More than affordable housing
VERY soon, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, who is also the finance minister, will be tabling the 2017 Budget in Parliament. Among the topics in the budget is the question of adequate housing for Malaysians, especially the lowincome group.
Fellow columnist, Azman Ujang, in “Budget 2017 and affordable housing” (Off the Cuff, Sept 23) said the Budget should pay attention to housing, more specifically, affordable houses.
His wish “is for government to make it easier for the younger generation to own their first house by increasing the supply of affordable houses”.
The 2017 Budget has also attracted the attention of Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, who is the chairman of Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies.
According to him, “Budget 2017 should provide more funds for affordable housing and especially tax incentives to encourage large scale and even compulsory Industrial Building Systems (IBS).”
The housing industry in Malaysia is very robust. Even to casual observers, new high-rise apartments are sprouting in towns and cities. Furthermore, the buildings are going higher and higher.
Lately, 40 to 50-storey apartment buildings are beginning to sprout in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Penang Island and Johor Baru.
Although many of the highrise buildings are expensive condominiums that cost more than RM1 million each, there is also “affordable housing”.
The question is, what is affordable housing? If one refers to PR1MA (1Malaysia People’s Housing), the price of affordable houses range from RM100,000 to RM400,000. These are for households that have monthly income of RM2,500 to RM10,000.
As early as the 1960s, the government has been concerned about adequate housing for the poorer section of society. State governments and local authorities initiated the building of houses for sale to the poor.
For example, in Butterworth, the local authority had already built “affordable houses” for the residents in the early 1960s. A two-bedroom single-storey brick terrace house cost only RM5,000 to RM6,000 each. Three-bedroom houses were sold for about RM10,000 to RM14,000 each. Examples of such houses built by the elected Butterworth Town Council can still be seen in Jalan Mohd Saad.
The prices of “low-cost housing and low-mediumcost housing” for the poorer section of society have changed drastically.
The prices have increased from RM5,000 and RM6,000 to RM50,000 and RM72,000 each. To many poor people, even a RM72,000 apartment can be too costly. Today, the term low-cost housing is hardly used. The new term is “affordable housing”. Initially, it was used to mean flats that cost RM72,000 each.
Today, affordable houses can cost up to RM400,000 each.
Low-medium-cost houses are largely built by private developers. However, apart from the state governments, the federal government created PR1MA to build affordable houses that cost between RM100,000 and RM400,000 each. It should be noted that buying and staying in a condominium or apartment can be costly.
Apart from the monthly payment to repay the loan to buy the property, there are also the monthly fees, such as the maintenance of the multi-storey building, the sinking fund and rentals of common facilities.
Then there are renovation deposits which can be as high as RM3,000. Some of those who were “lucky” to have been allocated “affordable housing” still have problems and need help and sympathy. It may be useful to recall the day when an owner of a low-medium-cost apartment in Penang Island kneeled in front of Jagdeep Singh, the state executive councillor in charge of housing, pleading not to be punished for not being able to pay for his apartment. This episode occurred in Komtar, the office of the state government.
The 2017 Budget is about to be tabled in the Parliament. It is useful to remind the government, especially MPs of the ruling coalition, that many Malaysians are looking to the national leaders, especially the minister in charge of housing, to build more low-cost and low-medium-cost houses so that they can enjoy housing of their own.
Many Malaysians are also hoping that that those in power pay some attention to those who are allocated affordable housing. Some still need help and assistance.