The af­ford­able homes poser

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

THEY were not en­ti­tled to such priv­i­leges, but they made no se­cret of their spe­cial po­si­tions, akin to telling the whole world: “It was be­stowed upon us and who are you to ques­tion us?” Some of them were not afraid to claim own­er­ship, while many have used prox­ies and names of fam­ily mem­bers to ac­quire them. This is not new. This news­pa­per un­earthed the scam in 2010 and yet, it con­tin­ues to ex­ist, no thanks to a pol­icy of the pre­vi­ous state govern­ment.

These days, the ti­tle of their in­ap­pro­pri­ate pos­ses­sions has changed – from low-cost to af­ford­able hous­ing. But af­ter al­most six years, noth­ing else has changed.

More than 500 em­ploy­ees (past and present) of the Petal­ing Jaya City Coun­cil owned – di­rectly or in­di­rectly – such units and earned a steady in­come by rent­ing them to third par­ties.

One of the most se­nior of­fi­cers cited in our re­port was Shari­pah Marhaini Syed Ali, the coun­cil’s plan­ning di­rec­tor. MBPJ’s se­nior as­sis­tant en­gi­neer, Hanizah Katab, owned one too.

By her own ad­mis­sion, Shari­pah is not the only di­rec­tor who owned a low-cost flat. Ques­tioned by a coun­cil­lor, she charged that there were other “di­rec­tors and deputy di­rec­tors” who owned such prop­er­ties.

In a re­ply to a memo from then Deputy Mayor Puasa Md Taib, Shari­pah re­torted that “if the pol­icy is that those earn­ing above RM2,500 are not el­i­gi­ble, then all the other of­fi­cers in­volved should be asked to ex­plain”.

Go­ing by the state govern­ment’s guide­lines on el­i­gi­bil­ity for low-cost units, they would not qual­ify by a mile be­cause only those hav­ing a com­bined fam­ily in­come of less than RM2,500 a month can ap­ply.

But then, the ar­gu­ment was that Shari­pah and other of­fi­cers were “re­warded” by the then exco mem­ber in charge of lo­cal govern­ment, Datuk Mokhtar Dahlan for “help­ing the state achieve its zero-squat­ter tar­get”.

Most, if not all, of the low-cost units are not owner-oc­cu­pied. In­stead, they are an ex­tra source of in­come be­cause they can fetch rentals of up to RM500 a month.

Herein is the prob­lem of af­ford­able hous­ing for the lower-in­come group. Just how many low-cost units are owne­roc­cu­pied? There have been no for­mal sur­veys, in­spec­tions or as­sess­ments. Be­sides, for politi­cians, it will al­ways be a hot potato, es­pe­cially with the im­pend­ing hus­tings.

In the mean­time, the coun­cil em­ploy­ees – not only in Petal­ing Jaya but also mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties – earn ex­tra in­come at the ex­pense of the peo­ple and the govern­ment.

The govern­ment says 723,000 af­ford­able homes are be­ing built across the coun­try as part of the fed­eral govern­ment’s pro­gramme to build one mil­lion units by 2018.

Ur­ban Well­be­ing, Hous­ing and Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Tan Sri Noh Omar said the houses are be­ing built un­der the 1Malaysia Peo­ple’s Hous­ing, 1Malaysia Civil Ser­vants Hous­ing, and Syarikat Peruma­han Ne­gara Ber­had schemes, as well as by the min­istry and the state gov­ern­ments.

But how does any­one en­sure that these houses do not end up in the hands of those who don’t de­serve them? I can pic­ture these or­gan­i­sa­tions putting up their hands and say­ing “no tak­ers”.

The Na­tional Hous­ing Coun­cil has de­fined as af­ford­able houses those units priced at RM300,000 and be­low. But then, how many peo­ple can af­ford a home at such a price.

A fresh grad­u­ate, who de­spite get­ting help from his par­ents, would not likely get a loan to fi­nance his pur­chase. For ex­am­ple, if his par­ents put the 10% down pay­ment, he would not get a loan for RM270,000 when he earns just RM2,500 or RM3,000 at the most.

But didn’t some­one read Bank Ne­gara’s an­nual re­port be­fore com­ing up with this mag­i­cal fig­ure? Among oth­ers, it said: “The short­age in hous­ing sup­ply has been par­tic­u­larly acute in the af­ford­able hous­ing cat­e­gory. In 2014, half of Malaysian house­holds earned a monthly in­come of RM4,585 and be­low.

“Ac­cord­ing to the ‘Me­dian Mul­ti­ple’ method­ol­ogy de­vel­oped by De­mographia In­ter­na­tional and rec­om­mended by the World Bank and the United Na­tions to eval­u­ate ur­ban hous­ing mar­kets, a house is con­sid­ered af­ford­able if a house­hold can fi­nance it with less than three times its an­nual house­hold in­come (house price-to-in­come ra­tio of 3.0 and be­low).

“This sug­gests that houses priced up to RM165,060 are con­sid­ered af­ford­able to a me­dian Malaysian house­hold. How­ever, only 21% of new hous­ing launches in Malaysia were priced be­low RM250,000 in 2014.

“In con­trast, the data points to an over­sup­ply of higher-end prop­er­ties priced above RM500,000. Although prop­erty launches in this price cat­e­gory ac­count for 36% of to­tal new launches in Malaysia, these houses are only within the reach of 5.4% of the pop­u­la­tion.”

In short, half of Malaysians can only af­ford a house sold at RM165,000 and 79% of all houses built in the coun­try cost more than RM250,000 which makes them un­af­ford­able.

So, are we de­ceiv­ing our­selves by talk­ing about af­ford­able houses in the RM400,000 to RM500,000 range?

So, why do we con­tinue trum­pet­ing af­ford­able homes which at cur­rent prices, be­comes un­af­ford­able to more than half the cit­i­zenry? And when tar­gets are not met, the fin­ger will be pointed at ev­ery­one else ex­cept the de­ci­sion mak­ers who refuse to ac­cept re­al­ity.

In a pre­vi­ous col­umn, I had sug­gested plan­ta­tion com­pa­nies who have tracts of agri­cul­tural land be com­pelled to build the low-cost houses. Most of them, it ap­pears, are lean­ing to­wards mil­lion-ring­git homes as the re­turns un­der­stand­ably are higher.

What about the state? Shouldn’t it be pro­vid­ing land at re­duced prices for af­ford­able hous­ing? Re­cently, Kuala Lumpur City Hall sold 16.99ha of land that housed a theme park and a restau­rant.

In its place, said Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz, a mixed de­vel­op­ment of high-end bun­ga­lows, multi-storey tow­ers and con­do­mini­ums as well as a Fed­eral Ter­ri­to­ries af­ford­able hous­ing scheme will be built.

But your guess is as good as mine. Only those earn­ing more than RM5,000 a month would be able to get the req­ui­site end­fi­nanc­ing, and yet again those earn­ing less will be left out.

Shouldn’t City Hall have used the land ex­clu­sively for af­ford­able homes and un­der­taken the project? Well, in Malaysia, some peo­ple like to spread the wealth around to keep more peo­ple happy!

R. Nadeswaran hopes the af­ford­able hous­ing scheme will suc­ceed and will be happy to be proven wrong. Com­ments: cit­i­zen-nades@the­sundaily.com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.