By Shahrum Sayuthi
To live in a house owned by oneself is perhaps the most basic wish of almost everybody. It is part of the foundation of having a stable life.
Buying a house for that purpose in this country used to be not really a big issue until the recent decades.
Now, it is one of the biggest personal complaints of Malaysians, as soaring property prices, especially in the big cities, makes it a real struggle for anyone, especially those in the lower and middle income groups to attempt buying a home for themselves.
The red tapes and cumbersome bureaucracies one has to negotiate in order to secure the financing for a house is also not making it any easier for everyone, especially first time buyers.
It is therefore heartening that recently, Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda), appealed to the government to relax regulations for first time house buyers and properties below RM500,000.
Its president, Datuk Seri FD Iskandar Mohamed Mansor said the request includes a cheaper interest rate and longer loan tenure for transactions in the two categories.
“We would like an end to the financing issue, especially for first time buyers, and property below RM500,000, to be more flexible,” he was quoted as saying.
Rehda, long suspected by many quarters as complicit to the housing woes due to its members’ monopoly of the sector appeared sincere with its suggestion to help those who really needed a home.
While praising government’s initiatives such as the MyHome Scheme which offered RM30,000 in incentives for each affordable housing unit built, FD Iskandar pointed out that the allocation is considered insufficient and hoped the government will increase it in the upcoming budget.
He also suggested for state governments to use their immense landbank to build low cost houses at suitable locations using compensation money collected, especially from foreign developers who were reluctant to do so as required by housing regulations of respective states.
FD Iskandar does not seemed to be alone with his concerns about the difficulties faced by many to own their own home.
The very next day after his suggestions on the matter, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak reiterated the government’s commitment to continue its focus on providing more affordable housing for the low and middle income groups.
“For me, property ownership is more meaningful than equity ownership for an individual because land is a substantial asset of value to our families,” Najib said during a visit to the Casa Anggun project in Sungai Nibong, Penang.
Najib said the housing agenda is accorded high priority under his administration with a commitment to build a million affordable houses in the whole country through various schemes such as the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA).
Currently, 61 PR1MA projects involving the building of 53,062 housing units are being developed on Malay reserve land.
The idea of establishing PR1MA was not merely to build houses, but to ensure that houses owned by the people are of high quality and built at lower than the market price.
So far, more than 1.47 million Malaysians have applied for PR1MA homes nationwide, of which 166,972 were successful.
It had sold 9,791 units, with sales value estimated at RM2.36 billion.
There were many skeptics, who questioned the government’s ability to fulfill its affordable housing pledge, but the latest developments showed that it was really not mere talks.
Even the middle income group, who have always been given less attention when it comes to their housing needs seemed to be cared for this time.
Just last month, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the Government was studying a plan to allow the “M40 group” a chance to own affordable subsidised homes.
M40 refers to the middle class 40 per cent with household incomes of between RM3,860 and RM8,319.
“We hope to have the plan ready by end of the year,” said Noh.
Currently, only those earning a household income of below RM3,000 are eligible to buy subsidised homes from as low as RM35,000 a unit.
Noh said the Government will also hold a dialogue with developers about the pricing of houses before issuing an advertising permit and developers licence (APDL).
He also said his ministry had requested Bank Negara to ease the lending conditions for loans for first-time house buyers.
“We told them housing loans must not be lumped together with other types of loans. If you take a loan to buy a car, the value of the car depreciates after 10 years. However the value of a house appreciates after 10 years,” said Noh.
The combination of these government’s commitment and efforts along with social responsibility awareness displayed by those in the housing private sector such as Rehda should serves as a welcomed relief for every Malaysians.
If the government and housing developers could really work sincerely together on this matter, then the days of many having to forego hopes of owning a decent home due to the currently ridicoulous house prices look set to be over soon.