NIBONG TEBAL: Abandoned by owners who seem to have given up hope, many privately-owned low-cost flats on mainland Penang have become slums.
The doors and windows of many of the units – especially on the upper floors – were ripped off and rubbish has filled the units.
The staircases reek of urine and these blocks of flats, some more than 20 years old, had also become the haunt of glue sniffers and drunkards, evidenced by the numerous empty glue cans and liquor bottles littering them.
Such is the state of one place in Taman Bukit Panchor.
Despite the high demand for public housing in Penang, many low-cost flats on mainland Penang have eroded into squalid homes for the poor.
Most of the owners had stopped paying maintenance fees, either because they had moved out and abandoned their property, or the units had been repossessed by banks and no buyers could be found.
Coordinating officers of the Jawi constituency service centre took The Star to visit the Taman Bukit Panchor flats to highlight the plight of the few remaining residents trying to turn their place into homes.
On the top floor of one of the flats, only two of the 20 units were inhabited.
One of the residents, housewife M. Umahdevi, 37, barricaded the left and right sides of the corridor leading to her unit and kept a dog there to alert her if anyone walks up to her floor.
Her home and her neighbour’s were the only occupied units, and all the other units were vacant and full of filth.
Nearly all the other units on the top floor were also roofless – the sheet roofings possibly pilfered by scavengers of recyclable materials.
Along all the corridors and staircases, the lamps were missing and the wiring ripped off.
“We have been staying here for about nine years. Our rental was RM250 but I got our landlord to reduce it to RM180 recently. Our neighbour is a group of foreign workers.
“We don’t know who threw all the rubbish here,” she said.
Umahdevi said as long as the homes were occupied, no one would dare break into them. But when they were vacant, someone would tear down the door.
In many of the vacant units on her floor, emptied jars of glue and liquor bottles were found.
Umahdevi, however, refused to say if she had ever seen people treating the units as a place to indulge in glue sniffing and drinking.
“It has been like this for years. These flats used to be good homes but now they are terrible.
“It’s a big waste because there are so many units that poor people like us can afford to live in. We hope the government can step in and make the units usable again,” she said.
The management committee chairman of Taman Bukit Panchor flats, Norizaham Ibrahim, 45, said he wanted to resign because he did not want to be responsible for the water bills, which went up to over RM40,000.
“I never wanted to be the chairman. I am just a factory operator and I am a disabled person. I have no managerial experience and when I went alone to Seberang Prai Municipal Council to try and sort out a problem, I had no idea what to do.
“I have lived here for 17 years with my family and this is my only home. But we are suffering because nobody wants to pay the maintenance fees. We asked everyone to pay just RM20 a month. But only a few are willing to do that,” he added.
Norizaham said some of the units were repossessed by banks and they were unable to sell them, while some other dwellers had moved away and no longer cared about their units.
“These flats are about 20 years old. I think over the years, the original owners bought better homes and moved out. The rental income is so low that they don’t bother about the place anymore,” he said.
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