Govt aims for affordable housing for middle-income group

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said the housing needs of the middle-income group, which formed more than 40% of the community, must be addressed and hoped that the 1Malaysia People's Housing Scheme (Prima) announced last year would progress speedily.

Low cost housing is capped at RM42,000, while affordable housing cost between RM85,000 and RM300,000.

Chor said the Government had been successful in providing low cost housing, but there was a need to look into the grouses of the middle-income group.

Chor said this to reporters after attending a roundtable discussion entitled “Housing Affordability: Issues and Challenges”, jointly organised by the Real Estate Housing Developers Association (Rehda) and the Eastern Regional Organisation for Planning and Human Settlement yesterday.

“The Ministry will consider the views and suggestions by the task force to be formed and we will put forward views and perspectives to the Federal Government.

“Affordable housing has become an important topic, with the greatest need being in urban centres like Kuala Lumpur and Penang and to a certain degree in Johor Baru due to urban migration.

“The Prima scheme is a laudable project...(but) it is moving sluggishly. We hope to see Prima making speedy progress. At the same time, we also hope the developers will play their role,” he said.

He said it might be more efficient to streamline the different agencies which provided housing. Chor said it was not possible to compare Malaysia's housing situation with Singapore because the government there was able to step in quickly to provide both low and middle-cost housing units.

Earlier, at the discussion, Rehda president Datuk Michael Yam listed out the challenges faced by developers when providing social housing including the high cost of land. “Planning requirements need to be reviewed because we are beginning to see a proliferation of small serviced apartments into the market. Developers are resorting to building small units in order to increase the number of units to make the project viable,” Yam said.

He called on the Government to free government and state land for affordable housing and to exempt developers from having to fork out capital for utilities infrastructure like reservoir and sub-stations.

“In developed countries, the government build all these and the developers pay a contribution. When developers have to fork out capital expenditure for the infrastructure, invariably the consumer will have to pay for it. This results in an increase in housing cost,” said Yam.

Secretary-general of the House Buyers Association Chang Kim Loong called on the Government to bring back the real property gains tax in full force to curb speculation.

Effective since Jan 1, this year, the gains from property held for less than two years were subjected to a 10% tax. For properties held between two and five years, a 2% was imposed while those who kept it for more than five years are exempted from tax.

Under the previous ruling, a Malaysian individual who sells his property within the first two years of purchase is taxed 30% of the gains. The rates slide to 20% (third year), 15% (fourth year) and 5% (fifth year). He is not taxed on the sixth and subsequent year. - By Thean Lee Cheng (The Star)

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