PENANG: Penang is giving itself 10 years to eliminate “backwater dwellings” in urban areas after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir pointed out the glaring disparity in development here.
Stressing that the problems could not be resolved overnight, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya said there were 2,000 dilapidated homes on state land alone.
“We are employing a multi-pronged strategy involving various government departments and agencies and the private sector to build affordable homes for the urban poor and check the squatter problem,” he said after opening the northern zone Rakan Muda Integrity Programme at Balik Pulau Sports Complex yesterday.
Dr Mahathir had said during his two-day working visit here on Saturday that living conditions were still similar to the pre-World War II era in some areas, and that the dilapidated wooden homes showed the dwellers had been “left behind” despite the state’s steady progress.
Dr Hilmi, who also chairs the Urban Poverty Eradication Committee set up last year, said the committee had identified congested urban villages in Sungai Pinang and Jelutong on the island and Prai and Bagan on the mainland that could be redeveloped to improve living conditions.
“We are issuing a tender for a project to build 200 flats along Sungai Pinang,” he said, adding that a total of 160 low cost units would be built on the heritage enclave in Mesjid Lebuh Aceh, Lebuh Buckingham and Chulia Street.
Dr Hilmi said more low cost units would be built on municipal council land and wakaf (endowed) lots.
They would be funded through federal allocations and developed by private sector companies or corporatised bodies.
He said it was easier to set a time limit to improve the living conditions of those staying on government land, “but we cannot force private owners to develop their land as quickly as we want.”