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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homeless crisis due to lack of affordable homes

ONE of the main contributing factors to Kuala Lumpur’s homeless problem is the lack of affordable housing for the poor, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies research fellow Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria.

According to Denison, the shortage of affordable housing, particularly to renters with extremely low incomes like the rural poor, often result in them ending up on the streets.

Denison, who was responding to StarMetro’s cover story yesterday, said hundreds of people from rural areas come to the city in search of work and a better life, yet when they arrive they find the cost of living in KL is too high.

“Before they can even find a job, finding a reasonable accommodation that is close to their workplace with decent facilities and low rental is simply impossible,’’ he said.

“With no decent and cheap housing for these people, it is not surprising to find them seeking shelter under the bridges in the city,’’ Denison said.

Denison said the government, and in this case Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), must address the shortage of rental housing for these group.

“DBKL must provide a decent hostel style housing with a common bathroom and water facilities at least, with the rental at RM10 a day. And these accommodation must be given to genuine cases who have come to the city seeking better employment for casual jobs like despatch worker with low income,’’ he added.

“The city must review this matter and find solutions for these group,’’ he said.

“There must be constant monitoring of this problem as well,’’ Denison added.

Denison said most of the big cities in the world have an affordable home system that looks to the needs of the rural poor and KL must start looking at providing such facilities for its homeless community.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall Advisory Board member C. Ramanathan agreed that lack of affordable housing is a serious concern for the city, but added the problem is not just confined to the young working adults but students who come to the city to seek education or enrol in courses.

Ramanathan, who holds the housing and squatter relocation portfolio in the DBKL board, said homelessness comes about when people who have to choose between shelter or other basic needs tends to forgo the most expensive need.

“When people are unable to pay for basic necessities like house, food, medicine, education, they often they choose to live in the streets as housing absorbs the biggest portion of their income,’’ Ramanathan said.

Federal Territories and Selangor Community Association (Permas) president Tan Jo Hann said a federal policy was needed to look at the housing needs of this group.

“The Government must provide the safety net for them, in fact City Hall can offer the empty PPR units (People’s Housing Scheme) for these group while they look for a job,’’ he said.

The arrangement, Tan added, though temporary, will provide them with a roof over their heads and also keep them off the streets or else more and more slums will emerge in the city.

By The Star

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