Low-cost apts for ‘real squat­ters’

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Yeemon­tun@mm­times.com YE MON

The Yan­gon gov­ern­ment will ar­range hous­ing only for those who are truly land­less, the re­gional se­cu­rity and bor­der af­fairs min­is­ter said yes­ter­day, amid a city­wide cen­sus of ‘squat­ters’ that has so far been lim­ited to South Dagon.

THE Yan­gon Re­gion gov­ern­ment is in the process of ar­rang­ing low-cost hous­ing for “real squat­ters” in the com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, Yan­gon’s se­cu­rity and bor­der af­fairs min­is­ter told the re­gional leg­is­la­ture yes­ter­day.

He was re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from law­maker U Kyaw Zeya (NLD; Dagon 2), who asked why MPs had yet to be pro­vided with fol­low-up in­for­ma­tion six months af­ter the re­gional gov­ern­ment said it would be­gin to tackle the is­sue of Yan­gon’s un­of­fi­cial ten­ants, es­ti­mated to num­ber in the hun­dreds of thou­sands.

In May, the gov­ern­ment said it would first carry out a cen­sus-like data col­lec­tion ef­fort to as­cer­tain the squat­ter pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing at­tempt­ing to de­ter­mine who among these un­of­fi­cial res­i­dents were truly without al­ter­na­tive – and le­gal – hous­ing op­tions.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day, Colonel Tin Aung Tun, the re­gional min­is­ter for se­cu­rity and bor­der af­fairs, said the gov­ern­ment would pro­vide sup­port to “real squat­ters” while tak­ing ac­tion against “pro­fes­sional squat­ters”, de­scribed as peo­ple who do not have a gen­uine claim to land­less­ness and ex­ploit the le­git­i­mate claims of oth­ers.

The re­gional min­is­ter did not ex­plain clearly the na­ture of the ar­range­ments be­ing made, nor what type of “ac­tion” the so-called pro­fes­sional squat­ters would face.

Ac­cord­ing to the Yan­gon Re­gion min­is­ter, four low-cost hous­ing projects are in the works, in Hlaing Thar­yar, Than­lyin, Dagon Seikkan and East Dagon town­ships.

“Four hous­ing projects will be im­ple­mented with 8000 apart­ments,” said Col Tin Aung Tun.

The min­is­ter did not in­di­cate what “low-cost” might mean in con­crete mon­e­tary terms.

“Low-cost” hous­ing has pre­vi­ously come un­der fire for be­ing not so af­ford­able to those who have lit­tle to no means of in­come. A low-cost scheme un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was crit­i­cised as in­ef­fec­tive be­cause prices were too high, with apart­ments sold for more than K10 mil­lion.

The highly touted Ma­ha­ban­doola hous­ing project will pro­vide 1200 new units in South Dagon township on land for­merly oc­cu­pied by squat­ters who were evicted to make way for the de­vel­op­ment. Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Ur­ban and Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment, 48 apart­ments are re­served for peo­ple who pre­vi­ously lived on the land, with the other units to be rented in a lot­tery sys­tem. The rent has been set at K30,000 per month.

A new ward for squat­ters is also ex­pected to be es­tab­lished on 543 acres in Hlaing Thar­yar township, Col Tin Aung Tun said, bro­ken up into 15,000 land plots at 600 square feet per plot.

At the end of May, Yan­gon Re­gion Chief Min­is­ter U Phyo Min Thein said the first step in his strat­egy to ad­dress the city’s large num­ber of shanty towns was to con­duct a head­count. No “new squat­ters” would be per­mit­ted dur­ing the count, and the un­of­fi­cial ten­ants would even­tu­ally be moved to “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion camps”, he told me­dia at a press brief­ing.

Six months on, how­ever, just one township has been fully sur­veyed.

Col Tin Aung Tun said the data col­lected in that township – South Dagon – showed a squat­ter pop­u­la­tion larger than the pre-head­count es­ti­mate. This year’s tally, at 22,326, com­pared with a pre­vi­ously pro­jected pop­u­la­tion of 18,696.

The re­gional gov­ern­ment has es­ti­mated that there are more than 430,000 un­of­fi­cial res­i­dents in Yan­gon Re­gion, in­clud­ing 157,400 in Eastern Yan­gon dis­trict, 93,000 in South­ern Yan­gon, 8100 in Western Yan­gon and 170,000 in North­ern Yan­gon dis­trict.

How­ever, the Ur­ban and Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Depart­ment of the Min­istry of Con­struc­tion has es­ti­mated that up to 1.8 mil­lion of Yan­gon’s pop­u­la­tion of 5.21 mil­lion own no land, and there is a short­fall of 75,000 to 100,000 apart­ments.

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

A con­struc­tion worker labours at the Ma­ha­ban­doola hous­ing project in South Dagon township.

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