Penangite Neha Bhubhindar Singh has been struggling since June to secure a two-bedroom apartment in KL.
“It is extremely stressful for fresh graduates transitioning from university life to work life and we need a proper accommodation to live in.
“Plus, the cost of living in KL is so high it’s near impossible to afford a place on a fresh graduate’s salary,” she said, adding that racial discrimination makes it worse.
She has been unable to secure a viewing once they find out her race.
“My follow-up texts and calls are ignored,” she sighed.
A 26-year-old accountant, who only wanted to be known as Rishi, found herself in the same predicament.
She had faced multiple rejections when requesting to view or rent a unit with some rental websites openly stating a preference for tenants of specific ethnicities.
The Johorean moved to KL because “there are more opportunities in the city” than in her hometown.
“I was on the brink of giving up on life altogether because my savings were dwindling. I couldn’t focus at work and I felt like a disease because nobody was willing to even let me view their units.
“Fortunately, a friend was kind enough to allow me to stay with her. She even helped me find a room to rent after almost a year of me struggling,” she said.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman psychology and counselling department programme head Pheh Kai Shuen said the stress of securing affordable housing, particularly in the face of discrimination, can have a significant impact on the mental health of youths.
He related the situation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological theory that explains how people prioritise and fulfil their needs.
Affordable housing, he said, falls under the base of Maslow’s hierarchy, which comprises physiological needs, like basic necessities of food, water and shelter.
“When youths struggle to find affordable housing, it threatens their most fundamental physiological need. The stress of unstable or unaffordable housing can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and other mental health issues.
“Youths facing these challenges can benefit from seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals.
“Building a support network can help them navigate the stress and discrimination associated with housing,” Pheh, who is also a clinical psychologist, offered.
Taylor’s University Career Services head Raja Edriana Baizura said the current rising cost of living has affected everybody, including fresh graduates and interns alike.
Finding a place to stay, especially if it is far away from the family or in a foreign land, can be stressful for anyone; additionally, adding rental discrimination in housing to the list can definitely impact one’s mental health, Raja Edriana said.
She advised graduates or interns who plan to land a job in a new city or country to do as much research as possible before seeking an interview opportunity far from home.
“Having friends and family they know who work in the area would help to gain valuable insights in terms of being able to list and compare living cost estimates,” she added.
Raja Edriana reminded youths that they must be ready to change their lifestyles and adapt to a new environment.
Having an open mind, she added, will help one adjust better to a new environment, as well as identify one’s needs and wants, and live a comfortable life independently away from home.
“For university students, seeking assistance or guidance from the university may help lessen stress, especially for international students.
“Foreign students should consider living near or on campus, if possible, at least for the first semester of their studies until they get the hang of the environment before deciding to venture out or away from campus,” she said, adding that the best coping mechanism would be to always reach out for assistance and advice, as well as to do proper research before committing to things requiring a large amount of financial commitment.