We have to be firm to be fair, Jagdeep says on Penang flat eviction

Penang state housing committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government today defended the eviction of residents from 22 homes at a government rental flat, calling it a “last resort” situation with ample time given to those affected to appeal or find another place to stay.

State housing committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said those evicted from the Taman Manggis People’s Housing Project (PPR) at Jalan Zainal Abidin had been found ineligible to rent units there.

In a statement, he said evictions are typically for those who exceed the maximum household income level for PPR applicants, those who default on rent and maintenance, those who rent out units to others and those married to foreigners.

Jagdeep said since 2016, he had chaired a committee which looked into 839 such cases, with action taken in 246 cases. He said the rest were given extra time to move out.

“Those having trouble paying rent and maintenance were given special instalment plans and no action was taken against them,” he added. He said before 2016, there had been no avenue to appeal for extensions.

“Clearly, action to evict is the last resort. For those who are found to continuously have arrears despite our assistance or who are ineligible for other reasons, action will be taken.

“We have to be firm to be fair to those who have been on the waiting list all this while,” he said.

Jagdeep said the rental flats, at RM100, were high in demand with a waiting list spanning 11 years for the Taman Manggis PPR. He said there were 1,137 applicants throughout Penang, of which 494 are for the Taman Manggis PPR alone.

He said with an average waiting list of seven years, made worse by the limited supply of PPR flats in Penang, the state could only conduct regular audits on all tenants at PPRs in the state to ensure that only those eligible are allowed to live there.

He reiterated that eviction had been postponed until March 6 to allow residents time to vacate their units.

“Those who feel they have valid reasons to refute their ineligibility to rent such units may submit an appeal to the state housing department for us to consider before the said date,” he added.

Yesterday, the state housing department was reported to have evicted the residents of 17 units at the Taman Manggis PPR, many of whom claimed they were not given sufficient notice.

They were given another week to move out after negotiations between local assemblyman Teh Lai Heng and the state housing department.