A property expert has urged Putrajaya not to scrap rental schemes for low-cost government housing, following reports that People’s Housing Project (PPR) units which can be rented for a song will be replaced with ones sold for many times the price of a PPR unit.
Ernest Cheong said PPR rental schemes were still the best option to ensure housing for those in the lower income bracket. He also warned against placing a greater financial burden on those in the B40 or Bottom 40 category.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow recently said he had received a letter from Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin saying that PPR units would be discontinued and replaced with a new scheme called Projek Perumahan Malaysia (PPM).
Under PPM, units will be sold for between RM90,000 and RM300,000.
This is in contrast to PPR units which are typically sold for RM35,000 in the peninsula and RM42,000 in Sabah and Sarawak, and can also be rented for a mere RM124 per month.
Cheong said the option to rent should still be made available. He also cautioned against binding those who are unable to afford homes to housing loans which could take decades to pay off.
At the very least, he said, PPMs would cost RM90,000 which is more than twice the price of a PPR.
“These are difficult times,” he added. “We should be rescuing the poor, not putting them under more pressure.
“Let the PPRs remain. If they need to be subsidised, let’s do it.”
The government presently spends about RM150,000 subsidising each PPR unit available for sale or rent to those earning RM3,000 and below.
Denison Jayasooria, an academic with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia who has been researching poverty for the past 25 years, agreed that rental schemes are still needed for the poor, especially those in urban areas.
However, he said such schemes must be monitored and should only be on a short-term basis.
“After five years, we should be able to purchase it,” he said, adding that people normally take better care of a home when it is under their ownership.
He also cited Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) model as one for Malaysia to emulate.
The HDB develops public housing units and sells them on a 99-year lease. Some units are reserved for rental to the poor.
According to reports, as of 2015, some 82% of Singapore’s 3.9 million residents lived in HDB units.
DAP’s Klang MP Charles Santiago said even those in the middle class struggle to pay for properties priced at RM300,000, which is the upper limit expected for PPM units.
“They (the government) is not prioritising those who need help (by scrapping PPRs),” he said.
“All policies should be scrutinised by the different stakeholders first.”