The area of the nagar where I live was fairly sparsely occupied when I first came to live here, but in the space of just seven months a great many new houses have been built. It shows no sign of stopping at least until the monsoon rains. I suspect our house will be in the midst of a full estate by the time my two years are over. The most recent is just between our house and the railway line on the other side of the dirt track through the nagar. The nagar is more or less marked out in blocks and indeed further over the plots are even marked off by markers pegs stuck into the ground. But not so just beside us. Building work is very labour intensive. The new build is at the laying foundations stage. No excavators digging away here, just men with pick axes and shovels, and one many walking back and forth all day with two buckets of water from the building site the other side of us, as this new built has neither well or connection to municipal supply as yet.
I hadn't realized until I started to discuss this with my landlady, but almost every house here has a well, bored down to 150 ft, to the water table. Although there is a municipal supply into the nagar, and there are standpipes at regular points throughout the blocks, it is subject to frequent interruptions of service, with a guarantee of connection only for some hours in the morning and again in the evening. So most people fork out the money for their own, independent, but reliable water supply. The wells are sealed units so they require a pump, which is subject to the vagaries of the intermittent Orissan power supply. But it does mean that water flows regularly. It also means that barring any contamination of the ground water, and any damage to the bore well, the water should be pretty good quality. Which goes a long way to explain my lack of upset tummies even though I know I have drunk water in other houses where it won't have been religiously boiled and may not have been filtered like mine is.
All this aside, I was interested in finding out about the cost of building. Here's what I have managed to ascertain. My landlady's house is built on one level and comprises 2 bedrooms (1 double (~12ft x 12ft) + 1 single(~12ft x 6ft) ), 1 large rectangular reception(~12ft x 30ft), 1 bathroom, kitchen + puja room house, with my 1 bedroom (~12ft x 12ft), 1 kitchen/reception (~12ft x 12ft), 1 bathroom studio/granny flat attached. (These are guestimate sizes). About seven years ago, when they built this house, such a plot would have cost 50,000 rupees. Today the price for the same piece of land would be nearer 600,000 rupees. To build the bore well for the water would cost another 50,000 rupees, Then to build the actual house 1,500,000 Rupees. As is typical here, there is no garden, garage or anything in the way of outdoor space other than the roof space (which will be built on as and when the family has money, in my landlady's case that looks like it will be this year sometime) and a small veranda entrance way at the front of the house. So today, to build this house would costs in the region of 2,150,000 Rupees. The current exchange rate is about 65 Rupees to the GBP, which makes this house cost about £33,000.
The second picture is of a recently finished house. Lengthwise it is about the same size as my landlady's but the building consists of two units, as you can see from the house front, so each house is much smaller. It belongs to 2 brothers who have built the house together, presumably to aid financing it.
Interest rates on house loans are around 11% pa and my boss tells me that in the past 10-15 years there has been a significant change in the pattern of house ownership in the town. Whereas before people would save throughout their working life, then build their house after retirement, now youngsters are taking the bank loans and building their own houses early on in life. I'm not sure I am seeing that reflected in the nagar where many of the buildings are built for multiple occupancy, with two or several houses/apartments per building, but clearly selling land, and building houses is good business.