MID-RANGE: The ministry is shifting its focus from low-income to middle-income affordable housing
Stakeholders of a roundtable discussion recently unanimously agreed that what is needed are affordable housing for the masses (read: middle-income) rather than low-cost housing. Trapped between low-cost and high-end housing, the middle-income group can look forward to more suitable housing nearer to urban centres if the government takes concrete action through a task force to be formed soon.
Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said that the housing needs of the middle-income group comprising 40 per cent of the population should be addressed urgently and urged the unit co-ordinating the 1Malaysia Housing Programme (PR1MA) to fast-track their projects as “many applicants are still on the waiting list”.
Low cost housing is capped at RM42,000, while affordable housing ranges between RM85,000 and RM300,000.
“This is not unique to Malaysia alone. Many countries in the world are grappling with the challenges of how to provide adequate affordable housing to the middle income population. Even major economic powerhouses such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore are facing these problems,” said Datuk Seri Chor, who was delivering the keynote address at a forum hosted by the Real Estate and Housing Developers‘ Association of Malaysia (REHDA) and organised by The Eastern Regional Organization for Planning and Human Settlements (EAROPH) Malaysia.
Chor, who is also the President of EAROPH Malaysia, added that factors such as rural-urban large-scale migration, public transportation and even ideas from overseas such as “no-frills” housing in China have been considered.
Adding to the urgency of the matter, Datuk Seri Michael KC Yam, President of Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (REHDA) urged the government to free a portion of its land now, “before a worse scenario occurs”.
“One of the many ways to counter this problem is to identify federal or state lands which can be converted into affordable housing schemes. We need to shift development focus of government-owned land to affordable housing, instead of commercial projects such as the Rubber Research Institute land in Sungai Buloh, Pudu jail and the Sungai Besi airport,“ he said, adding that the industry should be given a higher plot ratio to be able to develop smaller units.
He also said the Bumiputera quota release system should be relaxed to curb increasing costs and exempt developers from having to pay for utilities infrastructure such as reservoir and sub-stations.
Secretary-general of the House Buyers Association Chang Kim Loong meanwhile urged the Government to bring back the real property gains tax (RPGT) in full force to curb speculation. He attributed the rapid rise of property price in recent years to excessive speculation fuelled by easy mortgages and low RPGT.
“The Insolvency department has affirmed that the top reason for household debts is housing loans. Bank Negara Malaysia too has confirmed these housing indebtedness,” he said.
Some of the other speakers at the roundtable discussion on “Housing Affordability - Issues and Challenges” included moderator Datuk Eddy Chen Lok Loi (Deputy President, EUROPH Malaysia) and Sarizal Yusman Yusoff from Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia (PAM).
It was attended by various major stakeholders in the property industry including developers, architects, contractors, engineers, academicians, manufacturers, NGOs, government agencies and financiers.