Frankly Speaking: Lessons in past housing schemes

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on July 30, 2018 - August 05, 2018.
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To tackle the country’s affordable housing woes, the housing and local government ministry wants to set up a single oversight and coordination entity by year-end.

Last week, it said six housing agencies had been identified to be part of the new entity. They are the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme, UDA Holdings Bhd, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, the Federal Territories Affordable Housing, the Housing Programme for the Hardcore Poor and 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing.

“We need time to study the whole structure of each company or organisation that is coming into the system. After that, we will consider whether to merge them or segmentise them into a certain type of development,” said the ministry’s National Housing Department director-general Jaya­selan Navaratnam.

This is a step in the right direction but history has shown that the devil is in the details. Many initiatives and agencies were set up in the past but none succeeded in tackling the affordable housing quandary.

Indeed, a single oversight entity is not a new idea. Recall that in Budget 2014, the federal government had mooted a national housing council that would be tasked with developing strategies and action plans to build affordable homes.

But rather than segmentising the agencies, the government should ensure there is a single entity in charge of the entire national affordable housing strategy.

The various agencies scattered across different ministries should be consolidated into one, along with oversight of their ongoing projects.

Otherwise, the latest initiative risks becoming yet another failure in a long list of flops. And the ultimate losers will be Malaysians who long to have their own homes.

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