MORE than a decade after the repeal of the Rent Control Act 1966 was effected, Penang residents continue to find themselves being "priced out" of owning properties.
The act, which was repealed in 1997 and enforced in 2002, saw many pre-war buildings in the heart of George Town abandoned or vacant as many businesses found themselves not being able to pay increased rentals.
Others who had been paying what was viewed as a pittance in terms of rentals either chose to move to other parts of the state or stayed put and paid the new rates.
George Town's inner city has become more gentrified and continues to be so, as investors have begun to take a second look at pre-war buildings in either turning them into boutique hotels, trendy cafes or offices. Some have decided to buy these premises and now call them home.
The fact that George Town has also found itself inscribed on Unesco's World Heritage list has done no harm to property prices in the heritage enclave. More visitors and locals have begun to enjoy the vibrancy of the inner city.
The flip side of the coin to this situation is the emergence of a middle-class that cannot afford what are now known as mid-priced properties by developers.
The Federal Government's 1Malaysia People's Housing Scheme (PR1MA) that was launched in December is expected to see quality homes on Penang island and Seberang Prai in good neighbourhoods and priced in the range of RM300,000 for a 1,000 sq ft apartment unit.
A development project at Kampung Kastam at Bukit Gelugor on Penang island is set to serve as the Federal Government's maiden affordable housing project in the state.
The proposed mixed development project is set to feature several high-rise units complete with amenities ranging from a day-care centre, open spaces, easy access for public transport and a commercial component.
The units are expected to be tagged lower than the market price of similar properties in Penang.
There will also be no quota for Bumiputera buyers as the proposed units are being offered at below market price.
The state government, meanwhile, has announced it will build affordable homes priced between RM72,500 and RM400,000 in urban areas, and between RM72,500 and RM250,000 in rural areas.
A RM500 million affordable housing fund has been announced by the Penang government. It has tasked the Penang Development Corp to work with private developers in building the affordable units.
The state has also announced its commitment to build 18,000 units of affordable homes, which will include more than 1,000 homes along Jalan SP Chelliah on the island.
Another 12,000 units are being planned at Seberang Prai on the mainland.
What is left to be seen now is whether the new stock of homes, which are meant to serve as public housing units, will provide a lifeline for low- and medium-income households who would otherwise be unable to afford liveable housing at all.