Hawa khaana in Vasai Virar: Urban housing and the commodification of airspace in Mumbai’s periphery

George Jose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper charts the critical role of ‘air rights’ in the transformation of Nalasopara in Vasai Virar—a peri-urban area in the north-western periphery of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region—from a ‘dormitory town’ to a municipal corporation in 2009. I suggest that state policy framed around the rhetoric of ‘housing for the poor’ and a profits-oriented private-enterprise-driven housing construction sector combined to transform globally deployed urban planning tools and protocols—floor area ratio (FAR) and transferable development rights (TDR)—into a local narrative in Mumbai’s periphery. I focus on a short-lived and recently aborted rental housing scheme and outline the technologies undergirding the commodification of built-space. The unprecedented demand for cheap housing produces both a market for unauthorised construction and an overheated trade in speculative real estate which spawns a ‘virtual’—and vertical—built-space that is a characteristic feature of the rapidly developing peripheries of Asian cities. I propose that the legal and political processes that fuel Vasai Virar’s ‘spectral’ housing commoditises the right to build vertically and produces, in its wake, airscapes—a distinctive urban imaginary. The impressive trade in TDR, that is, the right to build vertically, and the state’s continued subsidies for ‘affordable urban housing’ projects combine to produce dubious schemes in Vasai Virar that restructure the value of land and generate a new market topography built on the ‘primitive accumulation’ and trade in air rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)632-640
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2017


  • Mumbai's periphery
  • Transferable Development Rights (TDR)
  • airscape
  • urban housing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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