BENGALURU | MUMBAI | NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget 2017-18 speech has given one of the much needed thrust to the Indian real estate sector. The minister announced that the ‘Affordable Housing’ will be given ‘Infrastructure’ status, which is likely to result in increased participation from private players.

“The announcement of affordable housing being given Infrastructure status is a welcome move and will act as a catalyst to meet the objectives of Housing to all by 2022. Credit off-take towards affordable segment of housing will lead to creation of supply especially for both stake holders the first home buyer and developer who will now have access to cheaper funding,” said Ravi Ahuja, Executive Director, Office Services & Investment Sales at Colliers International India.

Jaitley also announced that National Housing Bank will refinance individual loans worth Rs 20,000 crore in 2017-18. “NHB allocation will give a big push to affordable Housing Finance Companies namely AU housing, Gruh Finance, Repco,” said India Ratings.

On the all-important front of personal income tax, the existing tax rate for incomes between Rs. 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh has been reduced to 5%, and taxpayers in other categories will also save Rs. 12,500.

Key highlights for real estate sector in Union Budget 2017:

* Affordable Housing has been given the Infrastructure status

* 1 crore rural houses will be created by 2019

* National Housing Bank to refinance Rs 20,000 crore loans

* Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to get Rs 23,000 crore

* Real estate developers to get tax relief on unsold stock as liability to pay capital gains will arise only in the year a project is completed

* Instead of Built up area of 30 and 60 sq meters, the carpet area of 30 and 60 sq meters will be applicable for affordable housing

* Holding period for capital gains tax for immovable property reduced from 3 years to 2 years

* Window for availing 3 year profit-linked incentives for start ups increased to 7 years against 5 years earlier

* Tax break of 1 year post receipt of the completion certificate, for the unsold stock

* New FDI policy under consideration

* No cash transaction above Rs 3 lakh will be allowed

* Rs 2.41 lakh crore has been allocated to boosting infrastructure for transportation

* Indra Awaas Yojana will be extended to 600 districts

* Total allocation for the infrastructure sector is Rs 3,96,135 crore

* Allocation for National Highways to be at Rs 64,000 crore

* No cash transactions above 3 lakh

* Indexation for capital gains shifted from 01-04-81 to 01-04-2001

Here is how the industry player reacted to the announcement made in Union Budget 2017-18:

Joe Verghese, Managing Director, Colliers International India

Considering the impetus being given to road infrastructure, manufacturing and affordable housing, the government have put in all the required ingredients to incentives urban decongestion and the development of new industrial cities around our industrial transport corridors.

Capital gains on Joint Development Agreement to be taxed only at product launch, 1 year tax exemption from notional rental income from unsold inventory and reduction of long term capital gains tax period from 3 to 2 years provide respite to investors/ developers of real estate. This helps especially those holding real estate inventory/ stock. This is a great move to providing tax relief to developers in the residential sector where the sales have significantly dropped post demonetisation move.

Shashank Jain, Executive Director, PwC India

Subsequent announcements on increasing the qualifying unit area and the time frame for completion to 5 years are two great steps, acknowledging the practical and operational aspects. Area was too low to be called a decent unit and 3 years was almost impractical for completion of the project considering there is no separate approval process for affordable housing and one had no certainty of time taken just for approvals!

Milind Kothari. Managing Partner & Head of Direct Tax, BDO India

The move to provide clarity for taxation of Joint Development Agreement to the date of completion of project would provide a great fillip to unlocking land for development and reduce litigation.

Nidhi Seksaria, Advisory Partner & Leader – Real Estate, BDO India LLP

With industry status, banks will be willing to lend more to projects in the affordable housing segment and thus larger access to funds.

Hemal Mehta, Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP

Affordable housing is a priority for this Government and it was expected to get an infra status. With the infra status, developers can access foreign funds at a cheaper cost by way of debt and will be a priority lending for banks as well. This should result into a progress in the said sector. Fine prints shall provide higher clarity.

Shrikant Badiga, Director, Phoenix Lifespaces

It’s a good move. Affordable housing should be encouraged under infrastructure which allows ECBs and more number of good companies to venture into affordable housing.

Kishor Pate, CMD, Amit Enterprises Housing Ltd

Affordable housing has finally been given infrastructure status. This will mean cheaper loans for developers of budget housing and significantly boost the Government’s target of Housing for All by 2022. The Affordable housing has seen a significant change in the Government’s existing scheme, with the qualifying size requirements now changed from built-up area to carpet area of 30 sqm and 60 sqm for projects within the municipal limits of the large 4 cities.

Anil Pharande, Chairman, Pharande Spaces

Project completion timelines for affordable residential projects have now been increased to 5 years, which comes as a relief to developers of such housing as it will allow them more time to sell their inventory.

The Government has announced that 250 proposals for electronic manufacturing worth 1.2 lakh crore have rolled in. Obviously, this has a direct potential correlation to employment generation and therefore demand for housing in and around the identified manufacturing nodes.

Rashmi Deshpande, Associate Partner on Real Estate, Khaitan & Co

Low Cost Housing: The criteria for low cost / affordable housing has been changed from built-up area of 30 / 60 sq mtrs to carpet area of 30/60 sq mtrs, thus making the low cost – affordable housing segment more lucrative for the builders and also making the segment more attractive for the buyers. With the change in criteria from built-up area to carpet area, the purchasers get more spacious homes and the builder is able to market the property to a larger segment of buyers.

Also the tax break of 1 year post receipt of the completion certificate, for the unsold stock, gives a slight breather to the builders.

Reduction in Income tax rate for basic slab: Will help broaden the tax net and also increase the disposable income in the hands of the tax payers coming within the category. This, coupled with the incentives on low cost housing and the reduction in interest rates by banks, is likely to promote thrust in the affordable housing segment.

Taxation of Capital Gains of Joint Development Agreement: The budget proposes to change the prevalent practice and has clarified that the landowner entering into a joint development agreement for development of the property, shall be subject to capital gains tax upon completion of the project. This is a significant change, which is much needed, to bring clarity on the aspect and avoid litigation with the department, which was invariably a norm given the current ambiguity.
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