Iris tackles slum problem with ‘Lego’ housing


A MALAYSIAN low-cost housing project could lift some of the world’s 860 million slum dwellers from poverty by helping them to secure jobs, food and shelter.

In a pilot scheme, Iris Corp Bhd has built a four-storey building of 32 apartments, put together like huge Lego building blocks, for US$1.5 million (RM4.9 million), including the cost of buying land in Pahang, it said.

Too often, slum dwellers are pushed out by new construction in cities, said Iris managing director Datuk Tan Say Jim in a telephone interview about ways to rejuvenate urban slums.

A better alternative may often be to demolish one-storey shacks and build four-storey blocks on the site for the slum dwellers, he said.

That can free up city space for everything from job-creating shops to schools, as well as rooftop greenhouses or fish tanks for aquaculture.

“We can put up buildings very quickly and build economic activity,” Tan said.

He said African nations, including Senegal, were interested in
the idea.

Iris’s turnover in the year to March was about US$175 million.

So far, Iris has built three rural villages in Malaysia — in which each of about 100 pre-fabricated homes costs about US$3,000. Four more are under construction and 15 are planned in the next two years, including farms alongside.

“Fewer than one in 20 families invited to live and work in a rural ‘smart village’ decline the opportunity,” it said in a statement.

“Achieving sustainable development requires the sort of imaginative innovation being pioneered through the smart communities programme in Malaysia,” said Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, science adviser to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.


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