UM Professor Urge Government To Make Housing A Public Utility To Tackle Homelessness

29 Jun 2021

UM Professor Urge Government To Make Housing A Public Utility To Tackle Homelessness

While the Malaysian government has been advocating low-cost as well as affordable housing since the 1970s, the governance process and nature of allocation has failed to adequately address the issue of homelessness within the country, said Universiti Malaya Economics Professor Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah.

With data on homelessness in Malaysia being scarce, the most up-to-date figures from 2016 showed that Kuala Lumpur has 1,500 to 2,000 homeless individuals, up from 600 two years ago, reported The Sun Daily.

This works out to a two- to three-fold hike in just two years, said Rajah.

B40 and M40: What Are The Housing Schemes Available For You?

He believes the figure may have increased further in 2020, given that the economic slowdown brought about by COVID-19 pandemic has left many people without a roof over their head.

With this, Rajah told The Sun Daily that the government should create a strategy to offer affordable homes to people who cannot afford to buy one as part of a social safety net.

The government should also protect people against inflationary pressure which increases the cost of homeownership as well as rental rates, he added.

Another factor that is causing homelessness in Malaysia is the government policy on housing availability, said Rajah. He noted that property has become the target of profiteering and price speculation.

To address this, the government should make housing a public utility – just like in Germany, France, and the Scandinavian countries, explained Rajah.

“One approach to ensure properties are not significantly diverted to the haves at the expense of the have-nots is to introduce a stiff property gains tax with limitations,” he said as quoted by The Sun Daily.

“Given that land is a finite resource, prices will continue to be driven by fast-growing demand and little change in supply.”

He noted that developers in Malaysia have taken advantage of this demand-supply anomaly.

“Coupled with the government’s decision to promote the industry by allowing foreigners to buy property here (since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis), property prices have been on the rise,” he said.

“As prices rise, the number of affordable homes also declines. Factors such as unemployment, poverty, urbanisation, and the lack of education further add to the social problem of homelessness.”

And while many can still afford to rent a home, purchasing the property they are renting is beyond their reach, said Dr Goh Hong Ching, Associate Professor at Universiti Malaya.

Many well-heeled individuals, on the other hand, have acquired several pieces of property, said Goh, who is with the department of urban and regional planning at the varsity’s Faculty of Built Environment.

“As people continue to buy additional property, it pushes prices up, making it more difficult, if not impossible, for others to buy,” she told The Sun Daily.

The worst-hit are those in the M40 group, said Goh, noting that they are only “marginally better than those in the B40 group, but they do not get the government assistance that the B40 individuals are entitled to”.


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