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Monday, May 29, 2017

More to affordable homes than pricing

There’s a need for better designs and lower population densities, says an architect.
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PETALING JAYA: It is one thing to provide citizens with so-called affordable housing, but is Malaysia doing it right?
Architect Alan Teh complains of the lack of uniformity in the various projects undertaken by the federal and state governments.
“Every government seems to be doing affordable homes its own way,” he told FMT. “There are so many different design models and concepts.
“Everyone seems to be working in silos, whereas affordable housing should be streamlined under a single authority.”
He acknowledged that Malaysia was moving in the right direction by leaning towards affordable homes rather than low cost homes, noting that many of the affordable homes being built across the country offered houses of at least 800 square feet, which he said was a “decent enough” size.
The federal and state governments began embarking on affordable housing projects a few years ago, when it became apparent that there was a demand for them.
Early this year, Bank Negara’s Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2016 said Sabah and Sarawak alone accounted for 50% of the total shortage. It also noted a shortage in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor, three states with high concentrations of urban populations.
In the Klang Valley, a number of such projects are being developed under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing (PR1MA), Rumah Mampu Milik Wilayah Persekutuan (Rumawip) and Rumah Selangorku banners.
An affordable home could be a landed property or an apartment.
Teh said Malaysia should emulate Singapore, where the Housing & Development Board (HDB) oversees, plans and implements the development of public housing projects.
A single authority like Singapore’s HDB, he said, would have experts in various fields who would carry out studies and obtain feedback to make improvements on designs, processes, utilities, waste management, green spaces and social areas.
He voiced concern that the rush to provide affordable housing in Malaysia, coupled with the scarcity of land, had resulted in some projects that were too dense.
Ideally, he said, affordable apartments shouldn’t be in blocks that exceed 18 stories or in projects of more than 500 units.
High density projects would usually be deprived of an adequate amount of green areas and would be prone to traffic and parking problems as well as the overloading of facilities.
“When there are too many people in one building, it becomes more difficult to manage properly,” he said. “Residents also tend to feel more alienated and have a lesser sense of belonging, making the building less sustainable and less conducive for social interactions.
“If an affordable housing project has 800 units, the project should be subdivided into two sub-communities and each sub-community should have its own set of communal facilities.”
Some of the affordable housing projects in the Klang Valley are high density projects. The Pangsapuri Harmoni 1 in Putra Heights, developed through Rumah Selangorku, has 1,700 units and Residensi Pandanmas 2, developed under Rumawip, has 1,920 units.
Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen says there is a need to improve the designs and lower the density in affordable housing projects.
Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen says there is a need to improve the designs and lower the density in affordable housing projects.
Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen, speaking of problems with low cost housing in his constituency, said there was a need to improve the design of buildings and lower the density of projects for low income groups.
There are some 40,000 hardcore poor in Kelana Jaya, many of them living in areas such as Desa Mentari and Desa Ria.
“The environment creates the man,” he said. “If we look at the design of low cost flats, especially, you can see that the people live like sardines. The building design creates a very bleak and unsafe environment.”
Wong noted that a typical low cost flat rectangle block would have units facing each other, with the corridors located inside the rectangle. Usually, he said, there would be a single air well for sunlight to come through to the centre of the block.
“So you have a situation where the lower floors get little sunlight, if any, along their corridors, especially if the building is too high. This can make it quite unsafe for people to walk along the corridors, even in the daytime.
“And if there is no proper garbage disposal, you’ll see those living on higher floors either dumping their trash from their corridors or leaving it at staircases. This is a common problem in many low cost flats here.”
In Singapore, he noted, corridors in public housing faced outwards and were thus well lit and exposed, making it riskier for people to simply toss out their rubbish.
“So if we keep building low cost flats or affordable housing projects which create a bleak or unsafe environment, even poor people may not want to live there and end up having to fork out more money for nicer places.” -FMT

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