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Low-income housing blues in a pandemic

BASSAM KHAWAJA 2019/srpoverty.org

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We are focusing our attention in the wrong places at a time when many ordinary people are unable to afford a home of their own. JD Lovrenciear writes.

Evictions must stop

Coronavirus pandemic has left a trail of socioeconomic scars the world over, and Malaysia is no exception.

The increasing instances of landlords evicting tenants caught in financial difficulties is something that should never happen here. 

But we still hear heart-wrenching news about selfish, uncompassionate landlords evicting tenants who find themselves suddenly unable to pay their rents. Some landlords have even resorted to cutting off electricity to force tenants to leave. One of them even cut off the water supply to a family of three in Cheras.

Have we heard anything from our ministers and politicians about rescuing the destitute in these desperate times or facing up to these cruel landlords? 

Such cruel cases of forced evictions reflect poorly on the value system in the country. And this is despite all the religious preaching and budget allocations for places of worship.

Are there no laws that can stop landlords from acting so cruelly amid an unanticipated national and global disaster? Have the wealthy who own properties, to profit from, dumped all compassion just to protect their investments? 

Is it a valid argument to say that landlords need to repay their mortgage loans taken, so they have to take such harsh action against their tenants? 

Do we take it easy and assume there will always be some kind soul who will come to the rescue of families suddenly chased out of their rented dwellings? 

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Do these reported cases of landlords forcibly evicting tenants trigger alarm bells about a nation that has gone far too long and seriously wrong in its national housing strategies and policies? 

It is time we demanded that the government immediately address such cases – including the many unreported ones and those involving victims who do not know where to turn to.

Perhaps these cases of unacceptable evictions should make daily headlines until there is a permanent resolve to stop such cruelty. If we sideline these cases, the rot in our society will worsen.

Long wait for affordable housing

There is such a shortage of decent low-income housing in many places.

Deputy Federal Territories Minister Edmund Santhara Kumar was officiating the handing over of keys to low-income families so they could finally have a roof over their heads. 

Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s public housing and people’s housing projects are a worthy cause that deserves more support and expediency. Housing for the poor is essential as we strive for progress and development.

As reported during the ceremony to hand over the keys, one recipient was a single mother who had to struggle while waiting over 12 years to be selected for an affordable home.

At the handing over of offer letters to 20 recipients of the City Hall’s low-income flats, we learned that 30,000 applicants are waiting and so far, 2,000 homes have been delivered. This is less than a 10% success rate in providing housing for the poor.

Now compare that with the statistics of unsold houses for the middle class and the glut of commercial space with weather-beaten posters and banners proclaiming “For Sale”. 

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We need some serious soul-searching and a rewiring of political policy to overcome the housing challenges facing the nation.

Imagine wasting 12 years of your life waiting for an affordable house. Imagine all those wasted, unoccupied homes, buildings space and even abandoned middle-income housing projects that dot the country. 

If we can build Putrajaya, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the KL City Centre and Langkawi infrastructure with such speed and determination, is a 12-year wait for the low-income group fair? 

If fewer than 10% of applicants can get their keys, how long more is it going to take to house the large number of low-income families in search of an affordable home?

A world in peril this New Year

Even as people saw a glimmer of home with Covid vaccines being rolled out, news of a more dangerous strain has added to the pall of gloom.  

With Christmas celebrations subdued and all transborder flights and travel stalled until 31 December in Europe, there appears to be little to feel jubilant about. 

In these daunting times, many leaders seem to be feeling helpless. We have no idea where all this is leading humanity to. Will the global economy crash beyond expectations? Will governments collapse, unable to handle the challenges? Will society break loose out of desperation as hopelessness sweeps across nations? 

Should we be blamed for being pessimistic? 

Against this global backdrop, Malaysians also have to contend with corruption on mega-scale that has not yet seen any closure in the courts.

Amid rising global fears, just when the imminent arrival of vaccine supplies were making headlines, many Malaysians feel trapped in a corner.  

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Some among the 10,000 people must have seen it as a windfall to receive a meal packet at a drive-through wedding ceremony recently.

As the world reels in uncertainty, the coming year may not bring much solace after a year of struggle: 2021 seems set to unfurl under a dark, gloomy cloud of uncertainty.  

For Malaysians, if only we had zero corruption, if only we had a less gullible population, if only all our well-funded religious faiths (either through state allocations or private donations) could translate to higher ethical standards and values, paddling through 2021 would not be so arduous.  

What a relief to say goodbye to 2020. But how do we welcome 2021?

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Hakimi Abdul Jabar
25 Dec 2020 4.02pm

1) focuses on increasing people’s access to opportunities,
2) no matter who they are and where they are from,
3) More equitable access to opportunities is associated with stronger and more sustainable growth, and
4) higher income gains for the poor.


ambigapathi samarasan
ambigapathi samarasan
25 Dec 2020 7.48am

EPF should have built houses for the B40 group with less interest than the banks,it is no use having the fund in EPF and the Govt using it mega projects instead oh helping the poor members to help own their own houses

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