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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bandar Ainsdale project in Seremban to kick off affordable housing scheme

SIME Darby Property Bhd will be offering affordable housing in the coming years as a stategic component in their up-and-coming townships in line with market needs and to complement the government's affordable-housing scheme.

Wahab: (75% sales record) is a clear reflection that residential properties in prime areas are still very much in demand and we are optimistic.

In his first press statement since he took over as managing director, Datuk Abdul Wahab Maskan says they have already identified areas in their townships for PR1MA housing, also known as 1Malaysia Housing Programme. Their first township to kick off affordable housing will be Bandar Ainsdale in Seremban.

Wahab, who is also Sime Darby Bhd group chief operating officer, assumed the position at the property division from Tunku Datuk Badlishah Tunku Annuar in June. Wahab is also Sime Darby group chief operating officer.

There are several reasons why Sime's contribution to affordable housing will begin at Bandar Ainsdale. First, Bandar Ainsdale is a new 550-acre township that will be launched at the end of this year and it will be viable to begin social housing with a clean slate. Ainsdale will comprise residential and commercial segments. Over and above that, the focal point of that township will be its integrated public transportation component with a KTM station to be its public transportation terminal. This will add to Bandar Ainsdale's accessibility, which will be a much needed infrastructure in any affordable housing scheme.

Other areas that will subsequently offer affordable housing include Ara Damansara in Petaling Jaya near Subang Airport, Bandar Bukit Raja in Klang, Putra Heights in Subang Jaya, Kota Elmina in Sungai Buloh, Elmina West in Shah Alam and Lagong Mas in Rawang, Selangor.

Earlier, it was reported that the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) would focus on three projects comprising the first PR1MA scheme to be offered by the government in Presint 11, Putrajaya, Bandar Ainsdale in Seremban and Bandar Tun Razak in Cheras this year.

EPU deputy director-general Datuk Mat Noor Nawi said about 4,000 units will be offered in this first batch of PR1MA housing with the development in Presint 11 to provide 560 apartment units while the other two developments will consist of a mix of landed and high-rise and apartment units for the Bandar Ainsdale in Seremban and Bandar Tun Razak projects respectively.

Other than affordable housing, Sime also plans to launch more than RM2bil worth of properties from the third quarter of this year to the end of its 2012 financial year which closes at the end of June. Wahab says they are en route to achieving this target.

The division recently launched Isola, a 216-unit serviced condominium in Subang Jaya, Selangor which has a gross development value of more than RM210 mil, which was 75% sold on its first day itself.

“This is a clear reflection that residential properties in prime areas are still very much in demand and we are optimistic. The residential property segment is expected to remain positive this year, especially in the main areas of growth such as the Klang Valley and other urban centres. Similarly, shop houses will also remain attractive to buyers and investors, especially if they are located in high growth areas,” he says.

Launches targeted till the end of this year include link houses (about 271 units), shop offices (about 61 units), condominium/serviced apartments (about 966 units), bungalows (about 71 units) and commercial units (about 171 units) in Denai Alam, Nilai Impian and Bandar Bukit Raja.

To date, it has successfully launched Maple Terrace in Denai Alam, Avalon 1 and Avalon 11 in USJ Heights, Davina 111 and Iluna in Nilai Impian. These properties are worth more than RM320mil collectively, the statement says.

They will have seven launches for the first six months of next year, or 3,848 units of condominiums, industrial properties, mixed development and bungalows. Next year's launches include a mixed development with 35 units in Ara Damansara, 554 units of villas and condominiums in Putra Heights in Subang Jaya, 231 units of mixed development in Bandar Bukit Raja in Klang and about 90 units of industrial properties in Elmina East in Shah Alam. Other launches slated for next year include about 1,000 units of mixed development in Denai Alam, Shah Alam, 540 units of bungalows and condominium-cum-villas in Bukit Jelutong in Shah Alam and about 1,400 units of mixed development in Melawati in Ulu Kelang.

Subsequent to the success of Sime Darby Property's Oasis Square in Ara Damansara, where Sime Darby Property and Sime Darby Plantation's corporate head offices have been re-located to, the next commercial development in the Ara Damansara township will be Oasis Corporate Park. That mixed-commercial development will see its first 340 units of flexi-office suites with 620 sq ft of office space each, launched early next year.

The presence of these two corporate HQs will generate a sizeable retail market for the area. Together with Oasis Corporate Park, the company expects Ara Damansara to be a popular suburb in time to come.

“Development in Ara Damansara is about 85% completed. Residential properties in Ara Damansara have recorded an average price growth of about 100% in five years. This translates into a yearly average growth of 13.7% compounded.” (Source: Jones Lang Wootton research). Together with the 9.8 acres of Oasis Corporate Park development, that township will eventually have a mix of corporate offices, serviced suites, a hotel and a convention centre.

Upcoming developments in Ara Damansara include Senada Condo Villa, an 18-unit project with an estimated selling price of around RM3.8 million per unit with built-up of the units ranging from 7,080 to 7,500 sq ft, which is scheduled to be launched in the second quarter of next year. The other project is Community Square, a commercial hub and low rise centre that focuses on offering convenience to the Ara Damansara community. This community square is also anticipated to provide added value in terms of commercial value to the community.

By The Star

Polish the gems of KL

The festive season is just around the corner. Many of us have either planned our vacation and are most probably travelling at this very moment. Whichever destination we have in mind for our vacation, the consensus is travelling provides us an opportunity to revitalise ourselves, gain knowledge and broaden our experience.

For some of us, travelling is an avenue for reflection and inspiration. Seeing a new place and/or experiencing a new culture allows us to reflect on what we have and gives us the motivation to seek improvements.

Without a doubt, the experience and knowledge gained from my trips especially those abroad have inspired me with many ideas to improve myself, my family and the community. By simply comprehending the ordinary activities of the common people around the world, a new sphere of ideas becomes apparent.

Insignificant at first sight, a closer examination draws out the importance of the activities of the people albeit with different perspective from different people. For me, the significant realisation was that these activities were made possible due to the structure and growth of the city as well as the mindset of the people. These activities form part of the pivotal elements that make a city liveable, likeable and eventually, a world class city.

Going down memory lane, I remember seeing hundreds of people practising Tai Chi in one of the parks in Beijing. In other parts of the world, young executives are commonly seen reading the newspapers on their way to work via the Metro in Paris; children running freely around the playground in Sydney; students performing at a music festival in Hong Kong; families having fun at a carnival in London; and the list goes on.

One would enquire: “What is so special or significant about these ordinary activities that other people in different parts of the world do?”

Let's take the Tai Chi exercise in Beijing as an example. In my view, it reflects the health consciousness, community spirit, and the value of volunteerism practised by the society in Beijing. The group leader of the Tai Chi exercise conducts the exercises on a voluntarily basis. In return, he/she is joined by people of all ages who are interested in the exercise for health reason, community kinship or simply, as a form of relaxation. This creates a healthy society and a sense of belonging among the community, something of which we could promote in Malaysia.

My last article touched on the macro aspects of making Kuala Lumpur a world class city. Now, let's cover the social and cultural aspects which form the other integral parts that would contribute to this vision.

The social and cultural characteristics basically address the “software” aspects of the society. The elements that form this “software development” include peace, prosperity, history, culture, education, entertainment and the rich diversity of the society. With these elements in place, bountiful benefits can be achieved.

Let's reflect on the examples that I have shared earlier. What allows the children to run freely in a playground or why do young executives have the luxury to read the newspaper on their way to work or how does one get students to perform at a music festival or run a carnival for families to enjoy?

There is probably more than one answer to all of the questions. One thing that is common is the fact that all these activities are made possible when the city is allowed to flourish, free of crime and has world class facilities for people.

We can achieve the same by changing our mindset from “wait-an- see” to “let's explore”. We can work together to prevent crime and encourage the use of public amenities such as parks with care through education and public awareness. An improved public transportation system to ease traffic congestion and enhance workforce efficiency is definitely a must.

In terms of human resources development, a well thought and long-term plan is required to retain local talent and attract professionals from abroad. Educational institutions must provide a high level of quality education and encourage students to have a balance exposure to the arts and sciences in order to cultivate greater creativity which would benefit the society as a whole.

To generate a greater sense of belonging and to promote community living, city stakeholders can organise more social events and entertainment events, such as cultural performances, open air concerts, carnivals and sporting events. Significant events will bring in the tourists and can eventually become attractions for the city.

Living in a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, we get to enjoy the differences that come with this diversity and uniqueness. For example, we are pampered with a seemingly endless variety of food and eating out is a real gastronomic treat. Imagine having a simple meal and drink of your choice at a mamak stall and paying less than RM10 for the whole dining experience. Malaysia, especially KL, is a gourmet centre for the locals and tourists alike. I believe every Malaysian would attest to that and agree that food is the common element that brings people together.

We should therefore put emphasis on sustaining and enhancing this social and cultural uniqueness to our benefit. Each of us plays a part in contributing to the transformation of KL and of the country. Let us start by equipping ourselves with good practices so that KL can earn the recognition as a world class city and place Malaysia more prominently on the world map.

The diversity of our food, culture and heritage is the hidden gems ready to be uncovered and once discovered and polished, they will make KL and Malaysia shine and reveal their true beauty.

Datuk Alan Tong is the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties, he was the FIABCI World President in 2005-2006 and was recently named Property Man of The Year 2010 by FIABCI Malaysia.

By The Star (by Datuk Alan Tong)

Singapore move likely to benefit Iskandar

JOHOR BARU: Property developers in Iskandar Malaysia are expected to benefit from the new ruling introduced by Singapore for foreigners buying private properties in the republic.

The move was introduced on Wednesday to cool private residential property prices in the island state which are on the uptrend despite a slowing economy.

Johor Real Estate and Housing Developers Association branch chairman Simon Heng said foreigners buying properties in Singapore for investment might look elsewhere in the region.

“With Iskandar Malaysia progressing well since its inception five years ago, these buyers (foreigners and Singaporeans) are most probably looking at Johor Baru,’’ he told StarBizWeek.

Heng said prices of residential properties in Johor were much lower than those in Singapore and Johor’s close proximity with the republic was an added advantage compared with places like Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

He said developers with projects in Nusajaya would benefit the most as there were no restrictions on property ownership by foreigners, including Singaporeans.

On the other hand, areas outside Nusajaya in Iskandar did not enjoy the privilege and in places where the 30% quota was imposed on developers selling residential properties worth RM500,000 and above, Heng said.

Another strong selling point for Nusajaya was its location, not far from the second link crossing, which made it a favourite place for Singaporeans living in Johor Baru but working in the island, he added.

UEM Land Holdings Bhd is the master developer of the 9,308ha Nusajaya which is the key driver of Iskandar and one of the five flagship development zones in the country’s first economic region.

Nusajaya comprises seven signature developments – Kota Iskandar (Johor State New Administrative Centre), Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters, Puteri Harbour Waterfront Development, EduCity, Medical City, International Destination Resort and Residential Developments.

Other flagship development zones in Iskandar are the Johor Baru City Centre, Eastern Gate Development Zone, Western Gate Development Zone and Kulai-Senai.

“Rehda members are hoping that the special treatment accorded to Nusajaya would be extended to other development zones in Iskander as well,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Daiman Development Bhd general manager Siah Chin Leong said it was still too early to see the impact on the Johor Baru property market following the new ruling.

He said majority of foreigners buying private residential properties in Singapore were investors and high net income individuals who already owned properties in other major cities in the world.

Siah said overseas investors were particularly the affluent Chinese from the mainland, Indonesian Chinese, Indian nationals and, to some extent, Malaysians, were flocking to buy properties in Singapore.

Berinda Group sales manager Lim Sung Heng expected that there would be a spill-over effect from the ruling on the Johor Baru property market probably within the next few months.

He said the state government and other relevant agencies must make more effort to make Iskander a preferred destination for property buyers not only Singaporeans but also other nationalities.

By The Star

Foreigners and PRs have to pay more stamp duties in Singapore

On Wednesday, The Singapore government imposed a new 10% stamp duty on foreigners and companies buying private residential property in the city state. The move, its fifth in the past two years, is the first in 15 years targeted at foreign buyers.

The stamp duty, effective from Dec 8, is in addition to the existing buyers' stamp duty, which is 1% for the first S$180,000 of the purchase price, 2% for the next S$180,000 and 3% for the rest, The Straits Times reported.

Permanent residents who already own a property, and who are buying a second or subsequent property, will now have to pay an extra stamp duty of 3%. Singaporeans who already own two properties and are buying a third or subsequent property will also pay extra stamp duty of 3%.

For a S$1 mil property, a foreigner will have to pay an additional buyer's stamp duty of S$100,000 on top of the current S$24,600.

The move underscores two important issues.

The first, that inspite of the “open and free” market system there, the government is ready to swallow the bitter pill of plying measures that may well add to an already weakening Singapore economy, if those measures were to be the salvation of the country's greater economy in the long-term.

The second is its timing. Why, at this juncture when European leaders are meeting this week in an attempt to solve the eurozone crisis?

Thus far, foreigners and Permanent Residents, many of whom are Malaysians, have enjoyed a fairly “open and free market” when it comes to property ownership. Until Wednesday, they faced only certain restrictions in buying landed homes.

Notwithstanding this open, free and transparent system, Singapore has a two-tiered property market. There is the HDB (or Housing Development Board) and the private residential market. HDB housing makes up the bulk of the market, at about 80%. Private residential market accounts for only 20%.

The fact that the government is concerned about prices shooting further in this 20% portion underscores the primacy of the property sector in the country's greater economy.

It also underscores its vast exposure in terms of value, that this 20% commands in Singapore's property market. This private residential portion is primarily owned by foreigners where prices are many times that of the HBD portion.

In the event the eurozone talks hit a snag due to disagreements among the eurozone members this weekend, and because of Singapore's high foreign exposure, any price fall in that 20% portion will also affect the HBD portion.

In any market where there is a large foreign exposure, there will be a greater degree of volatility because foreign buyers will be the first to leave that market. They will not be staying around to weather the storm. It is the PR holders and citizens who will be staying put.

Foreign buyers accounted for 19% of all private residential property purchases in the second half of this year, up from 7% in the first half of 2009. These figures exclude purchases by PRs, The Straits Times reported.

Sales of new private homes hit a record 16,292 last year. This year looks to be another banner year with 13,688 units sold in the first 10 months, Straits Times reported. That imposition of the stamp duty is sending a message to investors and speculators that the government is seriously concerned about the formation of any bubbles in that 20% private residential portion.

Let us return to Malaysia. For years, property consultants and developers have been trying hard to sell high-end properties, both landed and high-rise to foreigners. They are at a loss why despite comparatively low prices in Malaysia, our properties have not enjoyed the same attention as those in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and other southeast Asian countries.

The fact is, low prices alone will not attract foreign buyers. While property ownership seems easy enough foreigners can buy residentials exceeding RM500,000 there are many other factors that play an important role. Notwithstanding all these, do we want a large foreign exposure? There are mixed views about this among property consultants, developers and government.

It is a fact that the Malaysian property sector will not have the global intricacies tied up with being an international financial hub, so we need not be too worried about that. But we do need to mull over our own property sector as a result of Singapore's move and consider how we can fine-tune our property sector less the threat of eurozone woes come knocking on our doors. We do have a lot of high-end properties waiting to be sold and authorities who approve such projects need to consider today's global climate.

Assistant news editor Thean Lee Cheng has two questions: Do we want a large foreign exposure? And if not, what are we to do with the thousands of units of high-end housing which are unsold today?

By The Star