As Malaysia is celebrating the fall of the Barisan Nasional government and is now looking forward to a better deal, the People hope that their basic needs will be accorded higher priority. Housing is a fundamental basic need of the People and thus far the People have not been able to enjoy affordable ownership/rental of housing due to provision of housing being made a business.
PSM is launching a nationwide campaign to press for housing rights. Amongst the issues that PSM seeks to demand for resolution are ;
- a) Sky rocketing house prices due to land and property speculation.
The steady increase of house prices over the last decade is mind boggling to say the least. Ordinary citizens are not able to purchase newly built homes. The price for a terrace house has exceeded RM200,000 in smaller towns and surpassed the RM400,000 mark in larger cities like Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Penang. A regular worker/employee with wage of between RM1000 to RM 2500 a month will never be able to fulfill the criteria for a bank loan for such a purchase. To make matters worse the new government recently made a mischievous decision to raise the minimum monthly wage by a miserly RM50. It is obvious that the failure of the ruling class to recognize housing as a basic need and its failure to take over the provision of basic housing for ordinary citizens are the main reasons why ordinary citizens are unable to afford home ownership.
- b) Auctioning of the Homes of B40 and M40 families
Day in day out we see houses of ordinary citizens being auctioned due to their inability to service their housing loans. Banks do not practice social responsibility and do not take into account the fact that ordinary citizens are beset by ever rising prices of essentials, inadequate and stagnant income, retrenchments and a whole load of other economic burdens. Banks see auctioning off of houses as the only solution to non performing housing loans. The government, through Bank Negara Malaysia is not firm in trying to resolve this issue by establishing adequate regulations to compel banks to be proactive in resolving housing loan crisis by offering restructuring schemes or more flexible payment at least for a certain period of time.
- c) Ongoing forced evictions of urban settlers.
A recent case of forced eviction is Kampung Padang Jawa, and this took place despite the change of government. Malaysia’s National Land Code uses the Torrens Title system which is not equity based. Essentially what that means is, whoever holds the land/property grant (usually awarded by the government) is the absolute owner of the said land and while those occupying the land for generations have absolutely no rights! In most of our towns, in the period prior to independence, the urban elite were able to buy large tracts of land at the peripheries of those towns and rent them out to “ground tenants“ who build their houses and stayed there. However after several decades development companies have purchased the land from the grant holders (often the grandchildren of the original absentee landlord) and thus win exclusive rights over the land. Our Land Law at present enables these new investors to get court orders to evict the ground tenants and forced eviction takes place all over Malaysia from time to time. State governments have been ignoring calls for the creation of compelling enactments that will ensure that those being evicted will be compensated with housing or alternative land.
- d) Maintenance problems in low cost flats.
Tens of thousands of low income families staying on government or private land have been evicted and forced into cramped low cost flats over the past 30 years. Many of these low coast flats are poorly planned and do not have proper rubbish disposal facilities, no multipurpose halls for community activities, insufficient playground spaces and insufficient parking lots. Our existing legislation places the onus of repairing and maintaining these flats squarely on an elected committee, the Joint Management Body (JMB). In many low cost flats these JMBs are unable to collect the maintenance fees from flat residents. This results in poorly managed flats and to the steady outmigration of the better-off families who have the resources to find better accommodation. Over time the conditions in many of these low cost flats have deteriorated terribly and they have become urban slums which foster many other social problems.
In line with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution, we urge the government to commit to –
- Provide Affordable home ownership/rental for all by
– Formulating a national housing policy to ensure suitable housing for all. This policy should be formulated through consultations with citizens at all levels.
– Setting up non-profit Housing Boards that will provide the first house for ordinary families at reasonable prices and control speculation in houses by requiring that these houses can only be sold back to the Housing Board concerned, thus removing public housing from the broader property market.
– Housing for the poor should come with reasonable bank loan guarantees with low interest from the authorities to enable affordability of home ownership.
– Compulsory MRTA home insurance for each unit sold. This will protect the family should the breadwinner pass away or become incapacitated.
– To provide affordable rental housing schemes for the marginalized so that they too can have a roof over their heads.
- Recognize Urban Pioneers and put a stop to Forced Evictions.
– The government needs to recognize the economic contribution of urban pioneers to the development of their cities and give them some equity over the land they occupy. If the land belongs to the government, then the land should be offered to urban pioneers at nominal prices and not sold to property developers for profit.
– Establish an Enactment/Act where the state/federal government will automatically provide alternative housing or land if the settlers are forced to be evicted for government projects.
– The same Enactment should ensure that for private development projects, the cost for alternative housing of the settlers should be shared by the developers and the development be delayed until such obligations have been fulfilled.
– Tun Abdul Razak’s Own Housing Scheme for plantation workers needs to be formulated as law.
- Stop the banks’ cruelty towards the poor by
– Creating a Loans Insurance Scheme where the buyer will pay a sum of money (say 10% from total repayment of loan) to a provident fund that can be used to service monthly repayments should the family be faced by a drop/loss of income. This Loan Insurance Scheme will also help reduce default in payment caused by economic recessions.
– Implementing the Retrenchment Fund advocated by PSM/Jerit that will assist retrenched workers meet their financial obligations including the servicing of their housing loans.
– Legislating that In the event of a recession, buyers should be offered a flexible restructured loan repayment scheme for a certain period. (a year for example) where they might be only required to pay half the usual loan repayment amount. This period will be helpful for the survival of the affected buyers together with the Loans Insurance Scheme and Retrenchment Fund.
- Get Local Town Councils to take over the maintenance of low cost flats.
– Low cost flat dwellers to only pay 2 types of taxes; Land Tax (once a year) and assessment (twice a year) at a rate similar to that paid by owners of low cost terrace houses.
– Payment to be made to directly to the Local Town Council and Land Office. These payments should include cost of rubbish collection, cleaning of flat corridors, cleaning of drains, maintenance of playgrounds, maintenance of street lamps and roads within the flat vicinity. All these services should be taken over by the local council.
- To enact Progressive and Strategic Property Taxes.
– We propose a progressive and strategic tax on real estates, especially on expensive homes second, third and fourth homes as well as primary land value tax and property gain tax on primary real estate sellers.
– Taxes collected can be channeled to build more affordable homes. We also propose additional taxes on unoccupied houses and apartments that are priced RM 250,000 and above (under occupancy tax). The under occupancy tax will reduce speculation in the housing market and keep a lid on housing prices.
We are of the opinion that the above demands are reasonable as ordinary citizens have a right to own their own homes. Our national housing policy should not be drawn up for the benefit of the developers! Capitalists usually like to build and sell expensive houses as this is the segment with the highest profit rates. However, the new government needs to accept that affordable home ownership/rental is a basic need and that it is the responsibility of a caring government to see that this need is met. Housing for the Rakyat should not be made a commodity that earns massive profits for the developers and the banks. Remove the provision of housing for the Rakyat from the market.
Housing is a Right of the People, Not a Commodity to be Traded!