The neat rows of similar looking two floor houses are located on large land plots with room to breath. There are manicured gardens in front. All the homes are built as duplex buildings in contrast to the mega high-rise apartment complexes jutting out to the sky in the city.
This is the vast real estate project on the north-east side of the Purbachal New Town project near the River Shitalakkhya.
The housing project, Asian Duplex Town, targets the growing interest in free-standing and convenient residential houses currently shown by wealthy business people and expatriates.
All of around 700 plots in the 300-bigha project undertaken in 2016 have already been sold, an official of the Asian Town Development Limited told The Business Standard.
Buoyed by this significant swift spike in the demand for duplex homes, real estate companies are also making hefty investments in the business across the country.
According to the Real Estate and Housing Association of Bangladesh (REHAB), about 100 duplex housing projects have been undertaken in different areas in the outskirts of the capital, including Purbachal, Keraniganj, Munshiganj, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Savar, over the past 10 years, involving a cost of around Tk100,000 crore.
Of these projects, around 30 are being developed in Keraniganj and Munshiganj along the Dhaka-Mawa Expressway. Besides, six duplex projects are in the vicinity of Jhilmil residential project in Keraniganj.
REHAB says 25 city-centric duplex projects are being developed in Sylhet division, 18 in Chattogram, six in Cox's Bazar and several others in Bogura.
Alamgir Shamsul Alamin Kajal, president of REHAB, told The Business Standard that about Tk150,000 crore has been invested in the housing sector in 2021, of which about Tk12,000 crore have gone to duplex projects.
An official of the Asian Duplex Town requesting not to be named said, construction of 110 houses has been completed at the project, and they are hopeful about finishing the houses on all of the sold plots and handing them over to the customers by 2024.
The two-storey house built on a 10-katha plot will have a drawing room, a space for refreshment, and a meeting room on the ground floor, while there will be five bedrooms and four bathrooms on the first floor. There will be a large balcony around the house. There will also be a garden, a play area for children and a parking space in front of the building.
Houses on 5-katha and 3-katha plots will have three bedrooms each, he added.
An official of the sales department of the company said the price of a house on a 10-katha plot has been fixed at Tk7.5 crore. There will be 80 such houses on the project site, he added.
On the other hand, a house on a 5-katha plot will cost a buyer Tk4.5 crore while that on a 3-katha plot will cost Tk3 crore.
There are 300 5-katha plots in the project and it has a similar number of 3-katha plots, said the official.
He further said they sold the plots along with home designs in 2018 and 2019 for around Tk2,800 crore.
The buyers are mostly expatriates and businessmen, Bilash Das, managing director of Asian Town Development Limited, told TBS.
"People have been attracted to buy houses in this project as the site is near the capital city, and is suitable for living in solitude and comfort, the communication system also is good," he said.
Ikramul Haque Tutul, a Swiss expatriate, has bought a 10-katha plot with a house in Asian Duplex Town.
He told TBS that most of the time he has to stay out of the country with his family. "There is an ancestral house at Badda in Dhaka where my parents live. But now it is very difficult to live with comfort in the capital. So, I've bought a house in this project so that my parents can live here and I along with my family also can stay here while in the country.
"Also, all the houses in this project are of the same design. Besides, we are having the houses built by the company. As a result, we are not facing any additional problems."
How much investment in which year
According to the Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), around Tk1 lakh crore has been invested in various duplex projects over the last 10 years and around Tk12,000 crore invested in the just-concluded year has been the highest in a single year.
Urban planner Professor Adil Mohammed Khan, former general secretary of the BIP, told TBS that the number of duplex projects in the country is increasing every year.
Referring to a study of the organisation, about Tk11,000 crore was invested in duplex projects across the country in 2020, while the figure was around Tk10,000 crore in 2019, around Tk10,000 crore in 2018, around Tk8,000 crore in 2017, around Tk10,000 crore in 2016, around Tk9,000 crore in 2015, around Tk4,000 crore in 2014, around Tk8,500 crore in 2012, and Tk8,000 crore in 2012.
Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel, president of Sylhet Apartment and Real Estate Group (Sareg), an association of real estate companies in Sylhet, told TBS, "There are about 100 real estate companies in Sylhet.
About Tk12,000 crore is invested in the housing sector in Sylhet division every year, of which over Tk2,500 crore is invested in duplex housing projects, he informed.
He also said that about 90% of the housing sector investment in Sylhet is made by expatriates and in keeping with this trend expatriates account for around 90% of the investment in duplex homes.
Wealthy looking for exclusivity
Iqbal Habib, an architect and urban planner, said a vast majority of the wealth in the country is now owned by a small quarter of people.
These people always look for luxuries in everything, he mentioned, adding they are more focused on making sure that their residential place is comfortable.
Those sitting on wealth look for new areas for spending their money, he said, adding, "It is seen that most of the people who buy houses in duplex projects have more than one house in the capital."
Besides, duplex projects are attracting an increasing amount of investment as they are developed ensuring ecological balance and open environment.
The noted urban planner, however, warned that if duplex projects grow maintaining the current trend, overcoming the affordable housing crisis will not be possible.
Economist Ahsan H Munsur, however, attributed the booming investment in duplex projects to the government policy to allow investment of undisclosed money in the capital market and the housing sector.
"If black money is invested in these two sectors, no government institution including the Anti-Corruption Commission can raise questions about the source of this money."
Around Tk3,500 crore of black money was invested in the housing sector last year, he said.
"The scope for buying land and buildings in the capital has shrunk. As a result, many people are choosing to buy a duplex house or this type of real estate by investing some portion of their money. As a result, the number of duplex houses is growing," he observed.
Duplex homes are growing in the city as well
The trend of building duplex houses is growing not only in the outskirts of the capital, but also inside the city, including Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Dhanmondi and Uttara areas, according to sector insiders.
Leading real estate companies including Building Technology and Ideas (BTI), Navana Real Estate, Assure Group, Rupayan Group, Artisan Group, ABC Real Estate Ltd, Amin Mohammad Group, DOM-INNO, Anwar Landmark, Shanta Holdings Ltd, Rangs Properties Ltd, and South Breeze Housing Ltd, are constructing these projects.
Amalendu Biswas, general manager and head of sales at Rangs Properties Limited (RPL) told The Business Standard that Rangs has implemented six projects in Gulshan in the last few years. Rangs Waterfront condominium project, which is located in Gulshan 1 area, has been constructed on about three bighas of land. There are five eight-storied buildings and all of them have only duplex units.
He said another condominium is under construction on a two-bigha land in Gulshan 2, where each unit will also be duplex.
South Breeze Housing Ltd is implementing three similar projects in Gulshan, Banani and Baridhara areas. An official of the company said that it has already implemented four duplex condominiums.
What does the Rajuk say?
ABM Amin Ullah Noori, chairman of the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) told The Business Standard that construction of duplex houses in the country started around 2000. Since then until 2018, some 50 housing companies have taken permission from Rajuk to build duplex houses.
However, he also said that Rajuk now approves duplex projects only after considering factors including affordability for city dwellers.
"In the years 2020 and 2021, Rajuk has not cleared any duplex construction project," he added.