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Affordable homes: Government must stop begging developers

Photograph: Choo Choy May/Malay Mail

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The government should take on the moral, political obligation of ensuring that affordable housing matches the disposable incomes of ordinary families, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin has reportedly thanked developers for committing to build affordable homes in line with the government’s aim of increasing the supply of such homes for the lower-income group.

She said this during the soft launch of 15 affordable projects on 8 November; 11 firms are in the first batch of private developers working with the ministry to build homes priced RM300,000 and below.

Why is the government lapping up to developers? Many among the bottom 40% of households cannot even afford homes priced below RM150,000.

And the pricing of some homes just a few thousand ringgit below the RM300,000 mark is nothing but a gimmick.

The minister needs to be told that we cannot go on pulling wool over the people’s eyes.

Ultimately all land belongs to the country, ie to the citizens, present and future. Selling parcels of land to developers and letting them make a killing out of it has made the provision of an affordable roof over every family elusive.

The government should instead take on the moral, political obligation of ensuring that affordable housing is commensurate with the disposable incomes of families. To do that, it cannot allow itself to be driven by private enterprise demands and business mantras.

Selling land cheaply to developers has failed to keep the prices of homes within reach of the lower and middle-income classes over the last few decades.

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What Malaysia needs is a patriotic nationalistic policy to overcome the housing dilemma.

Take over the building of homes, and let civil servants within the relevant ministries – including the uniformed, national security segments that have the capacity and knowledge of constructing homes – fulfil the affordable housing agenda we have been promised.

Making profits or even reduced profits amounts to sheer window dressing of the nation’s housing crisis.

Hopefully, the minister will quickly concede that the country is in a state where housing development for the people should be taken up as a key government obligation – rather than a business to be capitalised on by the private sector or even government agencies.

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