KUCHING: Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg will announce soon the latest development on modular housing programme to address the shortage of affordable houses in the state.
“I will announce it either by the end of this month or by early next month,” Abang Johari told The Borneo Post here yesterday.
Abang Johari led a high-level delegation to China last year to learn how to adopt the modular housing technology there for local use and the possibility of exporting them to Sabah, Southern Philippines and Kalimantan, Indonesia. His announcement is very much anticipated by local developers as it is now not viable to build affordable houses due to the escalating prices of material and land.
According to Jurutera CSD Sdn Bhd director Charlie KY Lau, many people now prefer to invest in land rather than properties, thus making land prices very expensive.
“That’s why, I personally want to say this, that the best investment in Kuching today is on land rather than in properties,” said Lau. In view of that, he suggested that the state government learn from Singapore how its government build quality flats for residents.
“Besides that we must also learn from Singapore how they manage their flats so well. This is to ensure the houses remain in good shape for a long time,” he said.
R&T Development and Construction Sdn Bhd managing director Tony Lim Hua Mee also stressed that it was not viable for the private sector to build affordable houses due mainly to the escalating price of land in Kuching and its suburbs.
“So one way to assist the lower income group is for the government to build flats and apartments,” he pointed out.
As an example, he pointed to the land along the Main Bazaar to Kuching International Airport which now could easily cost as high as RM5.5 million per acre or RM55,000 per point.
“Nevertheless, for Sarawak, I can foresee that it is not adversely affected by the current global economic slowdown and housing projects here are still moving,” he said. However, Lim was rather puzzled as to why the prices of houses in Kuching and its suburbs were among the highest in the country; second only to those in Kuala Lumpur.
“Even in Johor, the prices of houses there are not as expensive as ours here,” he said, adding that a semi-detached house now located at a prime location in Tabuan Jaya area could easily cost more than RM1 million per unit.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) advisor and developer Sim Kiang Chiok supported the state government’s request for devolution of power from the federal government on housing and to give the state autonomy on education.
“This way we can plan the kind of housing for local needs. All we need is the necessary funding from the federal government.
“On top of that, if we build modular houses here in Sarawak, we can even supply these houses to the schools, for classrooms and teachers quarters. This way we can reduce the costs of school projects in future,” he said.
Sim also suggested that the state government acquire strategic land for its land bank so that it can control the prices of affordable houses, thus enabling the state to meet the demand for affordable houses from the low income group and to minimise or totally eradicate squatters in the next five years.