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Monday March 29, 2010

Call for housing review Homes on the island beyond reach of average wage earners

THE Penang Government has been asked to address the lack of affordable housing for the low to middle-income groups, particularly the young wage earners on the island.

Penang MTUC secretary K. Veeriah said the state should convince developers to introduce corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices when they embarked on new housing projects.

Even though the cost of raw materials had risen and there was limited land space on the island, Veeriah said the developers should think of innovative ways to lower the cost of a house so that the middle and low-income groups could continue to live on the island.

“There is a general feeling among this group that property prices have risen beyond what they can afford unless they are willing to live in high-density conditions with limited social amenities,” he said.

“Governments everywhere have a responsibility to ensure affordable and if possible quality housing for the working class.

“We appreciate past efforts but now, we must find new ways to cope with the rising property prices,” he said.

Latest projects: Condominiums springing up along Gurney Drive as seen from Tanjung Tokong.

Retired academician and social activist Dr Goh Ban Lee said there was a need for a comprehensive review of the state housing policy.

“If our young professionals cannot afford homes here, then it could result in a brain drain. This could affect the economy,” he said.

The latest property along many parts of the island’s east coast, stretching from Tanjung Bungah towards Bayan Bay, cost between RM500,000 to millions of ringgit per unit, which according to Dr Goh, was beyond average income earners.

He added although residents cannot expect developers to cut costs as their projects are driven by market forces, nonetheless, there must be new measures to help the middle to low-income classes own homes on Penang island.

Penang PKR Information head Sim Tze Tzin claimed that for the past 20 to 30 years, developers were free to build whatever they wished and this resulted in prices rising beyond the reach of average income earners.

He said prices continued to rise because many overseas-based Penangites were purchasing units at inflated rates at the expense of young local professionals who, even with a combined household income of RM7,000, could not afford such units.

“The state must look at policies to compel developers to cater to the local market instead of just foreigners,” he added.

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