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Head start in housing for Iskandar

Azreen Madzlan Apr 23, 08 10:19am

As the Selangor executive councillor in charge of housing, building management and squatters, Iskandar Abdul Samad feels that he is well positioned to tackle some serious problems in the state.

The Chempaka representative said in an interview that he will place priority on resolving abandoned housing projects, as well as relocation of squatters.

And he reckons that his training in architecture and construction has given him a head start in dealing with such issues.

Edited excerpts of the interview follow.

What are your plans in managing your portfolios?

I’m in charge of three portfolios - housing, building management and squatters.

Under the housing portfolio, there’s the problem of abandoned projects. There are about 139 abandoned housing projects in the state. We are looking into these - it’s not fair that buyers are repaying loans when the projects have been abandoned.

This is the most challenging task for me now. But some of the enforcement (powers lie) with the federal government, so we can’t do anything. We can have meetings with the federal government, we can monitor projects...the projects that can succeed.

We have joint meetings with the housing and local government ministry, and we can try to assist. If it’s on behalf of the state authorities and if there’s a need to speed up the project, we will try to do so.

What is the situation with squatters in Selangor?

(The previous administration applied a) ‘zero squatters’ policy. But it has caused a lot of problems for people - the way they chased out all the squatters was very inhumane.

In some areas, they forced the squatters to buy flats. There were people who didn’t qualify for a loan, so the developer told them to get a loan from the extended family, just to make sure that they left the site.

And now there are people who cannot repay their loans. For example, in Selat Kelang, there are about 100 or so people who have received notices from the banks. Basically, they could not afford to get a loan in the first place.

In future, we will build council homes for people to rent if they are elderly or can’t afford to buy houses or have been blacklisted.

How does the state government deal with criticism, having decided to continue with the ‘zero squatters’ policy?

It’s all in the name. It’s how we approach the squatters issues, which is different. Of course we do not want to have any squatters. The previous government used the Emergency Ordinance (Clearance of Squatters Regulation) 1969 to chase people out. But we are open to discussion.We want no more squatters, but not at the expense of the people. A few weeks ago, notices were served on people in Kampung Sri Kenanga in Klang, under the Emergency Ordinance 1969, which was what the previous government did.

So I wrote a letter to all the heads of the local councils to suspend all evictions so that we can discuss the matter with urban pioneers. We are open to dialogue.

A few weeks ago, I visited Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (Jerit) and I’ve visited people from Kg Berembang, to explain the policy.

We can’t provide free homes to everybody. I keep being asked ‘Why can’t you provide houses free of charge and give RM40,000 in cash (as compensation)?’. I don’t think we can provide all that, but we can negotiate and find a better solution for everybody.

What challenges do you face in executing these plans?

In the case of abandoned housing projects, the enforcement of the law is with the federal government - especially the Housing Developers Act, which gives the minister specific powers. Among the things, the minister can order that problematic projects should be handed over to a third party for completion.

We have projects that are almost 80 percent completed, some are 90 percent completed? So why can’t the minister hand it over to a third party for completion?

Who are you liaising with on housing issues?

I’ve had meetings with the housing and local government ministry to monitor abandoned housing projects or problematic projects. Last Friday, I had a meeting at the ministry - we will jointly monitor 28 ‘sick’ projects. We will call all the contractors to discuss the problems on a project-by-project basis. Since each housing project is not the same, there are a lot of different problems. So we will take it one by one.

Do you think your background in architecture and construction will help in managing your portfolios?

Definitely, it helps a lot, especially in terms of terminology related to housing and building management. I don’t need to learn these from scratch or how the construction industry works. I have been through that. So, it gives me a little bit of a head start.

Has the state government made any decision on the exco village?

Not yet. I don’t think it should be sold because I see it as an asset. It should be kept for the state. Whether you rent it out to people or associations, that’s up to the state government. But you should not sell assets like that.

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