Housing for the poor: The way forward

The Penang Institute and Good Governance and Gender Equality Society organised a forum cum workshop titled ‘Housing for the Poor: The Way Forward’ recently at the City Bayview Hotel, Penang.

In the welcoming speech by Chong Eng, the Bukit Mertajam MP stressed that the right to adequate housing is very important. Without it, others basic human rights, such as the right to family life and privacy as well as the right to the freedom of movement will be compromised.

Chong mentioned that we currently live in a world where the cost of land and housing is on a continuous rise; developers seem to be more interested in a high profit margin and keep building high end houses rather than affordable and cost effective ones.

“It is a challenge for our government to balance commercial profit and social development like making housing affordable to the poor.  The objective of this workshop is to try and find solutions or a formula to strike a balance between economic and social development and to make Penang an inclusive city for all.”

Speakers for the forum who were professionals in the field provided information on Housing in Penang accessible and understandable to low income earners.

Nor Saadah Bt Abd Majid, manager of the State Housing Department first talked about the problems faced by the Housing Department. She then informed the audience on some of the low-cost housing projects in progress before she went into the application process for a low-cost houses.

Chow Kon Yeow, chairman of the State Local Government and Traffic Management Committee talked about the local council’s social programmes for the poor where they provided low-cost housing for the staff at only RM100 per month for rental.

He also said that the state government has imposed a condition on developers (on the Island – Timur Laut) that when they build 150 units of houses, 30% of the houses should be reserved as low and middle cost houses.

Wong Hon Wai, chairman of the State Town & Country Planning, Housing & Arts Committee explore the policy initiatives of housing for the poor. He gave some examples of where the government had built low-cost flats for the poor and helped them settled in. They also helped with the maintenance.

Loh Kah Cheng, 3Gs Committee Member and former president of Women’s Centre for Chang talked about good governance and social justice in housing for the poor from a gendered perspective. She listed the 8 characteristics of good governance as participation, transparency, responsiveness, consensus oriented, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency and accountability.

Dr Goh, chairperson of City, Urbanisation & Environment Programme, Penang Institute,
spoke on the current situation of housing in penang, giving insight into government commitment and the basic principles of housing.

Stuart Macdonald, Head of City, Urbanisation & Environment Programme, Penang Institute
explained about the Ministry of Social Housing in UK and how the ministry works.

There was a workshop session where the participants were divided into three groups to share on the following: government role in housing, model for delivering social housing and ensuring equality for all in housing.

Feedback were collected from these three groups, of which Karen, the MC said that will be collated by the Penang Institute and sent as recommendations to the government.

Picture taken by: Samson85: Sxc.hu