found 19 female employees working in different departments in that company. Things are also improving in academia. For example, in my university, in the real estate department, 5 years back, the male-female ratio was 8:2, but, in recent years, it has improved to 6:4. Therefore, the trends are encouraging, but there is work to be done.
In order to facilitate a more gender-balanced workforce in the real estate sector, we require a multi-faceted approach. It begins with creating awareness about the various women-friendly career scope in this sector and promoting subjective knowledge and training at the institutional level. Providing mentorship and networking opportunities can help to create a supportive environment for women in the industry and enable them to build professional relationships and connections.
As a country that aspires to meet all the SDG Goals in due time, Bangladesh must ensure access to adequate, safe and affordable housing in urban areas by 2030. How can we achieve that?
Achieving access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing in urban areas by 2030 is an essential goal for Bangladesh to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Several strategies can be implemented to that end. Access to finance is one of the significant barriers to affordable housing in Bangladesh. Therefore, the government can collaborate with the private sector to develop innovative financial products that facilitate affordable housing. For example, microfinance institutions can offer housing loans to low-income families. Also, inclusive policies can be implemented to ensure that the benefits of urbanisation are equitably distributed. Private sector investment can play a crucial role in providing affordable housing. Government can create incentives for private sector investment in affordable housing. It can include tax exemptions or other financial incentives. The government can support slum upgrading programs that provide essential services such as water, sanitation, and electricity to informal settlements. It can help to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers. The government can promote innovative housing solutions that are affordable, safe, and sustainable. By building partnerships between the government, private sector, and civil society, organisations can help to address the complex issues related to affordable housing. Partnerships can leverage resources, share knowledge, and build trust among stakeholders.
Photograph by Shahriar Alam Sakib