More than af­ford­able hous­ing

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

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.

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