Both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional should prioritise providing affordable housing for the poor to middle income levels in Penang.
GEORGE TOWN: A Member of Parliament here wants Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat to stop their open-ended squabbling, which is into its fifth year, and re-channel their energy into jointly solving the woes of the ordinary folks.
Balik Pulau MP Yusmadi Yusoff said there are real problems which need immediate attention of both political rivals, especially with signs emerging of a gloomy global economy on the horizon.
He said the political squabble can resume during campaigning in the next general election.
It is believed that the squabble is not only confined to both political factions, but within the respective parties as the discreet lobbying for seats heats up throughout the country.
For now, the focus should be on solving problems afflicting the people like living costs, which will likely worsen if the global economy goes into a recession due to the economic crises in Greece.
Yusmadi, who is from PKR, pointed out that in Penang, providing affordable housing for the poor to middle income levels should take top priority among BN and Pakatan parties.
“People have been evicted, legal cases, intimidation and land scams are rampant, particularly in Balik Pulau. I am dealing with an almost daily affair of squatters and forced eviction.”
Yusmadi said both BN and Pakatan must crack their heads together to uphold the rights of the ordinary folks, who are now forced out of their ancestry land here, likely due to an acute shortage of land.
He has been dealing with the plight of some 165 squatter families here since the start of this year.
Yusmadi said he has raised in Parliament the issue of amending the National Land Code to better protect the rights of original settlers of land while also giving credence to the compensation being offered, which should be in tandem with the living costs and inflationary pressure.
Based on a recent reply given by the Housing and Local Government Ministry in Parliament, Yusmadi disclosed that there are over 25,000 applicants for affordable housing in Penang.
He estimates that the figure is higher because many people have yet to apply for affordable housing because they are put off by the long waiting list and the bureaucracy involved.
Islanders who cannot afford, are either leasing, staying with their parents, relocating to the mainland or purchasing cheaper homes on Penang’s fringes in Kulim, Sungai Petani, Taiping or Parit Buntar.
Those forced out of Penang island due to exorbitant prices of properties are huge in numbers, Yusmadi alleged.
“Nobody would like to be forced out of the place, they are born and raised in. We must address the issue of affordable housing here effectively and both BN and Pakatan must sit down to address it,” he said.
Neither side should be held accountable for the rising property prices, as market forces play a key role but each side (BN and Pakatan) must find a solution to it, he stressed.
Yusmadi also proposed that an indepth housing audit be conducted to determine the actual number of applicants for affordable housing.
Affordable housing is defined here as low cost, low medium costs and community (longhouse) units.
As Penang progresses, the property sector has also expanded, some 100% in the past two decades with many experts in the sector, blaming it on speculators and the liberalisation of the market where foreigners and Malaysian expatriates working overseas are snapping up both the landed and high-rise units here.
Some community activists here are also calling on stop-gap measures to arrest the irrational rise in prices such as by imposing a cap that only Penang-born persons can purchase houses here.
What goes up (real estate prices), would eventually come down, a social activist who preferred not to be named, said, adding that the question, is would ordinary folks suffer again if the prices go down.