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Saturday, July 30, 2011

City Hall is flexible

KUALA Lumpur is the largest and most densely populated city in the country. For that reason, urban redevelopment is likely to impact it more and earlier than other cities.

According to the 2010 preliminary population and housing census, the federal capital has a population of 1.62 million in an area of 242 sq km or a population density of 6,694 inhabitants per sq km.

Given that KL lies at the centre of the Klang Valley National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), certain pockets of real estate in the city have been identified for urban renewal.

And as the momentum of urban renewal accelerates, more sites will be identified for redevelopment.

Let’s put sentimentality aside where urban slums are concerned. —KL MAYOR TAN SRI AHMAD FUAD.

However, the country still lacks legislation for en bloc sales of strata-titled residential and commercial properties, let alone en bloc sales of landed properties, which is complicated by the fact that public areas in such properties have been surrendered to the local authority.

In a recent interview, KL mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail says City Hall has a flexible stance on redevelopment even on landed properties despite there being no legal precedence or legislation for such property transactions.

He says City Hall has no problems as long as developers follow the various regulations for property projects but where land matters are concerned (for public areas surrendered to the local authority), the National Land Code (NLC) will have to be consulted.

The NLC controls changes in land usage and of land titles. The council has ultimate authority for matters regarding land development including conversion, sub-division, partition, amalgamation and re-alienation of land.

“We've very clear policies and we want to encourage urban redevelopment but the developer must follow our criteria on regulations such as zoning, density, parking allocation and open spaces, then there's no problem,” Ahmad Fuad says.

He adds that developers can propose or suggest to City Hall how to come to a compromise on the surrendered areas. “If the land is surrendered, it means it's surrendered but we can discuss with the federal land and mines office to come up with readjustments, so there are alternatives,” Ahmad Fuad says.

He says the Government is prepared to be flexible over the matter as long as it does not come at the expense of the public.

“There are no restrictions...developers can redevelop anytime. They can also on their own initiative talk to the property owners whose site they want to acquire but to pursuade them, the offer must be attractive,” Ahmad Fuad says, adding that the market will dictate the prices depending on supply and demand.

He says there is not much land available for what is planned in the years to come other than small vacant plots dotted around the city once hillsides and green zones are taken into account.

“The problem we face is the lack of land. Therefore we've to emphasise urban redevelopment. My personal view is let's put sentimentality aside where urban slums are concerned,” Ahmad Fuad says.

He says in the case of the Taman Ikan Emas redevelopment project, the low-cost home owners are getting a better deal since they are exchanging houses of 450 sq ft and 550 sq ft which needs constant maintenance for quality three-bedroom apartments of either 800 sq ft or 900 sq ft.

“I understand the concerns of property owners who don't want to sell when developers offer but that's because they're not sure of the background of the developer,” Ahmad Fuad says.

In the case of a like-for-like offer, where the developer offers housing units in exchange for the home owner's unit, he says there is no guarantee that a project will not be abandoned.

“There must be a mechanism to ensure that projects do not get abandoned, so the profile or background of the developer is important as well as progress reports, the trust must be there,” Ahmad Fuad points out.

On the other hand, he advises the public to be open-minded where the city's progress is concerned. “Please consider the genuine offers, don't reject them outright,” Ahmad Fuad says.

By The Star

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