Partnerships key for equity in Transit Oriented Development

The term Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in India is a dirty one. While partnerships present an opportunity for stakeholder collaboration that generate value by pooling of complementary expertise and resources, the practice in India has meant subcontracting of tasks and strategy by public sector to the private sector with little accountability or responsibilities on outcomes. The only driver of the partnership has been project finance and profits. This has been especially true in housing or slum redevelopment schemes from Dharavi in Mumbai to Katputali colony in Delhi driven by PPPs between city governments and large private developers. Maximizing the value of land while delivering maximum number of low-income housing are contradictory and misleading national policy objectives with fatal social outcomes.

A relatively new urban planning tool is now evaluating how to identify key transit-nodes for focused transit-oriented development (ToD). The success of the policy will rely on the careful design and crafting of private-public partnerships (PPP). ToD also presents a opportunity into designing progressive well structured PPP models that are truly win-win and have a lasting impact on the livability in cities.

One of the challenges facing The Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) , the agency tasked with defining the ToD policy within Delhi Development Authority, is to design its transit-oriented development (TOD) such that it will promote inclusive and sustainable neighborhood transformation and not lead to gentrification. In a TOD area, once property values increase it tends to push out affordable housing stock or convert rental stock into ownership for sale to higher income groups. The Equitable Development Toolkit discusses about how the extension of the Red Line of Boston’s subway system to Somerville, Massachusetts,
in 1985 and the TOD around the Davis Square stop, for example, dramatically changed this working-class community. Housing costs soared, and new condos are being built or converted from former rentals at a rapid rate: since 2000, 1,394 condominium units have been placed on the market, some of them topping $1 million.

Ensuring pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that are inclusive and equitable, mixed-use and mixed-income is the core of TOD. Equally important is revitalizing neighborhoods through program design and policy incentives that are economically and financially attractive for all stakeholders—government, large and local businesses, private developers, and local residents.

One of the pilot sites identified to test the TOD model in Delhi is the Karkarduma metro station. Here lies an opportunity to influence programming of a government-owned site. The only low-income housing stock is in the form of illegal unauthorized colonies or slums. The residential areas are already overcrowded and the metro is used intensively for long trips. The current land use of the area does not allow local businesses to flourish formally.

What type of private-public partnerships should we consider to achieve this? What should be the process of engaging the community and residents? How could we create non-profit associations that can steer and facilitate these interactions?

One partnership has already been formed—an interdisciplinary working group that is brainstorming strategies for the Karkarduma pilot. Under the coordination of UTTIPEC, it brings together urban planners, transport and energy professionals, decentralized infrastructure providers, community development institutions, socio-economic researchers and real estate and financial professionals to put their heads and hearts together and define norms and a process that will create a livable city for all.

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