MP calls for rental relief fund in Covid-19 bill

Klang MP Charles Santiago says it is not enough to waive rental for tenants at low-cost flats and public housing projects.

KUALA LUMPUR: Klang MP Charles Santiago has called for the inclusion of a rental relief fund in the Covid-19 bill to help businesses and residents facing eviction due to the loss of income or jobs.

Speaking in a press conference at Parliament here today, he said the bill presently fails to address the housing crisis to come as a result of economic headwinds during the pandemic.

“Housing is a problem. Before it turns into a crisis, we need to have a relief effort.”

While acknowledging government efforts such as the move to waive rental for tenants at low-cost flats and public housing projects under the housing and local government ministry and Kuala Lumpur City Hall for six months, he said these were not enough.

“Tenants who rent private premises did not receive such assistance,” he said, noting that countries such as New Zealand, Japan and Singapore had put in place relief efforts for those struggling to pay rent.

He said such efforts should be put in place until next March as the full economic impact of the pandemic would only be felt in September or October.

He gave the example of a freeze on evictions of families and businesses and a ban on any increase in rent for residential and commercial properties until then.

He also suggested that the government extend the moratorium on housing loan repayments for landlords who are willing to waive rental until March next year.

“First-time homeowners could also apply for an extension of the moratorium until March 2021 if they can prove that they have suffered a loss in income or were laid off.”

He said the rental relief fund should also include waivers until March 2021 for those with household incomes of less than RM2,208.

He suggested that the government also provide special grants for SMEs that have experienced a year-on-year drop in revenue of 30% in which 70% of rental, capped at RM8,500 based on the average rental rates of offices in Kuala Lumpur, is subsidised until next March.