The Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ)—a 100-year-old neighbourhood in New Delhi—is perhaps India’s most elite residential location.
Built by British architect Edwin Lutyens between 1912 and 1930, the 28 square kilometre (sq. km) LBZ boasts of as many as 1,000 bungalows with expansive lawns bordering wide boulevards. These colonial buildings are also home to some of India’s most powerful people: the prime minister, cabinet ministers, bureaucrats and a number of wealthy businessmen. Compared to the rest of Delhi, where some 1,100 to 1,600 people live per acre of space, LBZ has a population density of between 14 and 15 people per acre.
For the less privileged, however, this stretch of town has almost always remained out of bounds, owing to stringent laws that prohibited high-rise construction in the area. The neighbourhood is also known for its astronomically high real estate prices. In 2014, Mumbai-based Essel Group purchased a 2.8 acre property in the LBZ for Rs304 crore ($45 million). A similar property in Greater Kailash, another affluent neighbourhood in the capital, would cost at least Rs100 crore less.
The Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) )—a government body responsible for ensuring the aesthetic quality of urban and environmental design within Delhi—has suggested to India’s urban development ministry that the LBZ area be shrunk by 5.13 sq. km. If accepted, the DUAC’s proposal would immediately free up some 1,200 acres of land from the tough construction laws, and allow real estate companies to build more homes in the zone. Under the new proposal, upmarket areas of Sunder Nagar, Golf Links, Jor Bagh, Bengali Market, Panchsheel Marg, Sardar Patel Marg, Mandir Marg, Chanakyapuri, Ashoka Road and Connaught Place could be excluded from the LBZ. Current rules do not allow for high-rise constructions, since the bungalows have a heritage value. If an old bungalow is to be reconstructed, it has to retain the height of the original structure. Lutyens Bungalows are usually six metres high. Now, DUAC recommends that residential properties in the entire LBZ should be allowed to be built up to 12 metres with basements. And commercial buildings should be permitted to go to up to 32 meters—about eight floors—with a three-level basement.
WSP(India) would hazard a guess that the changes being proposed will benefit business and property speculators but not the common people. It is very unlikely that housing for the poor will be built in such elegant surroundings.