ISKANDAR PUTERI - The Johor state government has proposed to reserve 30 per cent of properties in the Forest City project for Malaysians, reported The Malay Mail, to allay central government concerns that only Chinese nationals who bought into the project would become residents there.
The proposal, which is not final, will be submitted to a committee formed by the Housing and Local Government Ministry to scrutinise and reassess agreements and deals concerning the sale of residential units in US$100 billion (S$137 billion) mixed-use development.
The committee was formed after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reportedly said last week that foreigners will not be allowed to buy homes or granted visas to live at the mega-project which was marketed primarily to Chinese buyers.
Johor housing and rural development committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad told The Malay Mail in an interview published on Monday (Sept 3) that the proposed quota was based on initial findings on the mega project and was not final.
"The local Malaysian quota for property ownership in Forest City is seen as a fair restriction, as almost all other development projects in Johor are bound by the state government's various quotas to safeguard land.
"We hope the proposal will be positively received by the special committee consisting of the Johor state government, the Housing and Local Government Ministry, the Finance Ministry and also Forest City developers Country Garden Pacificview," Mr Dzulkefly told Malay Mail.
Mr Dzulkefly said the committee has yet to convene.
"I was told that a federal government representative from the Housing and Local Government Ministry will contact us tomorrow, but we have yet to receive any confirmation," he said on Sunday.
He explained that Forest City - a 13.86 sq km property project spanning four man-made islands off the Johor coast - has benefited the state while creating job opportunities for locals.
Mr Dzulkefly said that while the state government respected the federal government's probe into the development, there is also a need to correct misperceptions about the project, such as the purported influx of Chinese citizens and claims that they will be given residency status.
He said Forest City developers told the state government that only 5 per cent of foreigners who purchased properties there have formally applied for residency under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. Approved applicants under the programme are issued 10-year multiple-entry social visit passes, which are renewable.
"The figure was communicated by the Forest City developers following a fact-finding visit in June," said the state executive councillor. "The Johor state government had earlier taken the initiative to meet the developers to get a better understanding of the situation after Pakatan Harapan had just formed the state government after the May 9 general election."
Malaysia's state governments have purview over their state's land, water and forest resources, including imposing quotas on properties and restricting foreigners to buying only properties priced at RM1 million and above.
"However, projects such as Forest City were given special considerations by the previous Barisan Nasional-led administration," Mr Dzulkefly told The Malay Mail.
Forest City, which comprises apartment blocks, landed houses, office towers, hotels and shopping centres, is expected to house 700,000 residents when it is completed in 2050.