KUCHING: Bintulu’s surging property prices are caused by a mismatch of accommodation currently available against the sudden surge of workers.
“Mobilising workers (factory employees) can be done very quickly but the building of houses take two to three years,” Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Sheda) secretary-general Sim Kian Chiok told The Star yesterday.
“The industrial boom in Bintulu and nearby Samalaju has created a mismatch. In and around Bintulu, there are about nine or 10 new factories that have started operation. More factories have been approved and are being built. The demand for accommodation is high, which in turn is driving commercial property growth.”
Assistant Housing Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said on Thursday that Bintulu had the highest property price in Sarawak.
Karim said monthly rental for a single-storey terraced house was as much as RM2,000.
Sim said other reports had indicated that rental for rooms in Bintulu had hit RM900 a month.
“You can’t even find that sort of rental prices in Kuching. It’s a reflection of how much property is worth in Bintulu now.”
Government approvals for new housing projects needed to be speeded up for the surge to be contained, he added.
Asked about a possible housing bubble at the industrial town, Sim declined to speculate.
There have been concerns that the property price surge in Bintulu could be temporary, ending after the factory building phase.
Past development of liquefied natural gas plants in the area have driven prior property booms and eventual slowdowns.
Property consultancy CH Williams Talhar Wong & Yeo Sdn Bhd this week said a slowdown in property sales across Sarawak was likely, following a “bull run” over the past two years.
It noted in its Sarawak’s First Half 2013 Property Market Review that fewer transactions have been recorded so far this year compared to the same period last year.
It also said the price of “high-end properties, which have gone beyond their upper threshold, are expected to remain flat”.
Nonetheless, Sim said Sheda was expecting about 4,000 new properties to be built this year, a figure similar to last year.
“About half of all the houses built in Sarawak are located in Kuching. The rate of new houses built is generally in tandem with the rate of jobs created.
“Growth also depends on basic infrastructure plans.
“In Kuching, although we are only 30% to 40% of the state population, the authorities have plans that can accommodate two million or more people.
“The plans and the infrastructure allow the quicker opening of new areas,” he said.
Sarawak’s urban-rural ratio presently stands at 50:50. In Peninsular Malaysia, the ratio is 70:30.
“We’ll likely end up with the peninsula ratio. How soon we get there and with what kind of prices, I don’t know.
“That depends on job creation and other factors like the number of schools to be built in urban areas.”