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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Now everyone can have a home?

The robust property market is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the appreciation in property prices has the potential to churn out many more wealthy individuals and property developers are among the big beneficiaries of this strong property market.

On the flip side is the increasing burden on the general public who have to cough up more to own a property today.

The rising cost of living caused by creeping prices for a broad range of consumer items is a double whammy and will have a big impact on the middle and lower income groups. If left unchecked, it may result in greater disparities between the haves and have-nots.

It is important that the Government's affordable housing programme be accorded top priority to ensure more reasonably priced housing units are built in various parts of the country.

Initiatives such as the My First Home Scheme (MFHS) will serve to lighten the burden on young Malaysians aged between 18 and 35 purchasing their first house through the provision of 100% loan financing.

The initiative will have a higher success rate if it is supported by enough sizeable land parcels dedicated for the MFHS projects, and reputable developers are roped in to build these schemes.

And it is important that any concerns voiced out by the public and industry players be addressed and ironed out early on before they mar the success of this noble project.

The Government's latest initiative to dedicate a portion of the old Sungai Besi airport land for quality affordable housing by the developer, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) is most timely.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak says the scheme, dubbed Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (Prima) to be launched next month, will offer homes at below market value as part of a public-private partnership to provide affordable housing.

I believe another idea that can be adopted to help alleviate the hardships caused by rising house prices is to introduce “no frills” housing projects as an option for house buyers who choose to pay the minimum for a house.

Just like the model adopted by low-cost carriers or budget hotels, buyers will only be charged what they have signed up for.

If they opt for the no frills unit, they will only have to pay for the land, the house structure, and the can't-do-without items.

Those who want to have their units fitted with all the usual finishing like decorative tiles, plaster ceiling and built-in furnishings, should also be given the choice to do so.

This model will minimise wastage as it is a well known fact that many new house owners will choose to renovate their house before moving in. Many times, the whole interior structure and room partitions are knocked down, only to be rebuilt.

If these house buyers are allowed to choose the “minimalist” unit instead of the standard “fully dressed up” one, they can save substantially on their property.

Although offering such flexibility may mean more work and lower margin for developers, the one who has the foresight to take up this idea may stumble on a winning formula and win over a big customer following.

Just like Air Asia's gutsy founder, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes who has taken budget air travel to a whole new level, a “no frills” developer will also emerge a big winner by moving into a new, uncontested market.

It is heartening to note that amid the growing materialism among some sections of the populace, there are people who make it a point to serve and contribute, rather than be served.

Many inspiring stories have emerged about individuals who are selfless and go out of their way to help other people and contribute towards a better world.

Giving editorial space like what The Star is doing through the “Be Inspired” initiative, to individuals who have achieved success despite the odds stacked against them, and those who selflessly contribute their resources, either in kind, time or effort, for the well being of other people, can inspire others to take action and chip in however small the effort may seem.

Although it may just be a mere drop in the vast ocean, the important thing is that we start to take action which cumulatively will become a force for more positive change to take place either on the individual or the society as a whole.

And initiatives like “The Giving Pledge” by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffet, that asks the wealthy to donate half their fortune to charity, will hopefully give birth to more philanthropists among the super-rich.

Having high profile individuals do their bit for the larger good of humanity is a great way to create awareness of the goodness of giving.

I believe this is one of the positive effects of globalisation as the vast movement of people and multinational corporations turn the world into a big global village. Hopefully it will serve to instil greater empathy and lessen the differences between people from the various continents.

There is no stopping the rapid globalisation underway now, and even the property industry is a party to this with more property developers taking to the global stage.

This should be a golden opportunity for developers from the more developed continents, including those from Malaysia, to help out with efforts to house the many millions of homeless people, including slum-dwellers, in the poorer and less developed countries today.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng hopes a “white knight” developer with a big heart will be the first to champion the “no frills” housing project model in Malaysia.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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