Affordable Housing in Kuantan is Getting Scarce

Posted on: 2015-11-05

Billboards advertising new upmarket residential homes are interesting to look at to dream of how one wishes to live the good life. 

The house and condominium projects are invariably at coveted addresses, where the who's who of society also call their home.

In a broad understanding, the target is anyone with big money to spare as prices start at about half a million ringgit and, presumably, will shoot up to the stratosphere.

At a busy intersection in Kuantan, such billboards are easy to spot as they even block the view of the sky and other important road signage.

From an economic perspective, this is a sign that people are getting richer and can afford to shell out a million or two for a house.

Come to think of it, the potential buyers are unlikely to be average salary men and women, much less those at the tail-end of society.

Whether there are many wealthy people in town is hard to guess but the impression is that expensive houses have a market in the state, or elsewhere for that matter.

What is obvious is that there are many other poor people looking for an affordable home to call it their first.

Think about the minimum-wage earners, who cannot even get approval from the banks for a housing loan of RM500,000, much less saving that amount in their lifetime. They include workers at supermarkets and factories, municipal garbage collectors, office cleaners, security guards and an assortment of odd jobs.

Many share a home with an extended family in crammed living conditions.

If it is a rented accommodation, the location is usually at the far edges of town as the rental is cheaper than those nearer their workplaces in the urban centres.

A 20-something security guard in Kuantan says he is renting a room to live with his wife and their small child as it is all he can afford.

Obviously, he does not foresee the prospect of owning a house any time soon with his current income.

Another component to better living, such as access to public amenities, especially good schools for children, eludes those living in the outskirts and poor neighbourhoods.

Word among those familiar with housing projects is that when building low-cost homes, the returns are only small profits.

This largely discourages developers, especially the big firms, from investing in affordable housing projects.

Morally, it is a shame to turn the other cheek on the needs of the small people to have a semblance of decent living.

The price of houses around Kuantan, as much of everywhere else in the country, is naturally on the rise as their value appreciates with time.

But property speculation, which is used by real estate players to create an artificial demand in certain areas to justify the high price tag for the houses, is accelerating the process.

In August, it was reported that houses in Kuantan had come under the 'seriously unaffordable' category, based on global standards for housing affordability.

This was among the findings of Khazanah Research Institute.

Now, we can forget about getting a decent home for less than RM250,000 in Kuantan.

The house prices advertised in a few websites have to be taken with a pinch of salt.

A long-time resident in Kuantan says his single-storey semi-detached house, bought in the early 1990s, is now valued at RM300,000, up from his original investment of RM80,000.

'For a double-storey link house in my area, the owner will let you have it for RM500,000 or more. A bungalow is definitely above RM1 million,' he says.

In the mid-1990s, developers could still sell a single-storey terraced house for RM55,000 in the far fringes of Kuantan town. 

For the poor, their only hope of home ownership is through government-developed housing projects, which one was announced last month.

At RM80,000 per unit, this may well be the most decent pricing for a house besides reflecting the term 'affordable'.

Some of them may still have to pay through their noses for most of their lives after queuing up to get past the vetting process and securing a loan.

The project, under the 1Malaysia People's Housing Project (PR1MA), involves constructing 15,000 units of 3-bedroom terrace houses and will take off in due time.

The state government may not be able to build homes for everyone in the low-income group but recognising their needs is already a step in the right direction.

Slow response in addressing this issue may create bigger problems of homelessness and social discontent.


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