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Wednesday September 25, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 25, 2013 MYT 6:57:12 AM
by yip yoke tengphotos by ong soon hin
Staying together: There is no shortage of rooms available for rent in the Klang Valley.
Looking for a room to rent in the Klang Valley may turn out to be an unpleasant experience for some, as many landlords or housemates have their “preferences”.
While one’s preference on the gender of their housemates is understandable, some feel uncomfortable that there are people who specify the ethnicity of the potential tenants, given the country’s multi-racial composition.
Browsing a popular portal listing room rentals, StarMetro finds ethnic preferences are clearly stated. Out of about 42,000 rooms for rent in Kuala Lumpur, 18,600 are available to Malays, 34,500 to Chinese and 16,200 to Indians.
Can such preferences be deemed as discrimination or a matter of convenience?
StarMetro conducted a random survey of advertisers who specified preferences and found that the landlords had a list of complaints, resulting in their bias.
Their bad experiences included difficulty in collecting rent, lack of cleanliness and bad behaviour.
Some also said they did not want to rent out rooms to foreign labourers.
On the other hand, in many cases tenants also have their preferences when sharing rooms or houses, choosing members of their own race simply for convenience.
A-Levels student K. Puvanesh, 19, finds the practice unfair.
He recounted how his friend had a difficult time finding a room to rent in the Wangsa Maju and Setapak areas.
“Even though the advertisements placed in public areas do not state it, when he called the numbers given, he was told they would only rent their rooms to a person from a particular race,” he said.
“It took him nearly two months to finally find a place to stay. He had to travel from Klang to Setapak daily,” said Puvanesh, who lived at his college hostel before that.
“When my friend asked them reasons for their preferences, they said it was based on bad experiences with previous tenants.
“However, this is unfair as not all Indians, Chinese or Malays are the same.
“Every race has its share of good and bad,” he said.
“As students, it is quite disappointing to see such attitudes. As
a multi-racial society, we should learn to live with each other,” he said.
Journalism student Amanda Soo, 21, said she was not happy over the situation.
“As Malaysians, we must learn to interact, understand and respect each other, regardless of ethnic backgrounds.
I think this practice must stop as otherwise it defeats moves to promote unity,” she said.
Engineering student Helen Saw, 22, however, sees it in a different light.
“Sometimes, it is easier to stay with your own race. For instance, if I live with Chinese housemates, I do not have to worry about observing religious sensitivities, such as in terms of food.
“I also think many of these advertisements indicate ‘Chinese-only’ because the areas have a predominantly Chinese population,” she said.
College administrative officer Faradhila Abdul Rashid, 41, agreed with Saw.
She does not see the “preference” as racial segregation but as a move to live with tenants who share the same customs and way of life, for the sake of convenience.
“Take food for example, Muslims have halal concerns while some Hindus are vegetarian.
“In that sense, staying together with other races can be troublesome as they will need to buy many sets of kitchen utensils,” she said.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Centre for Social Change and Trends’ chairman Dr Wu Ming Chu said there were many reasons behind one’s choice of tenants or housemates.
However, she feels it is not racial discrimination.
“Many landlords do not want to let their units out to foreign labourers but do not mind renting to an expatriate from the same country as the labourer.
“They are choosing based on the tenant’s habits and behaviour, not the race,” she said, adding that such a trend was not unusual in other cosmopolitans where people from the same country or ethnic background lived closely together due to common cultures, practices and mindsets.
“Therefore, discrimination is too strong a word to be used in this context,” she said.
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Central Region, Family & Community, rent, race
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