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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at an event have urged the government to introduce serious policy, institutional, financing, and taxation reforms to improve housing affordability, especially for the middle and lower classes.

Addressing at launching ceremony of books jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) and RASTA, they underscored the need for proper regularisation of the housing sector in the country.

Dr Nadeemul Haque, Vice Chancellor PIDE, addressed the audience and highlighted key challenges and opportunities in the sector. He said that the book underscores the pressing need for institutional and policy reforms, highlighting the role of improved governance in addressing the housing crisis.

The book offers a comprehensive analysis and roadmap for addressing Pakistan’s housing challenges. He said that “Power, Profit and Plans” delves into the political economy of the housing sector in Pakistan, uncovering the unequal development patterns and socio-economic disparities prevalent in the urban landscape.

Nasir Javed, the editor of the book, apprised the participants by presenting key features of the book, “Power, Profit & Plans: The Political Economy of Housing in Pakistan”.

He mentioned it is a multi-author book that highlights that urbanization in Pakistan, addition to the slow and steady flow of economic migrants from rural areas, had added at least six spikes starting with the migration of 1947, wars, floods, terrorism, etc. These unusual spikes placed pressure on urban housing, coupled with rapid population growth and institutional inefficiencies and complexities, described as “institutional spaghetti”, has led to the housing crisis.

Pervaiz Latif Qureshi, an urban development expert, said that the book offers a number of policy, institutional, financing, and taxation reforms that are likely to improve housing affordability, especially for the middle and lower classes.

The PIDE has also proposed introducing paid parking in Islamabad to mitigate traffic congestion in the city. The PIDE also launched a study on introducing paid parking in Islamabad at the occasion.

Speaking at the book launch, “Traffic Management and Congestion Mitigation: Parking Policy for ICT”, in his presentation by Dr Idrees Khawaja, former chief of research, PIDE, said that the study undertaken on the demand of the Capital Development Authority argues that free parking is, in a sense a subsidy to car owners and encourages car use beyond the optimal limit.

Dr Haque proposed introducing paid parking in Islamabad to reduce traffic congestion. Ahmed jumped on the idea and formally asked the PIDE to propose the conceptual design and determine the idea’s viability.

The conceptual design of parking lots and other designated parking places, recommended by the PIDE study, would have the following elements: Car parking stalls, motorbike parking stalls, buffers; sidewalks and frontages; crosswalks, ramps and bollards; vegetation medians and green parking stalls, Accessibility to parking for differentially-abled persons, bus stops, delivery parking and taxi stand. Parking of cars at different angles (perpendicular, parallel, 30°, 45°, and 60°) has been recommended depending on the layout of the parking lot and other situational factors.

The study recommends the installation of parking meters and the developing of a parking app to collect parking fees. The study contains suggestions on viable meters and gives a prototype of the proposed parking app for collecting parking fees. The entire mechanism must be monitored by CCTV cameras and supplemented by manual monitoring by traffic wardens.

The study has also worked out the financial viability of the suggested parking plan. Using the average parking demand based on the survey and a flat rate of Rs30 per hour, the net revenue, after accounting for all costs from just 30 parking lots in seven locations, would be around Rs51 million per month. Assuming that parking demand may decline by as much as 50 percent with the launch of paid parking, the net monthly revenue would be Rs32 million.

The study recommends three pricing options to be used as the situation warrants – a fixed price, regardless of the time of the day and duration for which the car is parked; peak hour pricing, involving higher parking fee at peak hours and marginal pricing, that is, increase in parking charges with the duration for which the car is parked.

While discussing the report, Amir Ali Ahmed, Secretary of the Benazir Income Support Programme, said that the study emphasizes curbing car use rather than raising revenue. Reduction in car use is possible only if alternate means of transport are available; therefore, adequate alternate mobility means are vital to achieving traffic mitigation through paid parking.

PIDE’s “willingness to pay for parking survey” suggests that most people visiting the markets in Islamabad have a travel distance of less than 30 minutes. This implies that most of those visiting Islamabad’s markets come from within Islamabad.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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