Affordable Home on the Edge

JasonLoo 20150626 1 KW column

Penang Gerakan Youth Legal and Public Complaint Bureau Chief Jason Loo
Columnist for Kwong Wah Yit Poh

Dear YB Jagdeep and his fans:

Recently after I conducted a few press conferences, I received a lot of hostile phone calls and face book comments, scolded me for wasting taxpayers’ money and time because I questioned the Penang state government, who claimed that they have been contributing remarkable efforts to the housing sector in Penang.

Remarkable efforts? I doubt.

During my childhood, I lived with my mom, sister, grandpa, grandma and uncle in a 400 sq ft rented old government house. During those years, I usually did my study in the extremely hot house. Every night, 6 of us squeezed together in the limited space so that we had enough space to sleep. Despite all the hardships, deep down in my heart, I always dream of having my own house when I grow up.

After I graduated, the urge to have my own home has never changed but only grow stronger. Penang’s property has always been highly valued due to its global reputation as one of the most popular place to live in especially for retirees. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for local grown up like me who wish to own a house in Penang.

Some of my friends are relatively luckier. Their parents bought their houses or assisted them by paying the down payment when they just started working at a comparatively lower value when the property prices were still relatively under controlled. However, most of the Penangnites like me need to work our socks off to prepare for the down payment to purchase our own first house. Some of my friends who had applied for the low cost/low medium cost house are still waiting for the reply from the state authority.

I can always understand the disappointment of the Penangnites who find it difficult to purchase their own house due to my childhood experience and the extreme desire to own a house. Thus, this is the reason why I always stress the importance of the state government’s role and duty in solving the housing issues in the state.

Let us tentatively put aside the housing policies of “low cost housing”, “Program Perumahan Rakyat-PPR (low rental)” and the “rent-to-sell” concept which can really help the poverty group in Penang.

The state government has been highly promoting the “affordable home” and they always say that Penang is moving from the era of “low medium cost housing” to “affordable home” era. Obviously they are not going to push for the outdated low cost/low medium cost housing projects although this is much needed by the people.

Well, 8 years after taking over the state administrative power, the state government had neither built any low cost nor low medium cost house. The highly promoted affordable home projects are all “in the planning stage” and are only expected to be completed as early in 2018.

Worse still, there are so many flaws in the affordable home projects. I had revealed 2 affordable home scandals last week, i.e.:

1) A developer allegedly violated the state affordable home scheme which the said developer is overcharging the purchasers in an affordable home project located at Paya Terubong.

The selling price for the category of 750 square feet unit in the said project is RM 292,500 instead RM 200,000 (according to the state affordable home scheme) while the selling price for the category of 850 square feet unit is RM 331,500 instead RM 300,000 (according to the state affordable home scheme). The total overcharged amount of all the 6,126 affected units are amounting to RM286 million. Based on the assumption of 35 years period of housing loan instalment, with 4.5% interest per annum, the surplus of RM 286 million housing costs will eventually grow up to more than RM 500 million.

2) A development project at Sungai Nibong (98 Nibong Residence by the same developer) is alleged to violate the affordable home scheme. There are 5 units less than the supposed 27 units affordable home to be built as instructed in the high density guideline and the said developer is also alleged to have built “shrunk@smaller size” affordable homes.

Instead of building 850 sq ft and 900 sq ft affordable home units for the prices of RM299,000 and RM399,000 respectively, the developer (for the categories of RM299,000 and RM399,000) is providing the “shrunk@smaller size” 473 sq ft and 587 sq ft units respectively.

The people of Penang have literally lost more than RM500million in 2 affordable home projects abovementioned due to the state government’s failure to responsibly discharge its duties and the amount is exactly the purchase price for 12,000 units of low cost house.

When enquired about the above queries, YB Jagdeep Singh said that the above 2 projects were approved before the affordable home scheme was introduced in August 2014. His simple reply to my queries shows that he is evasive and trying to escape from answering the questions posed. According to him, those projects’ selling prices and unit sizes are not controlled by the scheme. He even asked me to meet him personally in his office at KOMTAR to discuss the matter. Can’t he answer the allegations publicly? The state government is simply not Competent, not Accountable and also not Transparent.

Since June 2010 when they approved the high density housing guideline, they keep promoting the affordable home projects. Today, the state government is telling us, prior to August 2014, there is no guideline to monitor the price and size of the affordable home projects and all the scandals (projects) I revealed were actually approved between June 2010 and August 2014. Well, today, the state government is unwilling to take retrospective actions against the developer that violated the scheme. Hence, it seems that any developers can fix their own sweet prices in the affordable home projects.

Why would you approve affordable home projects when you had not yet fixed your affordable home scheme? Why do you need to take 4 years to introduce the affordable home scheme since you have been promoting the affordable home projects since 2010? Obviously the state government officers have been sleeping over the years.

We had discovered affordable home project with overcharged selling prices and affordable home project with “shrunk@smaller size” units. What’s next?

The state government is bowed to threats by the developer while they use ‘affordable home’ as a political propaganda to claim credit from the Rakyat that they take care of the housing concerns of the Penangnites. Is this acceptable?

Well, I am speechless when some people chose not to slam the state government for their failure to discharge their duties and still reckon the state government’s “remarkable efforts” in the housing development sector. With the support of nearly 70% of the Penangnites in Penang, it is rather difficult for the people to believe that the DAP-led’s state government’s public housing policy is wrong. Why sacrifice the Penangnites at your expenses?

Why do I keep fighting for the housing issue? I had gone through the pains and I really wish all the youngsters can have our own houses in Penang where we grow up and make our living.

In this matter, the state government has to man-up and give the people an answer for this drama and scandals.

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