‘‘Lankan cities need to be evolved to unlock true potential’’

“The current trajectory of Sri Lanka’s cities is not sustainable and our cities need to be evolved to be more efficient if we are to unlock their true potential, ‘’ says Nayana Mawilmada, President, Property Group- John Keells Holdings. (Pictured)To this end, Mawilmada stated both land use and transportation must be addressed in tandem.

“Most social and economic infrastructure is still focused in the higher density city core. As per data,over 2 million passengers travel across Colombo every day and around 600,000 vehicles enter/exit daily, Mawilmada told the ‘ReformNow’ Conference, held in Colombo.

Noting that unlocking the potential of Lankan urban areas will require a reset in thinking, Mawilmada stated that the country’s cities have been crippled through decades of short-sighted policy, suboptimal decisions, and poor coordination. Mawilmada said the introduction of mass transit is a critical step and game changer for urban development in Sri Lanka.

He also spoke on key interventions in this regard, which include modernizing existing rail, introduction of new railway into fast growing corridors, optimizing bus routing to feed into the rail network and decentivizing private vehicle ownership by charging private vehicles entering the city.

Stressing the need to stimulate transport oriented development ,he stated that zoning changes need to be made to enable higher density development close to transit stations whilst granting permission for high density development, eliminating mandatory parking for new constructions, preventing fragmentation, stimulating consolidation and mandating high minimum plot sizes.

“Moreover, we need to systematically release state land adjacent to rail stations for development whilst taking measures to release air rights above stations for development.”

In addition, he stressed the need for the Government to establish a single window for the Government land release transactions and consolidate data on land availability and make it easily accessible to the market through a centralized window. “Sri Lanka must also establish a clear transparent process,purpose driven and systematic land release based on broader urban strategy thereby considering alternatives to one time upfront payments.

It is also required to consider structured transactions to enhance the viability of developments and consider PPP wherever possible to capture high value and long term revenue streams.”

Speaking Further, Mawilmada stated it is also important to reduce cost of multi family housing construction, reduce mandatory 1:1 parking, eliminate protectionism in construction and materials, remove para tariff on building materials, streamline approval process, enhance access to housing finance for first time buyers, release state lands on concessional basis for private sector driven middle income housing development.

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Author: shehan

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