The National House Buyers Association (HBA) has been calling for stricter enforcement of existing rules to ensure that low-cost housing and PPR flats are not rented out to third parties and are actually allocated to the correct target group. These People’s Housing Projects flats should also remain as transit homes for rent and not for sale or ownership.
People’s Housing Projects (PPR) units are only temporary living quarters for those looking to buy their own houses in the future. They should only be rented out by the relevant agencies.
The objective and aspiration of the government are for these transit homes to provide a temporary living place for those who want to save enough money before buying their own homes. Those renting PPR flats should not regard them as their permanent homes, but merely a temporary abode to shelter their family and have a roof over their head whilst striving to look for a permanent home.
Eligibility of tenants
In the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, the ownership of these PPR transit homes is with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), which rents out these units for a nominal rent of RM124 per month for families with a monthly household income of RM3,000 and below, with each unit having three bedrooms and two toilets with a total measurement of 700 sq ft.
These PPR homes are where they stay at subsidised rental charges. They can then build their savings to buy property, or move to better locations when their economic conditions improve. These eligible tenants should be given priority to buy low-cost projects, medium-cost projects, or other affordable projects.
The rental agreement for the PPR units clearly bars tenants from subletting the rooms or handing over the entire unit to others. Those found flouting the agreement will be given a rental termination notice by the state government or local authority
PPR are for self-occupation and should not be sublet
PPR flat tenants are supposed to self-occupy until they improve their social standing, move out, and allow those on the waiting list to take over possession of their units. Those who flout the rules by subletting their units for obvious gains should be evicted and enforcement should be meted out without delay. Without strict enforcement, these PPR homes could end up in the hands of undeserving individuals who only rent them out for profit.
Some unscrupulous individuals act like landlords and sublet rooms to foreigners and singles who migrate from villages to towns. This has been going on for years, but it seems enforcement action is slow and sometimes thwarted by outside interference.
This issue of “renting a rented” PPR unit is not new and has existed for some time now. All this is due to the greed of a few tenants out to make a quick profit and lord over their units.
It is a betrayal of the purpose of building such PPR housing in the first place, which is to provide roofs for the poor, and should not be used by rent seekers or profiteers. By right, the PPR is aimed at providing needy people, who have jobs in the rapidly developing capital city, with roofs over their heads. These PPR homes are not an investment tool.
The authorities should crack down on those who take advantage of such social housing schemes. It should check on those who abuse the benefits. You can identify them from the expensive cars and bikes parked, and those with Astro satellite dishes installed.
Screen PPR tenants and implement an exit policy
Tenants should go through a process of “means testing” – the process of measuring how much income a person has in order to decide if they qualify for PPR “handouts”. These social benefits and welfare offered to tenants in the form of rented PPR flats should be reviewed every three years by a committee within the agencies, so that the tenants do not overstay and gradually allow incoming target families to take up occupation.
They should conduct door-to-door spot checks to verify that occupants of PPR homes are the intended ones. Stern action must be taken against those tenants who abuse the scheme. This includes imposing hefty fines, or evicting tenants and offering the homes to more deserving parties.
This is where enforcement must be strict so that those no longer eligible must give way to deserving ones, but of course, not to the extent of throwing them onto the streets. We understand that there is a long queue for these PPR homes.
Tenants who are no longer eligible for the PPR units should be honest and give up their units so that the houses can be given to those who truly deserve them.
Rented and owned PPR
For the record, there are two categories of PPR: disewa (rented) and dimiliki (owned).
According to the National Housing Department website, rented PPR flats were introduced in February 2002 to rent out units to people in the low-income group and squatters at RM94 to RM124 a month.
Owned PPR flats, on the other hand, were introduced to enable the B40 group to buy units at RM35,000 (in Peninsular Malaysia) and RM42,000 (Sabah and Sarawak).
Segregating PPR units for conversion to RTO
The government should review certain PPR blocks to be converted to rent-to-own (RTO) blocks, to enable tenants to buy their units through the scheme. Be forewarned that any units sold to buyers must be issued with individual strata titles, and management and maintenance will be under the purview of the Strata Management Act and its related regulations. Hence, the formation of a joint management body or management corporation comes into play.
Through these initiatives, the tenants will be more proactive and make their neighbourhood a better place to live in. PPR flats have been found poorly maintained and managed, as tenants have only considered their units as rented spaces. Currently, many of them do not bother to take care of their surroundings, since they do not have a sense of belonging with the units, which ultimately turn into slums. These will create social problems for society when the young are not brought up in a conducive environment.
It was reported in the media that tenants at the PPR Harmoni transit homes will be eligible to buy the 590 units at RM35,000 each through a rent-to-own scheme.
Tips for a successful RTO scheme
In principle, the HBA supports RTO schemes if such schemes can truly help the rakyat, especially the low- and middle-income groups, to buy their first homes. With the current high property prices compounded with the rising cost of living, a majority of the rakyat, especially the low-income, and even the middle-income segments, find it very challenging to buy their first homes. This is especially true for the younger generation and single-income families.
HBA had, in the past, called for RTO schemes to be expanded to include the middle-income segment or M40 segment. Traditionally, RTO schemes were meant for the lower-income segment or those in the urban poverty or B40 segment, in the form of public housing programmes.
Due to escalating house prices and the rising cost of living, even the M40 with a median monthly household income of RM6,275 find it challenging to buy their dream homes. HBA believes that developing RTO schemes for the M40 would go a long way towards helping the rakyat own homes.
A typical RTO scheme is supposed to provide a lower entry cost to owning a unit as the tenant does not need to pay for the hefty 10% down payment to secure the unit, and legal fees and stamp duties for tenancy are typically cheaper compared to that of loan agreements and sale and purchase agreements.
The tenant merely needs to rent the unit by paying the security deposit (typically up to two months’ rental) and some utility deposits and can immediately rent said property with an option to purchase in the future. The tenant needs to pay the monthly rental and when the tenant is financially ready to purchase said property, the tenant can exercise the option and will need to pay a revised monthly instalment payment.
In order for RTO schemes to succeed, it has to have the following key features.
1. Price of the property
The price of the property must be locked in based on today’s price and not the prevailing market price, say, five years in the future. This is because the rate of increase in property prices is normally higher than the inflation rate or rate of increase in salaries. If the property price is going to be based on the prevailing market price in the future, the tenant/aspiring buyer may not be able to afford it.
2. Monthly rentals (before execution of option to purchase)
The monthly rent of such housing units (before executing the option to buy) should be cheaper compared to the prevailing market rents, or equivalent to monthly loan instalments for similar housing units. In addition, the rent and any rate of subsequent increase should be stated upfront.
3. Protection for both tenant and landlord
So long as the tenant is paying his monthly obligations on time and in full, the tenant must be guaranteed the right to occupy the property during the contract period. The landlord cannot arbitrarily evict the tenant or buyer. At the same time, should the tenant or buyer default on his or her obligations, the landlord must be able to evict the recalcitrant.
4. Option to buy exercisable at the sole discretion of the tenant
The tenant should not be legally obligated to purchase the property. In the event that the tenant does not wish to exercise the option to purchase the property, the tenant must be allowed to continue renting the said property, based on terms that have to be stated upfront. Should the tenant wish to exercise the option to buy the said property, the landlord or owner of the said property cannot decline.
5. Obligations after executing the option to buy
Any payments required to execute the option to purchase the property must be clearly stated upfront together with the revised monthly payments required. It is envisaged that the monthly payments will be higher and the tenant must be clearly informed of the revised amount in order to make an informed decision on whether to exercise the option.
HBA also calls for careful screening of all participants of this RTO scheme to ensure that it reaches the intended target group. In addition, HBA calls for regular checks to be conducted to ensure that such RTO units are not subleased out.
As there are plenty of overhang properties (completed but unsold housing units), HBA calls for the government and private developers to offer these overhang properties for RTO schemes. This will offer some cash flow relief to developers and offer immediate housing units to the participants of the RTO schemes.
This article is written by Datuk Chang Kim Loong, Honorary Sec-Gen of the National House Buyers Association (HBA) which is a voluntary non-government and not-for-profit Organisation manned wholly by volunteers. Their contact: [email protected]