Affordable homes top wish list
24 SEPTEMBER 2012 | SOURCE: THE SUN DAILY
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak will unveil the Budget 2013, or better known as the Election Budget, on Friday and number one on the wish list of Malaysians based on media reports, is for him to announce plans for affordable homes.
Although it is expected to be the most generous budget ever in terms of election goodies, it is what he has in mind to rein in on property prices that most people are looking forward to with bated breath.
Shelter is a basic human right. To begin with, what kind of nation-building would any country be talking about if houses are not affordable to the majority?
According to Dr Ernest Y.Y. Cheong, a leading property chartered surveyor and valuer, house prices in Malaysia have become unaffordable to most Malaysian families.
The fact is that despite the human rights dimension to home ownership, the industry has been left for far too long at the whims and fancy of housing developers, speculators and even syndicates who do not deliver on promised homes after collecting deposits.
The latter scourge has led to Malaysia becoming what must be a country with the most number of abandoned housing projects with thousands of house buyers left servicing bank loans without getting their houses.
As far as records show, there have hardly been any cases brought to court involving such people who have absconded with house-buyers’ money.
I have friends and relatives who are victims, including a nephew who has been servicing a monthly loan instalment of over RM1,000 for over 15 years for a house he bought in Sungai Buaya, Selangor.
The then mentri besar had promised that Sungai Buaya would be the next satellite town, but buyers were unable to move in because access roads and other infrastructure facilities were not built.
Why are abandoned housing projects so rampant? Cheong, in his recent column in the New Straits Times, said Malaysia is the only country where bylaws permit developers to collect payments from house buyers during the construction period.
He quoted the then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as saying in 2005: “I think it is not right to pay money first before you get your house. If they (developers) don’t get to sell all their houses, the money won’t be enough for them to build. What will happen to those who have paid up? Developers should not be paid before they complete and deliver to the buyers the purchased houses complete with the certificate of fitness for occupation.”
Although this statement was made by the prime minister, he did not during his tenure change the policy of the sell-then-build in favour of build-then-sell (BTS) which house buyers and consumer associations have been clamouring for.
But giving credit where it’s due, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung is making a difference by saying that the BTS housing system will be implemented by 2015.
I hope the government won’t flip-flop in this impending policy change amid an apparent “warning” by the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) that if the new policy is implemented, it will cause supply of houses to dip by 80% and prices to soar.
Common sense tells us that the housing industry anywhere in the world will continue to build houses because of the demand even with the BTS housing system.
There are of course agencies like the Syarikat Perumahan Negara or National Housing Company that are committed to building affordable homes without cutting corners.
Besides affordable homes, there is also the question of providing homes to the hardcore poor, people who can’t afford to own one for which the government is implementing the PPRT homes.
Such a project is more obvious in Malacca where the state government has until March this year built over 6,600 such homes costing RM70 million.
For corporate organisations which are allocating a portion of their budget under their corporate social responsibility tagline, I think there’s no better project to undertake than providing homes for the hardcore poor. There are still far too many of them even after 55 years of Independence.
Back to what Najib might have in store for house-hungry Malaysians on Friday, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin hinted on Saturday while on a visit to Nanning, China, that the focus would be helping out with the construction of houses priced at below RM300,000 for the middle-income earners.
“House prices are much higher than what most wage-earners can afford. This will be the government’s main concern in line with our ‘People First’ agenda. The private sector would be given incentives to build homes for this category of house buyers,” he said.
The government has also come up with the 1Malaysia Housing programme or PR1MA, which is bound to increase home-ownership among people who previously might not have been able to do so.
There is a lot that the government can do to put its money where its mouth is in providing affordable homes since it owns large chunks of idle land everywhere on which such projects can be built.
The price of land is always cited by the private sector as the main obstacle to building affordable homes although this is not always true. Hardly any developer has admitted that their profit margins are on the high side.
To change the subject, I want to add my own wish for Budget 2013, and this is with regard to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 that the prime minister launched on Sept 11.
Our national budget has always addressed the quantity aspect of education with so much spent on the building of new schools, colleges and universities, and rarely does it emphasise on money to be spent on the quality of education.
For a change, it would be most appropriate to take a serious look at quality and in line with the blueprint’s agenda to strengthen the teaching of English, money ought to be set aside to set up training colleges solely for the purpose of producing English language teachers.
Without doing this, we will always run short of these much needed teachers.
I’m sure there are many retired teachers competent in teaching the language who are willing to chip in by way of national service, besides recruiting qualified ones from overseas.
What’s certain is that come Friday, most Malaysians will have one more good reason to smile.