Where are the affordable low-cost homes?


IN what could be termed as an exchange of barbs between representatives of the federal and state authorities in recent weeks over Penang’s state of affordable housing, only one thing remains clear: When are the much-needed affordable housing units going to materialise?

Much has been reported by this paper and many others in recent years on the pledges and plans unveiled by federal and state agencies and private developers for more affordable housing in Penang.

More prominent in the media are marketing blitzes by property developers, either homegrown or from out-of-town, who zoom in on Penang for a slice of the housing property action.

It has been reported by the state authorities that from 2008 to May this year, 12,471 low-cost units from 64 projects in the state’s five districts had been built, along with 7,608 low-to medium-cost units from 28 projects.

It has also been stated that 23 projects with 3,796 low-cost and nine projects with 5,246 low- to medium- cost units have been approved by the authorities.

The Penang government has pledged to build 22,575 units of low- to and medium-cost homes by 2016.

Federal agencies and government-linked bodies have also unveiled ambitious plans for affordable housing in Penang.

The housing projects announced by the state are said to be built in 12 locations, including areas like Jalan SP Chelliah, Jelutong, Pintasan Cecil and Sandilands, Teluk Kumbar, Ampang Jajar, Kampung Jawa, Mak Mandin, Ujung Batu, Bandar Cassia and Bukit Mertajam.

But for the average person, the stock of ready homes on the island and some areas of the mainland is currently beyond their reach.

Their view is that the provision of affordable housing in new projects does not, in most cases, seem to be a priority for the developers.

It is all well and nice that the many developments planned for Penang are set to be enablers in transforming the state into an “intelligent” and international city.

The question now is whether the mega projects lined up are doing any favours to the majority of people who have lived and worked in Penang for years and are still unable to afford a home.

Instead of endless squabbling and reaching no solutions on how best to meet the desperate need for affordable housing by the people, the federal and state authorities may first wish to determine if a home is meant simply and basically for living or for speculation.

Builders and property developers who are justified in seeing significant potential profits for projects being planned may wish to obtain more accurate market information about what the new buyers — especially the local ones — may want, currently spend or can afford for housing.


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