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Take the lead in building affordable homes, state urged [06-07-2011]  
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The state government should take the lead when it comes to building affordable housing.

This call was made by the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Penang chapter chairman Datuk Jerry Chan (pic).

“Developers are not supermen. They alone cannot construct affordable homes.

“The cost of subsidy is borne initially by developers but ultimately such costs are passed on to buyers of non-subsidised property,” said Chan during a local government forum entitled ‘Affordable Housing A Possi-ble Dream?’ at the state Caring So-ciety Complex on Monday .

He said housing developers also had to pay income taxes just like those in other industries.

“Are we then to expect car manufacturers to build a certain stretch of road for every car sold?” he said in reference to the difficulty faced by deve-lopers in construc-ting affordable units in Penang.

He added that his members also had to contend with rising costs of materials and land.

“Now developers building low medium-cost units are also required to contribute towards building schools as part of the projects’ concessions,” he said.

Chan said the state government could do more in this context.

The state is able to provide land and has the right to build, reclaim, convert, degazette, collect contri-butions, impose charges, change policies and guidelines as well as enact new laws.

“The state government must also re- consider the requirement for additional structures imposed on developers such as being asked to erect hawker sites, schools or religious buildings.

“The private sector should not be asked to do what the (state) government is not prepared to,” he said.

To overcome the acute shortage of land in Penang, Chan suggested more reclamation, updating of planning guidelines and removal of redundant requirements.

State Local Government and Traf-fic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow who chaired the forum said the state noted the call for its greater involvement in providing affordable housing and would now be more involved instead of just providing guidelines.

“In the past, there were complaints that the Penang Development Corporation or other agencies were competing for higher-end development instead of providing affordable homes. I hope the setting up of the state Housing Board will help mobilise all resources to resolve the issue,” he said.

On availability of affordable housing, Chow said: “In southern Sebe-rang Prai, there are a lot of empty low-cost units. As such, it is important to study the needs of various locations to avoid a mismatch of supply and demand.”

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