Rent control regulations right step, says heritage group

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GEORGE TOWN: Proposed rent regulations to protect intangible heritage in the George Town World Heritage Site is a step in the right direction, heritage groups here say.

George Town Heritage Action (GTHA) Co-Founder Mark Lay said the move was timely as many traditional George Town traders were toiling and tightening their belts to pay high rent.

“With rent soaring above RM5,000 a month, the traditional kopitiams and other businesses, inhabitants that call George Town home, are being forced to quit or move out of town.

“We are of the opinion that it is not too late to solve this.

“Good to see the CM is showing some political will in safeguarding heritage in George Town.

“We must remember the George Town’s Outstanding Universal Values, most of which are intangible and tangible, have given us high scores against others to mark us as a heritage site,” he said when met by FMT.

Yesterday, the Penang Government announced plans to reintroduce rent control in the heritage site to prevent extinction of traditional traders at the world heritage site.

Unesco Cultural Heritage Specialist Guide Joann Khaw said the initiative was laudable, but focus must not be just on the businesses, but also those who live in the inner city on a day-to-day basis.

She said the rent control must also benefit those who call the heritage site their home and lower rent would be best at these trying times for its inhabitants.

“You must also look after the locals in order to safeguard the living testimony of George Town heritage site.

“The inhabitants are the geese that lay the golden eggs. Promoting tourism alone is not enough, safeguarding the intangible heritage must be a top priority,” said Khaw, who is also a GTHA co-founder.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the rent regulation would mimic the repealed Rent Control Act 1966.

Buildings built before the Second World War, that is before 1948, he said, would have its rent regulated.

He said the state was also mulling a proposed cap of a 25 per cent increase in rent over a five-yearly period.

Related story:

Penang considering rent control for George Town