Chang on URA: Don't wage a war between the 'stay' vs 'sell'

KUALA LUMPUR: The National House Buyers Association (HBA) insists that any plans for redevelopment, rejuvenation, or renewal of real estate in Malaysia must have the unanimous consent of all unit owners. 

According to Datuk Chang Kim Loong, the honorary secretary-general, industry players have suggested different consent thresholds: 90 per cent for buildings less than 10 years old, 80 per cent for those between 10 and 20 years old, and 75 per cent for those over 20 years old.

The Housing and Local Government Ministry is proposing a 75 per cent 'consent threshold' for en-bloc sales for urban redevelopment, aligning with international standards such as those in Singapore, where unanimity is not required. 

Chang expressed concern about this proposal, emphasising HBA's strong opposition to any consent threshold other than 100 per cent.

He voiced concern that the proposed redevelopment law might resurrect the contentious en-bloc strata sale proposal from over a decade ago, which was primarily aimed at enabling developers to seize land for profit, rather than for genuine rejuvenation or benefits to property owners.

Chang stressed that enacting this new law for en-bloc sales without obtaining genuine consent from all owners could disrupt any development, regardless of its strata status, and potentially fuel social unrest.

He noted the surprising transformation of once-quiet housing estates into tumultuous environments when discussions about redevelopment, also known as en bloc, arise. 

Chang highlighted that such endeavors involve more than mere business transactions; they intertwine with emotions and finances, fostering mistrust and suspicion among neighbours.

He pointed out the dilemma faced by minority homeowners, who may feel pressured to comply with the majority's decision to sell their properties for profit. 

He warned of dissent arising when politics infiltrate the realm of property ownership, creating a divide between those who wish to sell and those who prefer to remain.

"Ultimately, the primary beneficiaries of these situations are property developers and their agents, who profit from the turmoil while residents grapple with uncertainty and discord," he told NST Property.

En-bloc strata sales involve developers identifying land with buildings for acquisition, primarily driven by commercial interests. 

Developers then persuade owners to sell their properties at market rates, after which the original buildings are demolished to make way for new developments, typically mixed-use projects with inflated prices compared to the original structures.

Chang argued that such laws enforcing en-bloc sales prioritise majority profit over the objections of dissenting homeowners, effectively facilitating forceful land acquisition by developers.

He warned against viewing the proposed Urban Renewal Act (URA) as progress, reiterating HBA's stance that it would constitute a regressive move, potentially infringing upon property ownership rights enshrined in Article 13 of the Federal Constitution. 

Chang said that proceeding with any consent threshold for en-bloc sales would unjustly deprive certain homeowners of their properties.

He urged the government to avoid repeating past mistakes and to refrain from being influenced by profit-driven developers, emphasising the need to protect homeowners' rights, regardless of whether properties are within or outside Federal Territories.

Chang cautioned against extending the potential redevelopment law to cover non-strata schemes, regardless of their land tenure, and cautioned against being swayed by the interests of mercenary developers, often hailed as economic drivers.

He emphasised that en-bloc strata sales often serve commercial interests, where developers seek to acquire land for profit. 

The process involves convincing owners to sell their properties at market rates, followed by demolition and the construction of high-priced developments.

HBA sees this as a coercive acquisition for profit, disregarding the rights of dissenting property owners, said Chang.

He argued that a law facilitating en-bloc sales prioritises majority profit over property rights, contradicting the Federal Constitution's Article 13. 

Any law enforcing a consent threshold would deprive homeowners of their properties unlawfully, he said.

HBA believes that the proposed Urban Renewal Act by KPKT is regressive, potentially violating property ownership rights. 

The association urges the government to refrain from succumbing to developer influence and to uphold constitutional principles, safeguarding homeowners' rights across the country.

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