The low-income earners in Kuala Lumpur are badly affected by the severe housing crisis as tens of thousands of them are on a long waiting list for affordable homes.
ALMOST 70,000 residents are on the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) waiting list for affordable housing. Some have been waiting for more than 20 years to rent a public housing unit.
DBKL’s Housing Department statistics for March this year showed that 128,000 people have applied and are waiting for units in low-cost schemes. However, only 68,214 qualify to rent these units.
DBKL charges RM90 to rent a one-room flat and RM124 for a three-room flat a month. The low rental has made these units much sought after.
According to Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, because of the shortage, only “dire urgency” cases for low-cost housing will be entertained.
“A panel will decide on the level of urgency on a case-by-case basis,’’ Ahmad Phesal told StarMetro.
Demand exceeds supply
DBKL is managing 60,853 units of People’s Housing Scheme (PPR) throughout Kuala Lumpur.
Of that number, 11,587 units have been sold to residents while 49,266 are currently being rented.
A person seeking a low-cost home in the city must be a Malaysian citizen, married, works in Kuala Lumpur and has a joint income of RM2,500 and below.
They must also not have property within a 35km radius of Kuala Lumpur.
“That criteria will cover about 40% of Kuala Lumpur residents,” pointed out Ramanujam Ramadass from Majlis Perwakilan Penduduk (MPPWP).
“The long waiting list and waiting period exposes the critical need for affordable housing for the urban poor and it cannot be ignored any longer,” Ramanujam said.
Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas, Malaysia (DHRRA) president Saravanan Sinapan agrees with Ramanujam, adding that the demographics of who constitute the urban poor had changed.
“The urban poor cannot be generalised as the elderly, single mothers or the disabled anymore,” Saravanan said.
“I am not at all surprised with the rising number of people on DBKL’s waiting list.
“Some young graduates’ starting salary, which is between RM1,500 and RM2,200, is no longer sustainable.
“A huge portion of their income will go towards paying rent and servicing their car loan,” added Saravanan.
He added that many young couples also fall into debt servicing their education loans or post-wedding bills.
“And if there is a baby on the way, there won’t be enough to survive especially if you want to live and work in the city,” he said.
Long waiting period
Ramanujam and Saravanan pointed out that it was ridiculous that some people have been on the waiting list for over a decade.
“A more reasonable duration is between one and two years.
“The list should also be updated regularly to ensure urgent cases are included.
“This scenario does not bode well for a city that is striving to be world class,” said Ramanujam.
Pusat Aduan Rakyat Malaysia (PAR) chairman Datuk A. Chandrakumanan said the high demand for low-cost housing is proof that Kuala Lumpur is facing a housing crisis.
He said DBKL should address the issue immediately.
Chandrakumanan pointed out that schemes like RUMAWIP (Federal Territories Affordable Housing) and PR1MA (1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme) were aimed at providing affordable housing to middle-income group, not the urban poor.
“On paper it is a good plan but how many can afford to buy them?
“The number of residents who took up the government’s offer to buy their PPR units 10 years ago was far from encouraging, in fact it was worrying.
“If most can’t afford a RM35,000 unit, how are they going to buy a RM300,000 unit?” Chandrakumanan pointed out.
Ramanujam and Saravanan suggested several short-term options to resolve the problem.
They pointed out many PPR units in Kuala Lumpur are uninhabitable.
In fact, hundreds of units at PPR Batu Muda in Kepong, PPR Pantai Ria in Lembah Pantai, PPR Kampung Muhibbah in Puchong and PPR Intan Baiduri have been left vacant.
They said DBKL should repair the units and make them habitable.
They also pointed out that while thousands of poverty-stricken city folk are on the waiting list, tens
of thousands have defaulted on their rent.
According to the latest statistics, PPR residents owe DBKL a whopping RM46.5mil in unpaid rent.
More than 15,000 residents owe at least two months of unpaid rent. About 546 owe more than RM10,000.
This state of affairs has led to some questioning DBKL’s rationale of “pampering” or protecting defaulters.
While DBKL is “prevented” from evicting tenants who default on their rent, some quarters want it to lock out non-genuine cases who are abusing the system.
“I am not saying that DBKL should kick out all tenants who default but I know of those who refuse to pay rent because they feel they are entitled to the units as former squatters who were relocated.
“There are also those who have sub-let their units to third parties and charge up to five times more.
“Political will is needed to stop the rot and bring credibility back into a system that was originally intended to help the city’s poorest residents have a roof over their heads,” pointed out Ramanujam.
Wednesday May 6, 2015
BY BAVANI M