JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government should work with developers to find a win-win solution to encourage the building of more affordable houses for all, irrespective of race and religion, said Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.
Sultan Ibrahim said the issue of affordable housing greatly concerned him because as the state continued to prosper, he wanted all Johoreans to enjoy the fruits of development.
"The current house prices are way too high for most people," he said. "They simply cannot afford to buy them ... they can only afford to look at them," he saidon Friday (Nov 24).
He added that developers could not find buyers, even if certain houses were reserved for bumiputeras who also enjoy cheaper housing.
The bumiputera (sons of the soil) consist of the Malays, indigenous Orang Asli and dozens of native tribes in Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia in 1971 introduced its affirmative action New Economic Policy with measures that were geared towards eliminating poverty and increasing the wealth of the bumiputeras, who were then the poorest demographic.
Under the policy, a housing development must set aside at least 30 per cent of its property units for bumiputera buyers, who are given a minimum 5 per cent discount on the purchase price.
"My vision is for Bangsa Johor to become a home-owning society. I want people of all races to own homes, not just the Malays," he said.
Sultan Ibrahim added that the bumiputera quota was supposed to help, but it was not working.
"I know of many so-called affordable housing schemes within large mixed developments, but even the cheaper houses are not affordable to the Malays," he said.
He said the time had come for a revision of this policy.
Instead of a quota system, Sultan Ibrahim said, the government could consider zoning designated areas for affordable housing, within developments.
The Sultan also advised the government to be consistent with its housing policy, noting that inconsistent policies would affect long-term investors' decision to come into the country.
At the same time, Sultan Ibrahim said there must also be some flexibility because a "one size fits all" housing policy would not do, as each state is different.
Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled said he hoped that both parties would come out with the best mechanism on assisting Johor residents to own houses. "We have to come out with a win-win situation for all," he said.