Intervene and bring down house prices, HBA tells govt

Chang Kim Loong

PETALING JAYA: If the government can control the prices of rice, sugar, cooking oil and other daily essentials, it should also be able to control prices of houses.

In stating so, National House Buyers’ Association (HBA) Secretary-General Chang Kim Loong pointed out that as it stands, the prices of raw materials such as cement, sand and steel were regulated by the government.

The fees of architects, lawyers, engineers and surveyors were also regulated and processing fees standardised, he noted.

The price of a piece of land, Chang claimed, could also be set by the Finance Ministry’s Property and Valuation Department.

“If the pricing for so many items and services can be regulated, there is no excuse not to regulate certain sectors of the housing industry which affect the majority of the nation.

“If engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, skilled workers, foreign labourers and building materials can be regulated, why not developers?”

Chang was responding to a statement by Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar on Sept 11 that Putrajaya was mulling price control over houses under the government’s national housing policy.

Noh said under the current policy, the government could only control the price of low-cost houses — those costing not more than RM42,000 and 600 sq ft in area.

Price controls, he argued, might be necessary to allow people, especially the middle- and lower-income groups, to own their own homes.

Chang went on to suggest that the government cap the profit margins of property developers constructing “affordable” houses.

This would lead to a price reduction by those involved in the building of such homes, including sub-contractors, suppliers and vendors, he said.

Chang predicted the prices of houses, for instance a terrace house in Cheras priced around RM750,000, could go down significantly to about RM350,000 to RM400,000.

“The government should seek suggestions of quantity surveyors who know the housing industry well.”

Chang lamented that for many years, industry players had been calling the shots and dictating prices and profits.

“It is worsened by speculators who snap up properties put up for sale and deprive genuine house buyers, especially the low- and middle-income earners, from owning their first home.”

He said the association had warned the government on many occasions that property prices were beyond the reach of the majority, resulting in many young adults not being able to own a home.