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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will buyers be proud of My First Home?

Last week, the Government officially launched My First Home Scheme targeted at young working Malaysians earning RM3,000 or less to help them become home owners. Though different in many ways from Singapore's Housing Development Board scheme, Malaysia's My First Home scheme has similar and noble objectives.

Malaysia has another housing scheme targeted at the poor and needy the low-cost housing scheme. It is mandatory for developers to provide this form of housing when they build and develop a township. One may ask, what has the low-cost housing scheme got to do with the My First Home Scheme? The three key words here are management, quality and standards.

Granted, low-cost housing is priced between RM35,000 and RM42,000 each. Because of that price, many of these units are small, at 650 sq ft or slightly bigger and are occupied by a family of five or six. The lack of space and privacy results in children spending their time at corridors, on the landings of fire escapes or at the car park bays provided. As a result, when the owners are able to afford it, they move out in search of a better standard of living and rent out the place.

This latest scheme launched a week ago involves houses priced 4-5 times that of low-cost homes.

A couple of developers have already announced that they will build apartments for first-time house buyers. Although it is not mandatory for developers to provide this form of housing, they want to move into this market because they see the huge demand as property prices continue to rise.

At the price of between RM100,000 and RM220,000, most of these projects will be outside the Klang Valley, or on the fringes of what will be known as Greater Kuala Lumpur.

With inflationary pressures to contend with, and profit being the main motive of private developers, it is extremely important that this form of housing although not low-cost does not one day become the disenchantment of what will be Greater KL, like how most of the low-cost housing in the city have turned out today.

Other than a decent minimum built-up (not 650 sq ft please!), there should be some quality control, not only in what will one day be Greater KL, but also in other states.

The cap on prices sieves out some of the more desirable locations in the Klang Valley that developers can build on because of high land prices.

Nevertheless, there are two other points that are equally important location and accessibility. In the Klang Valley, some of the locations where young Malaysians can opt for include certain parts of Seri Kembangan and Puchong, as highlighted recently.

In Perak, Johor and other states, the choices would be greater and in all likelihood may include single-storey houses. Whether in the Klang Valley or outside, there are lessons to be learnt from both our low-cost housing scheme and the Singapore example.

There is talk that because it is a government-initiated scheme, this latest housing scheme may be implemented in the Sg Buloh land that will soon be developed. Just as developers had to do national duty with low-cost housing, could it be possible that those who eventually benefit from the 3,300 acres in Sg Buloh may also have to do some form of national duty?

Just a thought ...

Assistant news editor Thean Lee Cheng hopes the My First Home Scheme will go beyond its fundamental objective of enabling the populace to own houses by including meaningful elements such as quality and good living.

By The Star