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Coronavirus: Pandemic opens window of opportunity for local housing industry

Photograph: Choo Choy May/Malay Mail

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The industry must extricate itself from profiteering and re-invent itself into an ethically bound engine of social progress, JD Lovrenciear writes.

For a long time, the local housing industry has been a sunrise industry. Lucrative profit margins and spin-off opportunities saw many builders rushing head-long to make more money.

Peddling “modern” and “contemporary living”, the properties that were built and offered for sale were similar to designs lifted from glossy foreign magazines.

Over time, house prices soared beyond the affordability of many young couples venturing into the job market.

Today, we have been led to believe that it is impossible to build homes priced below RM200,000-RM300,000.

In fact, buying and reselling properties for profit grew into a thriving business all of its own.

In the process, developers have stopped building homes out of social consciousness. Instead, the greed for ever-more profits fuelled the local housing industry.

Many governments in the past only paid lip service to social housing.

But today, in the midst of a global virus attack that has not spared governments, businesses and citizens around the world, it is time for the local housing industry to come to terms with reality.

Housing should never be a profit-driven engine of national development. It has to be cost-driven with a commitment to social progress.

This is the yardstick for a nation struggling to reach developed nation status after having moved the goal post once – and we are still not sure if it has to be moved further into the future.

It is time for the various players to look at innovative pathways to help correct the situation. Engage local talent. Improvise and capitalise on local building materials. Draw upon the centuries-old knowledge of building homes that blend well with our culture, traditions and weather.

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Do not see this housing business as a highway to fat bank accounts. Instead recognise and embrace the duty to ensure that the people need not struggle and be saddled with unaffordable housing prices.

With global economic and social stagnation arising from the pandemic, the government must seize upon this window of opportunity.

Take action against business people who are out to capitalise on weak governments and seek self-enrichment by building expensive homes.

If need be, the government can undertake this industry all on its own. There is a tremendous pool of talent and capability within the military, state enterprises and patriotic business communities.

Let’s see the housing industry extricate itself from profiteering and lucrative margins and re-invent itself into an ethically bound engine of social progress.

When the people are able to have a roof over their heads without being saddled with lifelong loans, we create a happier population that can contribute to sound economic growth – minus corrupt living. National productivity is secured.

Are there any politicians in the Perikatan Nasional bandwagon willing to step forward and direct the industry to take a leap of faith through the new window of opportunity offered by the ravaging coronavirus pandemic?

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