A survey report that was published some time ago had hinted at grave inequality in the housing sector in Kerala. It revealed that around 14 % of houses in the state remain unoccupied with no one to live in them. It must also be noted that most of these vacant luxury mansions are more than 3000 sqft in area. Meanwhile, the surging number of applications to the government’s various housing projects shows that there are millions of people who do not have a study roof above their heads. So, in this scenario, it has become inevitable to examine the scope or significance of luxury houses in the unique social and cultural setup of Kerala.
In Kerala’s case, vanity and the need to compete with others in social status have resulted in luxury houses almost becoming a social menace. For instance, two families of the same financial status have been next-door neighbours for years. The young generation of one of the families migrate to the Gulf and their financial status suddenly improves. They dismantle their old house and build a huge and luxurious house that clearly announces their newly acquired wealthy status. This would make their neighbours, who enjoy a stable job in their hometown itself, envious. So, they would obviously try to outdo their recently wealthy neighbours when they decide to build a new house. They wouldn’t hesitate to avail loans of huge amounts for that. However, they would fall into the abyss of debt and financial stress if something goes wrong.
Most Keralites build their dream dwellings thinking that they are one-time investments. So, they want everything to be perfect. People are always doubtful whether these amenities would be enough when the family gets bigger. So, instead of renovating the house then, it would be easier to arrange everything now itself. One might think that it is only reasonable to build a house that caters to the needs of the coming generations too. However, most young generation prefers to migrate either to big cities or abroad. After their parents die, these humungous structures become a liability that they are eager to dispose.
It is important to understand the environmental impact of building a luxury mansion. For example, lots of natural resources are required when a single room is additionally constructed. You must realise that it could have been used for someone else who really deserves it. When you decide to give designer stone claddings for your house or use pavers on the walkways and driveways, you too are becoming part of larger conglomerates that exploit nature. Natural resources that could have been used for building a decent home for someone who deserves it are thus unnecessarily wasted.
You cannot turn a blind eye to the advantages of building a luxury house either. For example, imagine that an expatriate decides to build a luxury house in an area that hasn’t seen too much development. He would use the money that has remained stagnant in his NRI account to purchase cement, irons rods, and other building materials from the shops in the locality. So, this money is being pumped into the local market. Besides, the masons and other skilled workers in that area will be employed. They will then use this additional income to purchase clothes, mobile phones, and other items, boosting the local economy. Moreover, the local bodies earn additional income in the form of taxes. The Malabar regions in Kerala where Gulf migration is incredibly active is the perfect example of this well-oiled economic transaction. The first thing that these expatriates do is to build a luxurious and comfortable mansion in their hometown. Knowing this trend, construction businesses have been flourishing in these areas lately. Had the expatriate bought a flat in the city instead of building a house in his hometown, this chain of the economic transactions would be broken, denying additional income to lots of people. So, from an economic point of view, luxury houses aid such seamless transactions and monetary benefits.
There are lots of positive and negative aspects that need to be discussed further. As far as Keralites are concerned building a house of their own is their greatest dream. So, more than a fantasy or a competitive spirit, one should approach it with reasonable and realistic goals. The adage that ‘one should attempt to do what one is able to afford’ stands true in the case of building brand–new homes.