Realty & Philanthropy in Covid times

Real estate shows its softer side as good Samaritans. The industry that builds homes is not shying away from building nation and recovering lost ground by handholding stakeholders during the Covid 19 crisis. But there is scope for more

By Namrata Kohli

No site visits, or booking homes, no one buying or selling homes. On the contrary, the numbers are not looking good, sales are not happening, investor confidence is at all-time low. The Indian real estate, though at its lowest ebb, is acting with responsibility. In projects where people are already living, it is taking care of its residents’ safety and health by following a set of guidelines and safety protocol such as sanitizing lifts, ensuring smooth delivery of grocery and essential commodities for people during lockdown and home quarantine; while developers are also engaging in huge philanthropic exercise, waving off rentals or offering their premises as quarantine facilities.

Supertech recently offered a 400 bed space at its Upcountry project at Yamuna Expressway while Antriksh group offered a 100 bed space for quarantine in Antriksh Golfview project. According to Naredco UP President and Supertech chairman R K Arora,“ Naredco UP has offered 500  bed space to district administration to fight against Coronovirus. As number of covid+ve cases is increasing in this region, it is our duty to provide space to district administration for quarantine.” 

Some of the big developers have shown big heart too- take the case of mall owners, the likes of Lulu Group, Lodha Group, Forum and Vegas which announced immediate interim reliefs. Some of them are waiving off the rentals and CAM for three months while some are willing to work on a moderate revenue share model for six months post that till the business regains some lost foothold. The Lodha group – in its projects at Pallava city, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane- is coming up with rent waiver from March 15th, till govt allows businesses to open. The Lulu group, in Kerala malls, has announced one-month waiver of rent. Unity Group has announced rent-free April 2020, a waiver amounting to Rs.10 Crores plus lease rentals amid COVID-19 lockdown, for its 300 odd retailers in retail malls of Dwarka, Rohini, Janak Puri, Shahdara. “We will continue to do everything we can to support the retailers and maintain business continuity until the crisis ends,” said Harsh Bansal, Director, Unity Group and Pratham Group.

The real estate developers have also been at the forefront working with all stakeholders to help the poorest of the poor in the midst of the Corona Virus pandemic. Mumbai-based Hiranandani group recently donated Rs 5 crore to Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Relief fund to tackle the coronavirus crisis. Many developers are providing cooked meals, dry rations, masks and sanitizers.

DLF Foundation has been working very closely with the District Administrations of Delhi, Gurugram and Noida in both identifying the most needy and distributing meals in areas where they are most required. The Foundation has provided medical relief, safety equipment such as 75,000 face masks, 3 lakh examination gloves, full body suits and sanitizers to the district authorities.

The Prestige Foundation has been providing meals and provisions to about 10,000+ daily wage workers, underprivileged children and the needy in Bengaluru daily and the daily wagers at their labour colonies across India. They have also set up a 24-hour national helpline to aid the needy. Says Irfan Razack – CMD, Prestige Group said, “Historically, the daily wage sector in India has been largely disorganized, as a result of which there is a vast majority of daily wagers who are not registered with the state welfare boards. In the wake of COVID-19, the central government has initiated a process to release nearly Rs. 52,000 crore as a short-term relief to construction workers across the country. However, that still leaves a huge amount of unregistered labourers who have lost access to any earnings, with no means to feed themselves and their families during this crisis.” Salarpuria Sattva Group has also taken up community outreach initiative to help the needy during lockdown. Says Bijay Agarwal, MD, Salarpuria Sattva Group said, “With the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 and announcement of 21 day lockdown by the Govt., income opportunities for people below the poverty line have stalled. As a responsible entity, we at Salarpuria Sattva Group pledge to help the marginalized section and provide them food till the situation demands. This is our humble effort to help the people in distress.”

My Take: Real estate can be a huge helping hand to the country in fight against Covid as developers are landlords of vast assets. This will be the biggest branding exercise for any real estate stakeholder and they must have a no holds barred approach. Not everything will translate to numbers and increase in revenues but as they say, your goodwill is your biggest investment.

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