The housing sector in Penang has always been associated with the ultra-luxury projects that line its northern beachfront and upcoming southeast section of the island. We take a look at what is proposed by the State Government to address the social needs of its constituents.
As far as affordable housing policies go, Penang’s Affordable Home Fund set up at last year with it RM 500 million allocation from the sale of the Bayan Mutiara land moved from the State’s coffers (under the Chief Minister’s Incorporated,CMI) to Penang Development Corporation (PDC) is a landmark figure set by any State Government. As such, it lends itself to credible scrutiny from a curious public as to how this allocation of funds will be channeled to drive the Affordable Housing Scheme in Penang.
Bandar Cassia – The Lowdown
During the signing of the Letter of Commitment in appointing Surbana International Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd (formerly known as HDB Corp Pte Ltd) as the official developer of the Bandar Cassia Affordable Housing Scheme, Chief Minister YB Lim Guan Eng was quoted as saying that the entire township will encompass 11,800 affordable homes developed over 5 parcels of land with a total area of 200 acres. The homes itself will comprise of 3 bedroom apartments housed within 9 to 20-storey blocks throughout the development.
With a built-up from 800 sq ft priced at RM72,000 with a ceiling price of RM220,000 for the largest units, a good 53% will at least average 1,000 sq ft while 24% will be 900 sq ft apartments with the balance comprising of 800 sq ft apartments. The expected GDV of the entire project was estimated to be from RM 2.3 billion to RM 2.5 billion with an expected completion deadline set for a period of 10-15 years. The five residential phases are linked by a 40-acre linear park poised to help increase the total open space within the development up to 40%. While the entire project may be termed under affordable housing, it doesn’t mean that sustainability is sacrificed as there are a host of green features that will increase the water and energy efficiency of the entire project.
Worthwhile Comments to Consider
When the Chief Minister announced the Affordable Housing Scheme, there were a number of concerns raised by various sectors of society. While we are not taking any sides in the media maelstrom that ensued, we can’t help but to notice certain factors which need to be addressed by the State Government to iron out its position on this issue.
The more vocal members of society, including the press and NGOs, have raised questions on whether a RM72,000 entrance barrier should be even considered as a worthy contender for the term ‘affordable’. Another factor is the location in Batu Kawan that is currently seen as too far from the reach of the city and is still unreachable by public transport. These two factors need to be immediately addressed by the State Government as it is key to what makes a property to be truly classified as affordable housing for the people.
The moment that the State Government handles these twin issues of price and location, the other issues such as delivery time and even the choice of Surbana Corp Pte Ltd to consult, manage and develop the project will be easier matters to deal with. After all, when dealing with public funds for affordable public housing, the last thing the State Government needs, is to struggle with the people that it is developing the housing for. So, is Bandar Cassia an affordable public housing scheme that is for the people, by the people? Only time, and the Penangites, will tell.