Islamabad - The businessmen have started elimination of nonconforming use of residential units after Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) strict action against the violators, The Nation has observed.

The action against nonconforming use of houses started some two months back on the orders of the Supreme Court. In the first phase of the campaign, the CDA had removed illegal advertisements and signboards of the business ventures from the premises under nonconforming use located in different sectors of the city. In the second phase, teams of enforcement, municipal administration and building control section carried out joint operation in different sectors of the city to seal the houses being used as food outlets, boutiques, saloons, offices and other commercial ventures.

The remaining houses have been warned by the CDA to bring back the premises into conforming use in accordance with Islamabad Residential Sector Zoning Regulation–2005. It said after the expiry of the deadline, the CDA shall be constrained to cancel the allotment of the property, besides sealing the premises and imposition of fines under the law, which compelled the owners to voluntarily remove the nonconforming use. They have now displayed posters inscribed with the messages that they are going to shift their business to some commercial area due to the SC’s orders.

On the other hand, about 550 cases of nonconforming use of residential buildings are pending adjudication with the CDA deputy commissioner. Out of these, at least 220 cases are related to the conversion of residential houses into offices by the government, non-governmental organisations and private individuals. The government offices housed in the residences included Teachers Training Institute, Children Health Centre, National Police Foundation, Sui Gas Recovery Cell, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) Chak Shahzad, and over two dozen other offices and medical facilities. In addition, the Institute of Regional Studies, United States Educational Foundation, Saudi School and famous educational chains like Beaconhouse, Roots International, International Grammar School, Air Foundation, City School along with 20 national and international NGOs are also running their offices in the residential buildings.

Thirty-seven beauty parlours, 10 restaurants, 120 government and private educational institutes, 30 clinics and private hospitals, 40 guesthouses, 30 hostels and 35 showrooms, stores and shops were also being run in private buildings in violation of the CDA building bylaws, according to a report prepared by the CDA. The CDA after examining and verifying 758 cases of nonconforming use withdrew the notices after the house owners removed the objections raised by the directorate of building control.

The union of private schools and guesthouses have attained stay order from the relevant courts to avoid CDA action in this regard, officials in the CDA told The Nation. “We cannot take any action against the owners of the houses being used for private schools and guesthouses due to the stay orders granted by the courts… once the stay order is vacated, the CDA will initiate action against them too,” said a senior officer at the building control section of CDA when asked why no action is being taken against them.

The Nation observed that the owners of the houses partially converted into shops have taken the lead in removing nonconforming use as they were quite visible to the authorities and general public. However, the houses being used as offices are observed to have taken little notice of the SC orders and CDA’s campaign in this regard.

Talking to The Nation, Jamal Khan, owner of a house in I-10 sector which was until now a shop, said that they have closed down the shops carved out of the house due to the authorities’ pressure. “The CDA had asked us to remove the shops from their premises and we have no other option but to comply with the directions,” he said. A few of the businessmen are yet to vacate the shops set up in the residential units though they do not open them due to CDA’s pressure. Naveed Ali, a servant at a shop along service road in sector I-10, said the businessman is searching for a proper place in some commercial area to shift the business over there. “We are told not to open the shop… we are soon going to shift to some nearby commercial area,” he added. However, he was of the view that it is very difficult to find space in a commercial area right now as lot of people are moving towards there. He was concerned that rent of commercial property has also gone up in the past few weeks due to several businessmen intending to move over there.