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Penangites Find It Tough To Own A House

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GEORGE TOWN – For some time now, housing has been the bane of Penangites.

They find houses in the state getting more expensive to purchase or rent, while affordable housing projects are hard to come by. To purchase one, potential buyers need to wait in line and to follow the criteria set by the state government.

The criteria are that the potential purchaser must be a registered voter in Penang, has resided in Penang for at least five years from the date of application, holds a bachelor’s degree or diploma, has a minimum two years’ work
experience to fit in the talent and skilled category or be a Penang-born working in the state.

While Penangites are made to wait in line to purchase an affordable house in the state and have to meet the requirements set, little do they know that 30 per cent of the affordable housing units are sold in the open market at slightly higher prices.

Last year, the state government through its executive councillor overseeing Housing and Town and Country Planning, Jagdeep Singh Deo announced the measures following the high loan rejection rates by banks from potential house buyers.

“Many new affordable housing projects could not take off due to less than the minimum 60 per cent take-up of the units, so we need to do something to stimulate the market,” he had said.

According to a source in the property business who wished to be known only as Tan, a project could not kick off if the purchase rate was lower than 30 per cent but the opening at 30 per cent is actually a double-edged sword.

“Developers cannot start the project if the take-up rate is not at least 30 per cent and the step is taken to encourage sales. But indirectly, the people who are waiting in line will have to wait longer because the 30 per cent have been sold in the open market,” he said.

According to Penang Property Talk, a website that announces any latest update on the property market in the state, affordable housing units are sold in the open market at 10 per cent above the controlled price in the South-West district, and the entire mainland (north, south and central Seberang Perai).

Meanwhile, in the North-East district which covers the city centre, the price of affordable housing is at 20 per cent higher than the original price.

The purchaser of a housing unit sold in the open market must be a Penang registered voter and the purchased unit cannot be sold within five years of the vacant possession date, and the buyer can only purchase one affordable unit.

However, checks at several affordable housing units across the state have shown that one purchaser could buy three units and are currently being rented out despite being warned not to by the state government.

However, the bigger question that arises is that, if the loan rejection rate for affordable housing is high, why is high-end property development booming across the state?

High-end projects are seen to be approved across the state even if they are located in packed areas or on hillslopes above 250 feet.

The majority of the high-end properties have been sold at above RM1 million and Penangites are left wondering the houses were built for whom.

As the property market has dampened for many reasons, the sale of houses priced above RM500,000 has dropped drastically.

According to the National Property Information Centre (Napic) statistics, out of 5,334 units of housing, 1,218 remain unsold and 1,040 of them are high-end units.

Among the Penangites who question the approval for high-end property development is project planner and property surveyor, Siti Haslina Harun, 46.

“Currently, there are too many high-end properties in the state such as in Batu Maung, Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, Bukit Jambul, Paya Terubung, the city centre and many more,” she said.

Siti Haslina said the state needed to control the approval for high-end property development as there was already an abundance of such projects and many units were left unsold.

“Penangites, especially the young generation, are losing the opportunity to own a house. Land here is getting scarce and the prices are spiralling,” she lamented.

Another Penangite, Han Khar Key, 38, said he was worried that his children would not be able to buy a house in future.

“Houses are getting more and more expensive here and the worst part is that hills are being cleared to make way for high end-property development. What will happen to the next generation of Penangites?” he said.- BERNAMA

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