The Union Budget of 2017 has been promising so far, it continues the economic reforms, control inflation, and prudent fiscal management. Moreover, it provides little impetus in the short term for the real estate sector other than just a boost to the affordable housing segment.

The infrastructure status on affordable housing and tax relief for real estate developers are getting to see the positive steps, however, this is not going to help short term sales. The government has provided up to Rs 12,500 income tax benefit to individuals, this is insufficient to provide the demand side push to the sector.

So here are few Budget proposals that we like to bring to your notice that brings the influence and the realty sector going ahead –

1) Infrastructure status to Affordable Housing, the boost for affordable residential sector
The impact of Union Budget 2017-18 has granted the much-demanded ‘Infrastructure’ status to the affordable housing. This decision is well aligned with the government agenda of ‘Housing for All by 2022’. Also, this will allow easier access to capital for developers, at a lower rate with a longer amortization period. This eventually allows developers access to viability gap funding and the tax incentives. For the affordable housing purpose instead of the built up area of 30 and 60 sqm, and the carpet area of 30 and 60 sqm will be counted. This will, however, apply only in case of municipal limits of 4 metropolitan cities, while for the rest of the country including the peripheral areas of metros; the limit of 60 sqm will apply.

The time period for such projects has been extended from 3 to 5 years by the government. Most buyers of affordable housing got a boost with the announcement of interest subvention, 4% and 3% on loans up to INR0.9 million (USD13,318) and about INR1.2 million (USD17,758), respectively. The proposed deduction of the IT rate to 5% for taxpayers below the income level of INR0.5 million per annum (USD7,400 million) will increase the disposable income of the common man which will, otherwise, raise spending power and increase investment in the affordable segment.

2) 10 million homes to be built by 2019 for the homeless and those living in kutcha houses:
Home for all is the concept, making the basic needs of life come alive. To stimulate the rural housing sector in India, about INR230 billion has been allocated under the Gramin Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (GPMAY). This began in the motive of promoting affordable housing not only in cities but also in rural areas.

At present the housing sector is active mostly in Tier-I and Tier-II cities in India; so this scheme will not only provide necessary housing to the poor but also promote the residential sector in other rural areas.

3) Tax breather for notional rent income on unsold, unoccupied or completed projects
At present, most houses that are unoccupied after getting completion certificates are subjected to tax on notional rental income. Builders for whose constructed buildings are stock-in-trade, the rule will be applicable only after one year of receiving the completion certificate from the government. The law will provide some breathing time for developers to liquidate their inventory; this indeed takes the pressure off their shoulders.

4) The National Housing Bank (NHB) will refinance individual housing loans of about INR200 billion (USD3 billion) in 2017-18
The demonetization drive almost coming to an end that started in 2016 has resulted in surplus cash within the banks; allowing major banks across the country to lower their lending rates.

The decrease in lending rate will be welcomed by not only new homebuyers but also will be a reason to rejoice for homebuyers who have already taken a flexible housing loan. This refinancing scheme from the NHB will improve the sentiment of current homeowners, for those subjected to high lending rates in the past.

5) Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) is under abolition
Lately, in the last two years, the government has implemented many reforms to encourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India. In fact, more than 90% of the total FDI inflows currently take place through an automatic route; hence the government has decided to do away with the FIPB in 2017-18.

This is in conjunction with the government’s understanding to further liberalize the FDI norms and attract foreign investors. Under this automatic route for FDI, all foreign investors will not require any prior approval from the FIPB and will only be subject to laws defined for each sector accordingly.

So the bottom line, it was indeed a positive budget for the sector and the government has done great to create awareness for the need to increase tax compliance. However, demonetization was a temporary strike at the economy and it may bounce back anytime sooner.

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