Looking at the current property landscape, the tendency for new developments to come equipped with luxurious fittings and furnishings have caused prices to escalate at a rapid pace.
While these add-ons are appreciated by some buyers, there are those who don’t quite share the same sentiment and find it burdensome, as highlighted in PropertyGuru’s Property Outlook Report 2017.
As these additions have only served to push property values further, many aspiring homebuyers have found them taxing, raising concerns from industry players.
Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) managing director Datuk Charon Mokhzani said, “These houses are more suitable for wealthier foreign and local investors, however, what we’re saying is that we also need to have an affordable housing market, producing houses which are more fitting for 80 percent of the population.”
Meanwhile, KRI research director Dr Suraya Ismail said what the government can do, is to encourage more productive and efficient construction of homes, such as facilitating the adoption of the Industrialised Building System (IBS) and expediting the National Housing Survey as proposed in the 11th Malaysia Plan.
In fact, in certain countries, efforts in reducing construction costs, providing building innovations, downsizing living spaces and substituting building materials have all played a part in lowering property prices.
Hence, to combat the issues at hand in our own backyard, there is a need to adopt all of these models, tailoring them to our local landscape, with the hope that these strategies will pave the way for increasing the volume of affordable housing, and easing the burden of many Malaysians wanting to own a roof over their heads.
Nonetheless, building inexpensive housing is only achievable if these different strategies are received favourably, especially by first-time homeowners.
Here are some widely adopted methods used across the globe in combating the affordability dilemma.
Building basic homes
It may be time to just build walls and structures of houses (with the very barest of necessities) in order to increase affordability.
Take London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan’s strategy to subsidise a new generation of ultra-basic or “naked” homes that will sell for up to 40 percent lesser than standard new builds.
As reported in Guardian, these naked homes will have no partition walls, no flooring and wall finishes, only basic plumbing and absolutely no decoration.
“The upside of this spartan approach is a price tag of between £150,000 (RM839,089) and £340,000 (RM1.9 million), in reach of buyers on average incomes in a city where the average home now costs £580,000 (RM3.2 million),” said Guardian.
“The idea is to strip out all of the stuff that people don’t want in the first place,” said Simon Chouffot, one of the founders of the not-for-profit developer, Naked House.
“People want to do some of the custom building. We can make it affordable by people ‘DIY-ing’ it themselves.”
Therefore, building bare units will allow owners the flexibility in renovating based on their own tastes and indirectly prevent the hassle and cost of tearing down unwanted built-in cabinets and sanitary ware.
This method, lauded by President of the Malaysian Institute of Professional Property Managers and Managing Director of Knight Frank Sdn Bhd, Sarkunan Subramaniam, could be another way to make houses more affordable as buyers do not have to pay for houses with standard internal structures that they do not need.
Therefore, he urged the government to consider allowing developers to build shell houses to promote affordable housing.
Promoting usage of IBS
Utilising the Industrialised Building System (IBS) is touted to be a solution in lowering building costs, helping deliver more inexpensive houses.
Used widely across Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States of America, this method has effectively brought down construction time, lesser labour costs and produced quality bare housing.
IBS was introduced locally back in the 1960s where Penang’s Rifle Range flats and Kuala Lumpur’s Tuanku Abdul Rahman Flats (commonly known as Pekeliling Flats) were amongst the first developments built using the IBS module however, the design then was basic and did not factor in serviceability issues that lead to a misperception on IBS buildings.
Over the years, IBS has been used for building low-cost housing, public buildings as well as high-rise developments across Malaysia.
Using IBS elements is not a comprise on quality at all, as it is widely used around the world, and have been successfully implemented as seen in The Borneo Post.
Meanwhile, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Wee Ka Siong recently said that in the long run, we must opt for IBS as it is more economical given its efficiency and ability to help shorten construction period by up to 30 percent.
Adopting the IBS system to build core housing for the masses will not enable properties to be produced faster and priced relatively lower but do so without compromising on quality.
The good news—IBS is being pushed to be made compulsory by 2018 for all new developments.
Mexico, Bangladesh and the United States are turning an environment problem into a housing solution, inspired by the irony of landfills being crammed with unused building materials.
Salvaging these old building materials and other waste to build and provide affordable housing for people, has proven to be highly successful and should be emulated locally.
According to an article in CBS News, recycled materials can make structures stronger, more efficient and less expensive to build than new materials.
Take Paramount Property Development Sdn Bhd as an example in building a clubhouse at one of their developments in Kota Kemuning using 200-year old chengal wood from an old factory on a piece of land acquired by the company.
Therefore, there is nothing demeaning about applying this concept in building inexpensive homes.
Materials that can be reclaimed include doors and knobs, hinges, panelling, plywood, lumber, hardwood flooring, bricks, windows, concrete, plumbing fixtures, stairs and railings, asphalt roof tiles, mouldings and baseboards as well as countertops.
A recent worldwide trend of turning shipping containers into liveable spaces has reached local shores with the rise of container cafes and hotels across the country, especially in Peninsula Malaysia.
Therefore, with the right engineering and planning, container housing can also pave the way in providing affordable housing.
Take for instance Sarawak’s first initiative dubbed KitKotak home funded by Elica Sdn Bhd as part of its corporate social responsibility to provide affordable accommodation for the poor.
If done on a larger scale following Australia, Hawaii, the United States and even Africa’s footsteps in adopting and providing container housing for the lower-income groups, Malaysia could go very far in solving her affordable housing woes.
All these innovations, if put into practise, provide great opportunities for those on low to moderate incomes to finally achieve homeownership.