Residents have sought extension to vacate Tanjung Aru flats in Kota Kinabalu

Joklin Jino (left) stressing a point, while Andrew Wong looks on.

KOTA KINABALU: Time is running out, and the residents of Tanjung Aru Low Cost Flats are hoping for leniency to stay a little longer until their promised alternative homes are ready.

Andrew Wong, one of the affected residents, said in a letter dated June 12 from the Housing and Town Development Authority (LPPB), they were asked to vacate their houses by Aug 31 this year.

"The problem is some of us have not been offered alternative homes, as promised to us by LPPB when they issued the evacuation notice about three years ago," he said adding that he hoped the evacuation date could be pushed back to the end of the year.

Wong, who had been staying in his flat for 26 years, added that LPPB had promised 100 units of low-cost houses in Kibabaig, Penampang for them, and to date, 24 families had taken up the offer.

However, instead of allocating the affected residents to the promised location, they were separated and sent to several other low-cost housing areas, some located in Sepanggar.

"We would prefer somewhere closer because some of us work in Kota Kinabalu and our children attend school nearby, which is just a stone's throw away from our homes," he said.

In March last year, LPPB chairman Datuk Masiung Banah stated that a consultant appointed following an agreement between the residents and the authority had said the buildings were unsafe and adivsed that tehy be demolished.

"Not only have they (LPPB) not made any official announcement of the finding, but the authority has also only met the residents once and refused to have a dialogue with us. All we get are letters and notices delivered by hand to each household at night," he said.

Andrew added that he was also shocked to receive a letter from LPPB congratulating him on his successful low-cost housing application.

"But I never applied. How is that even possible? It is odd," he said.

His younger brother, Wong Liam Vun, was, however, not so lucky.

"I have been staying here long, together with my wife and three children, of which two are school-going and one is autistic. Just like others, we are also forced to vacate our homes, but my family has not been offered any alternative homes," he said, adding that they currently paid RM170 rent at their current place.

Another resident facing a similar problem, Joklin Jino, questioned the criteria for eligibility for an alternative house.

"Some got an alternative house, some did not. I was told I am not eligible. I just want to know the actual criteria for eligibility?" Joklin noted, adding that most residents were from the B40 category.

Tanjung Aru Madani Village Development Committee chairman, Kapitan (Chinese leader) Mely Loh, meanwhile, said that most residents, especially the elderly, preferred relocation to nearby areas.

"The elderly make up about 20% of the overall number of affected residents. They prefer relocation closer to the city as it is more convenient for medical reviews.

"The process of transferring data and deregistering themselves at new places can be troublesome, especially for the elderly," she said.

Residents also urged Deputy Chief Minister and Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam to intervene.

LPPB has yet to respond to queries from The Star.

They said former local government and housing minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun (now Finance Minister) had told the Sabah state assembly that the residents would be provided with alternative housing before being asked to vacate.

Meanwhile, Putatan Umno division chief Jeffery Nor Mohamed has urged the Housing and Town Development Authority (LPPB) to hold a dialogue with the 80 household heads of the Tanjung Aru Low Cost Flats.

"LPPB should have provided housing for these affected residents before issuing notices to vacate their homes," he said.

He added that the residents do not oppose any development in the area and are willing to be relocated if LPPB cooperates by following the proper procedures.

"This includes not just issuing notices but also ensuring LPPB officers meet with the Tanjung Aru Flats residents. The received notices have understandably caused anxiety among them.

"We will issue a letter to LPPB to officially inform them. At the same time, I ask LPPB to meet with these residents to conduct the necessary processes for the benefit of both parties," he said.

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