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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Make city living enticing

The heavy traffic leading into Kuala Lumpur in the morning and out of the city in the evening may be acommon sight, but there are a number of lessons that can be learned from it.

I'm sure many of us would ask why people who work in the city can't just stay in the city as then there would not be such a massive flow of traffic.

This daily occurrence on roads leading into the city and those within the city congests the city in the day time, and by night the town becomes quiet again, and this is a telling sign that Klang Valley folks have not embraced the concept of city living.

It is worth finding out why the capital city is still not popular as a residential address.

Instead of opting for the convenience of living in the city and avoiding the hassle of having to brave those heavily congested roads on a daily basis, many have chosen to stay in the suburban areas.

Although many of them may be feeling quite overwhelmed by now, they have little choice but to put up with the daily “pilgrimage” on a daily basis just to get to their work place.

The way our cities and towns have been planned certainly has something to do with it, and it looks like we can do with some tweaking and re-planning to turn our cities around to become lesser of a dilemmaand more friendly to city folks and road users.

Our town planners should learn from the current inadequacies and shortcomings that are plaguing our cities, and it is still not too late to make amends and attend to those.

Identifying the prevailing shortcomings that have rendered city living unappealing for many Klang Valley folks will provide the necessary solutions.

One of the obvious reasons is a lack of affordable housing and community living projects in the inner city.

Many would not mind owning a house in the city if there are more residences that have an average built-up of 1,000 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft, and are priced between RM300,000 to RM500,000.

But sadly, most of the housing units are quite sizeable from 2,000 sq ft to more than 10,000 sq ft and of course these are tagged at nothing less than RM1mil a unit making them far from affordable.

For this reason, many of those working in the city centre have little choice but to brave the daily jams. There is also a large number among them who commute from as far as Bentong, Nilai and Seremban.

But for many, living in the suburbs also means they have the luxury of choosing from a wider range of housing options at lower prices, while city living usually equates to a higher cost of living.

To address the issue of cost, which developers usually attribute to the high cost of land and construction materials, the redevelopment plans for the Sungai Besi airport and other Government land (Jalan Cochrane and the 3,300 acre Rubber Research Institute in Sungei Buloh) should have a larger ratio of residential component versus commercial property.

There is still an over supply of commercial property, including office space, in the capital city, and priority should be given to increase the number of residential units in those projects to meet demand.

Developers should also look into adopting newer technology and construction methods and materials that have higher quality and durability at lower cost.

If we look around, there are many old buildings that are deplorable and have been vacant for many years, and it will be a great idea to restore these buildings and give them a new lease of life.

We can take a cue from Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) as it goes about redeveloping the city state's old buildings by offering them up for redevelopment through open tenders.

As a one-stop agency, the URA will invite developers to bid through open tenders and submit their plans for the redevelopment process.

The selection of the successful tender will be based on a set of pre-determined criteria, which besides costing, includes the ability of the project to add value to the people's living, working and recreational space.

Likewise, there are also many opportunities for the dilapidated parts of our city to be revived and for some of the older and idle commercial buildings and assets to be torn down and rebuilt into residences.

In the planning process, it is important to retain a healthy balance between the built and unbuilt by retaining some parts of the natural environment as green lungs and parks.

Open space is important for people to unwind and take a breather from the hustle and bustle of city life and to promote a happier and healthier populace.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes KL city folks deserve to have at least another two public parks (in the likes of London's Hyde Park) to walk about.

By The Star

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