MANY of the people’s housing projects (PPR) in Selangor are in dire need of repair but state government funds to refurbish them are limited.
One of the more effective is Skim Ceria, administered by the Selangor Housing Development Board, to improve the exterior of these buildings, many of which have become eyesores.
Skim Ceria was introduced in 2011 for all low-cost housing schemes, especially flats, built by both the government and private sector.
It received an allocation of RM13mil from the state government last year. A total of 56 areas were approved for refurbishment costing RM13.55mil, but many applications had to be turned down because of lack of funds.
Several Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen and MPs have been trying their best to get the allocation diverted to their areas.
Kota Damansara assemblyman Halimahton Saadiah Bohan put up a strong case for the PPR scheme in her area, which she said was in bad shape.
In fact, last year, a boy fell through the gap at PPR Kota Damansara as the grilles in the corridor of the 14th floor were missing.
Tinesh Raj, five, who lived at the PPR’s Block D, leaned over a rusty railing and fell to his death on June 21 last year.
“There is so much that needs attention here in Kota Damansara, but nothing is being done,” Halimahton said, adding that several problem areas needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
“The state should be thinking of increasing funds for low-cost housing schemes because the residents need all the help they can get,’’ added Halimahton.
Another area badly in need of funds is Desa Mentari in PJS 6, Petaling Jaya.
Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen has also been lobbying to get allocations for the Desa Mentari and Desaria flats that are located in his area.
Walking through the corridors of Desa Mentari is dangerous as the roof looks like it could collapse any time.
The lifts do not work and the stairways are dark, dingy and dirty. Their application for funds has so far been unsuccessful and in the meantime, Wong Chen has been getting help from the corporate sector.
“The state has RM3bil in reserves and some of this money should be channelled into making conducive homes for the urban poor,” he said.
Wong Chen estimates that the six-block flats in Desa Mentari alone would need RM5mil a year for refurbishment and maintenance costs.
“There are about 50 pockets of urban poverty in Selangor. The state could change the lives of residents in all these low-cost housing projects if the scheme is better managed,” he said, adding that the allocation should be given in a transparent manner.
“How the funds are spent should be made public because I believe we are not getting value for money,” he added.
Learn from Singapore
Wong cited Singapore as an example of how to manage public housing as its HDB flats provide a conducive living environment for residents.
“The Singapore government invested money to refurbish the flats and had a fund for ongoing remedial projects.
“When the walls were painted with graffiti, it would be repainted immediately. Slowly the vandals lost interest in defacing public property,” he noted.
In Malaysia, however, every high-rise residential project is run by a joint management body (JMB).
Many of these JMBs are unable to fulfil their responsibilities, prompting Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh to call for a review of their roles and functions.
“The people in the JMB are struggling to put food on the table. The federal and state governments have to re-assess the need for a JMB,” she said.
Yeoh believes public housing schemes should be managed by the government.
She said more money should be set aside for this purpose and local councils should be involved in the management of low-cost housing schemes.
“However, this will be difficult unless the laws governing JMB are changed.
“For the time being, the number of commissioners of buildings (COBs) should be increased to resolve the increasing number of complaints concerning JMBs,’’ she said.
Selangor’s select committee for poverty eradication chairman Saari Sungib, however, said increasing the funds alone would not be enough.
Most of the urban poor, noted Saari, live in low-cost housing schemes around the state.
“The committee’s role is to help synergise all the efforts to help the urban poor,” he said.
Saari believes that increasing funds for the refurbishment and maintenance of low-cost housing schemes, although necessary, would not be enough to make a difference.
“People’s mentality needs to change. They must remember that they are all responsible for public property including the common areas and its upkeep.
“Many residents now have a tidak apa or do-not-care-less attitude,” he added.
Saari said residents needed to be empowered to take care of their neighbourhood.
The state, he added, needs to find a mechanism that works.
“We can set up a mechanism that allows the JMB to hire residents to clean the area.
“This way, we are giving them job opportunities and helping the poor as well,” he added.