Real Estate, which generally refers to ‘property consisting of land or buildings’, has become a thriving business in the country. According to an estimate, in a year, the total volume of the turnover of the sector is about Taka 6000 crore and its activities could be widely observed across the country. These days if any one looks around in different cities and towns in the countries, he or she will see many multi-storied housing buildings either is there or some are coming up or under construction. At the same time, new housing estates selling plots of land are also being developed both by the public as well as private sector organizations or companies. The multi-storied buildings that are being constructed or coming up are called flat or apartment buildings in modern term. These flats and apartments are providing housing facilities to a large number of city dwellers particularly families. In overwhelming cases, these buildings or blocks are constructed by demolishing earlier houses or structures which used to be individual residential buildings. These, in most cases, were 1-2 storied buildings. In some rare cases, these could have been 3-4 storied and were primarily used for residential purposes of the owners and also for rental purposes. Things started to change with the rapid urbanisation after the liberation of the country in 1971 but more so from the mid- eighties of the last century. In recent years, it has become an all-encompassing phenomenon, especially in Dhaka city. In the beginning, buildings of modern flats or apartment buildings were concentrated in the planned areas of the city like, Dhanmondi, Lalmatia, Elephant road etc. In later years, other similar areas like Banani, Gulshan and Uttara also witnessed the similar trend. Now all areas of the city including new and yet to be developed as well as not so posh areas are also experiencing the widespread construction of the flat or apartment buildings as demand for housing units have increased manifolds due to new found affluence caused by increased economic activities and remittances from abroad. According to a World Bank document, the population is rising in urban areas due to climate change, education and employment opportunities. One of its subsidiaries believes that this number could reach 50% of the country's total population by 2030, which is currently at 39.4%. Sources as well as the history suggest that this phenomenon of building of flat and apartment buildings first started in Europe. The Industrial Revolution in the early nineteenth century increased the popularity of multi-family buildings for the new urban middle and upper classes. This was particularly witnessed in Paris and Vienna. Here it may be pointed out that the term "apartment" instead of flat is an American innovation and gained popularity there in the 1950s and 1960s.
As mentioned earlier, increased economic growth like other places of the world induced rapid urbanization in Bangladesh. The process created the demand for more housing units and land for housing construction for ever increasing people migrating to the cities and towns in Bangladesh. The other important reason for the boom in the real estate sector has been due to change in family structure. While previously joint and extended families were prevalent, with urbanization, more and more nuclear families appeared, who found it more convenient to live in 2 or 3-bedroom apartments. It also provided opportunities to the inheritors of land and buildings to get fair share of their parental properties in the form of apartments or flats thus built on the inherited land or old buildings earlier owned or constructed by their parents. The other important reason has been due to remittance and increase in wage-earners or businesses, purchasing power of people have relatively grown, which allowed them to live in cities by buying apartments and housing lands in different localities of their choice and affordability. Here it needs to be noted that the cities and towns that witnessed increased and more rapid economic growth than other towns and urban centers the demands for housing facilities became more intense. That’s why sources mentioned that increased numbers of apartment buildings and housing estates have come up in Dhaka, Chittagong and Narayanganj compared to other cities and towns of the country. But it does not mean that this phenomenon is only concentrated in these cities only. In fact other cities and towns are also catching up with the trend. It includes other divisional and district towns as well.
In Bangladesh, the real estate sector, in the coming days, will be growing faster because of rapid urbanization of the country for the reasons mention earlier. In the cities, more and more people, as it appears, will prefer to live in apartments or flats because of convenience and affordability. Land is highly scarce in Bangladesh because of its relative small size compared to its population. As a result, land price is ever increasing going beyond the reach of the most of the people. As such, the overwhelming majority of them will opt for apartment or flats to live in the city. However, this new pattern of living in apartments has altogether changed the city’s living culture. The ‘Para’ or ‘Mohollah’ concept of earlier days is almost gone forever. In earlier, days, people living in certain ‘Paras’ or localities used to know each other and different common social interactions like cultural and sports activities used to be there. Now people living in apartments even do not know, in overwhelming cases, their next door neighbours. They live in the same building for years together having no interaction whatsoever with one another. In the case of housing lands, it have been observed that these are in most of the cases, in later years turned into apartment buildings either by the owners themselves or in collaboration with the real estate companies. As such, it appears that especially in Dhaka city living in one's own house will become extremely rare if not extinct.
(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)
The writer is a Distinguished Professor, Institute of Bangabandhu War of Liberation Bangladesh Studies, National University
Source: Sun Editorial