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When well-meaning policies don’t take off the ground

09/05/2004 The Star

Although well-meaning, the government's efforts to provide housing for the poor are sometimes hampered by weak implementation, reports IVY SOON.

CLEARING cities of squatter settlements have recently become an important government agenda, with Kuala Lumpur and Selangor vowing to be declared squatter-free by 2005. High-rise low-cost flats have been built to solve the housing needs of the evicted urban poor.

“We have prepared low-cost housing for all the 47,000 squatters registered under the squatter census exercise. About 27,000 squatters have moved to their low-cost flats, and another 20,000 are waiting for their units which will be ready by 2005,” said Chief Assistant Director of Selangor Housing and Real Property Board Azmi Arsad who is confident Selangor would achieve its squatter-free status next year.

“From 1995 to March this year, 153,000 have applied for the low-cost flats. However, only 117,000 have accepted the offer to buy the low-cost units.

“Squatters have all kinds of reasons for not taking up the offers. They complained that the low-cost unit offered is far from their present homes. But all of us have to sacrifice, kena berkorban,” said Azmi. who has been handling squatter problems for the past four years.

“Some low-cost flat buyers complain about the condition of their units, but it is up to them to read their sales and purchase agreement carefully before signing it. Buyers must realise what they are getting,” he added.

To overcome the problem of shoddy maintenance in high-rise low-cost buildings, Azmi said the state government had recently embarked on a programme to help residents set up their own management corporations.

The Selangor government has also established the Ehsan Housing Fund (TPE) to provide housing loans for the poor.

“Under TPE, those who have been offered a low-cost unit can get a full housing loan with only a RM1 deposit. The loans are guaranteed by the state government which has placed RM100m in fixed deposits for 10 years with AmBank. Over 9,765 house buyers have benefited from the scheme since it was introduced three years ago.”

With this scheme, Selangor’s poor would be able to own a low-cost home without worrying about the required 10% deposit.

“Unfortunately, dissemination of information and public information about this scheme has been weak. Many eligible persons did not take advantage of this scheme because they were not aware of the scheme.

“When we told them they could move in with RM1 deposit, they did not believe us. It was only when we showed them the brochure that they believed such a scheme existed,” related Tan Jo Hann, president of Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (Permas).

The NGO has been helping the urban poor seek permanent housing since the 1980s.

In Kuala Lumpur, DBKL has begun offering a scheme to rent out low-cost units to the urban poor at RM124/ month for a maximum of five years under PRUS (People’s Housing Project For Rental).

In 2002, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting had announced that the government was planning 55 projects comprising 56,196 units to resettle squatters.

He said that the projects would be built in the vicinity of the former squatter settlements, and only local squatters would be eligible to rent the low-cost units.

“In reality, the PRUS scheme has not lived up to this objective. For instance, squatters from Sg Besi had been resettled to the flats in Taman Wahyu in Jinjang, which is far from their previous homes.

In the meantime, about 200 longhouse families living in the vicinity of Taman Wahyu were not permitted to rent the units.

After a year of negotiations with DBKL, they were relocated to another longhouse (see main story),” said Tan at a press conference highlighting housing problems of the urban poor.

Ong recently announced that the government is planning to allow these public housing tenants to convert their rentals into instalments, which would enable the poor to own their own houses without being burdened by high instalments and deposits.

“We believe that government officials at the upper levels, such as the minister, are generally very concerned with housing for the poor. They have devised policies to help provide housing for the poor, but implementation is another matter,” said Tan, who urged the government to take unscrupulous developers to task.

For more information on TPE, contact Hanizan Sahib from the Selangor Housing and Real Property Board at 03-5544 7646. To contact Permas, call or fax 03-79685415 or e-mail


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