Thiruvananthapuram: In a significant development during the presentation of the Kerala Budget for the financial year 2024-25, Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal announced an allocation of ₹1,132 crore for the LIFE housing scheme. The State has been compelled to contribute additional funds to the Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojana (PMAY) Gramin and Urban schemes, amounting to ₹57.62 crore for the housing sector. The Centre, however, has refused to release its share, resulting in increased financial burden on the State.
Under the LIFE housing scheme, a total of 3,71,934 houses have been completed in Kerala, with the Finance Minister expressing confidence that this number will reach 4.25 lakh by the end of the financial year. The State has invested ₹17,104.87 crore in the scheme thus far, with ₹1,966.36 crore allocated in the fiscal year 2023-24 alone.
One of the key points of contention between the State and the Centre is the Pradhan Mantri Avas Yojana (PMAY), where the Centre has fixed the total cost of a house under the PMAY-Gramin scheme at ₹1.2 lakh, contributing ₹72,000 per house. Similarly, under PMAY-Urban, the cost is set at ₹2.5 lakh, with the Centre’s share being ₹1.5 lakh per house. Kerala, however, has fixed the cost of a house at ₹4 lakh for both schemes, covering the entire amount, including the Centre’s share.
The disagreement between the State and the Centre stems from the State’s refusal to use the brand names associated with PMAY, citing concerns that it compromised the dignity of the beneficiaries. Consequently, Kerala is compelled to bear the financial burden of the Centre’s share.
To expedite the construction of houses under the LIFE scheme, local bodies are working towards utilizing a long-term loan scheme, in addition to the Budget provision. An allocation of ₹305.68 crore has been earmarked as assistance to the Kerala Urban and Rural Development Finance Corporation, which provides financial support to the LIFE Mission by availing loans from HUDCO.
Apart from the LIFE scheme, the Budget includes ₹57.62 crore for the housing sector, with ₹39.56 crore allocated for the Kerala State Housing Board and ₹1.06 crore for the Housing department. Notably, the Housing Board is undertaking the construction of an International commercial-residential complex at Marine Drive in Kochi, costing ₹2,150 crore, with the assistance of the National Building Construction Corporation Limited.
Additionally, the Budget allocates funds for various housing-related initiatives, including ₹2 crore for the ‘Vardhakya Souhrida Bhavanam’ scheme for elderly-friendly homes, ₹6 crore for the EWS/LIG housing scheme providing loan-linked subsidy to low-income groups, and ₹10 crore for the ‘Suvarna Bhavanam’ and ‘Navayuga’ schemes, focusing on the reconstruction of uninhabitable houses built under the Laksham Veedu scheme.
Furthermore, ₹10 crore has been allocated to the Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra for diverse activities, and ₹3 crore has been earmarked for the Laurie Baker International School of Habitat Studies.