Low-cost apts for ‘real squatters’
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.
A construction worker labours at the Mahabandoola housing project in South Dagon township.