Electrical cables & wires: uncertified and substandard items are dangerous!


Structural defects to blame, stop history repeating itself !


Sniffing out signs of life: The K-9 unit of the City Fire and Rescue operations looking for possible victims at the site of the bridge collapse near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: Structural failure possibly caused the collapse of an under-construction pedestrian bridge at KL Eco City near Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum here.

Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) director-general Datuk Mohtar Musri said the initial investigation suggested that a defective structure could have led to the disaster on Wednesday.

He said the department would refer to the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall regarding the quality of materials used in the construction of the bridge.

Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said a task force has been set up to probe the incident.

He said the result of the investigation was expected to be made public in a month, and that tough action could be taken against the developer if it was found to have flouted safety regulations.

“We can bring them to court, not just under DOSH but CIDB too. Under the CIDB Malaysia Act 1994, they can face a RM500,000 fine or a two-year jail sentence,” he said.

The RM7mil pedestrian bridge linking the planned KL Eco City project to the Gardens Shopping Mall in Mid Valley, which was still under construction, collapsed and killed one worker and injured five others on Wednesday.

The search-and-rescue operation at the site of the incident was halted after it was confirmed that there was no worker trapped underneath the mangled brick-and-iron structure.

City Fire and Rescue Department deputy operations chief Ruhisha Haris said K-9 teams had confirmed that there were no signs of a body.

However, the mystery of the missing construction worker remains.

“We first received information that a worker might have been trapped because a colleague saw him under the bridge minutes before it collapsed.

“A head count by the developer also revealed a missing worker, but they were unable to give us a name,” he said.

The dead victim has been identified as Tran Xuan Vang, 21, from Vietnam. Two other Vietnamese, Tran Van Hai and Luong Van Guyet, as well as Indonesian Nor Syamsi, Bangladeshi MD Jashim and Pakistan national Rais Aman Majid were injured and are currently being treated at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre.

Medical staff were forced to amputate Rais’ left leg on site to save his life.

In a statement issued on the day of the incident, SP Setia, the developer of the project, said it deeply regretted the incident and was working with the authorities in the investigation.

“The project team is still assessing the situation,” it said.

Work on the KL Eco City project – a mixed development comprising three residential towers, one serviced apartments tower, three corporate office towers, 12 boutique office blocks and one retail podium – started in 2011 and is scheduled to be fully completed by 2023.

Commenting on the incident, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the time had come for players in the construction industry to practise their commitment to safety.

“All these accidents are preventable if the person in charge puts into practice good occupational and safety health measures and the site safety supervisor makes sure work is done properly,” he said.

By M. kumar and Nicholas Cheng The Star/Asian News Network

Stop history repeating itself

THE Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is horrified with the news of the collapse of the incomplete pedestrian bridge meant to connect KL Eco City and Mid Valley Megamall in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

Not even a month after a couple was crushed by a piling rig that fell on them at a construction site along Persiaran Astana, Klang, another tragic incident leading to serious injury and death has occurred.

If all the parties involved in the building industry – including the local councils, developers, contractors, architects, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, DOSH and all the others – had carried out their roles and functions efficiently, this could have been prevented.

Despite our repeated calls for the Government to conduct a full inquiry into the operations of the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH), it would seem like the relevant authorities are unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

When incidents like this happen, it becomes clear to us that DOSH and developers do not have their priorities right.

Instead of working on preventing such incidents, they wait until it happens before scrambling to take corrective measures to fix the problem.

The issue here is that there are no corrective measures that can be taken once a life is lost; that is not something that can be recovered.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Professor Datuk Dr Mahyuddin Ramli has been reported saying that incidents of this nature can happen when contractors do not comply with safety standards.

In this case, he said that concrete takes at least a week to dry and harden; the wet weather we have been experiencing means it will take even longer.

The USM professor also said that another way something like this can happen is if contractors do not use proper scaffolding during the construction process.

The distance between scaffolds and the size of the scaffolds used are very important as they will vary according to the structure they are meant to hold up.

DOSH’s director-general, Datuk Mohtar Musri, has stated that their initial investigation suggested that the incident happened because the structure was defective.

He said that they need to look into the quality of the materials that were used to construct the pedestrian bridge.

Whatever the cause, the relevant authorities and the public need to be aware that this is just history repeating itself.

If the incident did truly happen because of a structural defect, then it needs to be made clear that nobody can plead ignorance.

DOSH safety officers and onsite safety inspectors should have known about the structural defects if they did exist.

This begs the question of whether or not proper safety inspections were done at the appropriate stages by the relevant parties.

We ask that the results of the investigation into the latest incident be shared with the general public.

CAP would also like to know what happened to the findings from the investigation of previous incidents.

Why has this information not been shared with the public when their lives are also put in danger by the conduct of those at construction sites?

In view of this, CAP calls for penal action to be taken against all parties who have been involved in the project. They should all be held accountable even if they were not directly involved.

By S. M. MOHAMED IDRIS President Consumers Association of Penang

[PDF]The Law of Construction Defects and Failures

 Worker killed in bridge collapse tragedy

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/3QFRF_5oRAY

The Star Graphics:  http://clips.thestar.com.my.s3.amazonaws.com/Interactive/midvalley/midvalley.mp4

KUALA LUMPUR: A Vietnamese construction worker was killed and five others were injured when a 70m yet-to-be-completed bridge near Jalan Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum and Mid Valley Megamall collapsed.

The victim was buried in the rubble of the collapsed pedestrian bridge.

As of press time, rescue workers were still searching for a Bangladeshi worker believed to be trapped in the rubble.

The authorities have since mobilised the K9 unit to locate him.

The firemen and paramedics were seen changing shift as the rescue mission continued into the night. Some were heard saying that locating the victim would be challenging.

However, all the rescuers were resolute in their attempt to find the last victim, never once giving up hope.

The five injured workers – two Vietnamese, two Bangladeshis and an Indonesian – were sent to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre for treatment.

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Sharul Othman Mansor said the bridge was 80% completed when the incident occurred.

“We are still investigating the incident.

“We were alerted at about 4pm of the incident and quickly mobilised a search-and-rescue team,” he said at the scene.

Four roads were also affected by massive jams due to the incident.

According to Star Media Radio Traffic, the affected roads were the Federal Highway from the arch, the Kerinchi Link after the Pantai toll plaza, Kerinchi Intersection from Bangsar South or Pantai Medical Centre and Jalan Syed Putra from the Kuen Cheng School till the Robson Intersection.

While the main reason for the traffic congestion was due to certain road closures to make way for rescue workers, traffic was backed up near the mall due to many motorists slowing down to see the collapsed bridge.

Mall patrons, construction workers and curious onlookers were seen crowding the area near the bridge, where it was cordoned off for safety precautions.

By Farik Zolkepli, Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi, and Austin Camoens The Star/ANN

Related:  

 Developer to investigate

‘The ground shook and the bridge came crashing down’

Pedestrian bridge collapse: Long road to recovery for injured victims

Bridge collapse: SAR operations stopped, one worker still missing 

Govt may handle workplace safety

Fadillah: Independent monitoring likely

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government would like to take over the job of monitoring safety at construction sites away from developers following a string of deaths as a result of mishaps in the last three months.

Those duties, said Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, may be entrusted to third party organisations that will be given autonomy in the planning, execution and supervision of workplace safety at construction sites.

Usually, these jobs are handled by contractors hired by the project developers but Fadillah said that this would mean the monitoring process was not independent.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Construction Excellence Centre (Mampan), the minister said the suggestion for independent monitoring was brought up by the experts at the centre.

Mampan is headed by the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (Cream), a subsidiary of the Government’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB).

Fadillah said the proposal to appoint third party safety monitors would be implemented first in Government construction projects.

He added that he hoped the private sector construction industry would do the same.

Currently, the Department of Occupational and Safety Hazard (DOSH) monitors government projects but it is reportedly too understaffed to keep track of every project.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players,” he told reporters after the launch.

For now we will have to make do with existing laws. This is why we need a commitment from the industry players. Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

He said that Mampan would be a key organisation under the Government’s environmental sustainability initiative for its Construction Industry Transformation Programme.

The centre will undertake research with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Rehda Institute to instil better industry practices, certification and awareness in the construction industry.

“We don’t want to build bridges that have no resilience and collapse when there is a flood.

“Our short-term goal is to position Malaysia as a regional leader in sustainability in construction and to raise the perception of sustainability in construction here,” he said.

Fadillah witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Cream chairman Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali and academics from the four universities and research institutes which will be a part of the new centre.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/ANN

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Housing affordability is an income issue, what’s with the fuss?


Success story: The Pinnacle@Duxton, a HDB public housing estate, in the Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore. The HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling. – Bloomberg

Best practices from from HDB should be carefully studied

IT is increasingly a cause for concern to see the rising cost of living leading to a significant erosion of income. This results in more youths and job entrants unable to afford decent dwelling, be it in urban or sub-urban areas.

Therefore, it has become a pressing policy matter to find an effective solution to keep real estate prices in check. Many governmental agencies have been set up, but affordability remains a problem.

> Current state of health

From property developers to banks offering mortgages, the real estate sector supply chain has a high correlation with domestic economic performance.

According to the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), the Malaysian House Price Index growth has been moderating since 2014.

The index had eased to 7.2% in the fourth quarter last year, down from a 7.4% expansion in the previous quarter. It is the fifth consecutive quarter of slower pace of growth.

Similarly, Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth had tapered to 4.0% in the second quarter this year, down from 4.2% in the previous quarter.

Notwithstanding the current sluggish economic conditions, the pertinent issue surrounding the real estate segment is affordable housing.


>Severely unaffordable

Even though broad property prices growth have plateaued, the high absolute price to own a house continues to be out of reach for the common Malaysian.

According to the report “Making Housing Affordable” by Khazanah Research Institute, the overall Malaysian housing market is ‘seriously unaffordable’.

Using the “median-multiple ratio” standard by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlement at the World Bank, a housing market is considered “affordable” if the house price to household income ratio is below 3.0 times.

The study conducted by Khazanah Research Institute, following the latest available data by the Department of Statistics, indicated that the overall Malaysian median-multiple in 2014 was 4.4 times.

More worryingly, the median multiple ratio for Kuala Lumpur (5.4 times), Penang (5.2 times), Terengganu (5.5 times) and Sabah (5.1 times) are considered to be ‘severely unaffordable’.

According to NAPIC data in the first quarter of the year, the median residential property sale transaction price in Kuala Lumpur was within the range of RM400,000 to RM500,000.

Assuming that the property price is RM450,000, after paying the 10% down payment deposit and taking a 35- year tenure housing loan at 4.5% interest per annum, the monthly mortgage repayment comes up to slightly over RM1,900.

Meanwhile, the surveyed salary of a four-to-five-year experienced sales manager with a university degree was reportedly at between RM5,000 and RM8,000 per month, according to a local recruitment specialist report.

Effectively, this means that the manager is looking at a house-to-individual income ratio of 4.7 to 7.5 times if he or she were to purchase the Kuala Lumpur property on his or her own capacity.

Property price and value to Income per country in SEA 20014

Moreover, given Department of Statistics’ expectation of 1.2% annual population growth rate between 2016 and 2020, Malaysia’s demography will have to accommodate a projected 1.6 million more people by the end of the decade.

Housing is a pressing socioeconomic issue for the long term not only in Malaysia but also worldwide. It has to be sustainable and affordable.

 >Focus on sustainable supply side dynamics

Fundamentally, housing affordability is an income issue.

Given the high absolute value of real estates, household income – at a much lower base – would have to multiply much higher to catch up to the affordability threshold.

To extrapolate it further, even with higher income growth, would real estate ever be considered ‘affordable’?

A conventional profit maximisation motive could mean that property developers would eventually price their units in tandem with income growth rates, therefore creating the ever elusive ‘affordability’.

Keep in mind that there is no lack of demand for housing in Malaysia in light of the relatively young demographic.

In 2016, the estimated age group younger than 24 years old of around 13.4 million people makes up 43% of total population.

Besides, the average household size is expected to shrink from 4.6 people in 2000 to an estimated 4.0 people by the end of the decade, according to Khazanah Research Institute.

>More residential units would be required for dwelling.

Essentially, policy makers should focus more on the supply side dynamics to tackle the issue of home ownership and also on sustainable policies to ease the cost of ownership – especially for first- time home buyers.

Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the government has already outlined the need for affordable housing – especially for the bottom 40% of households – to alleviate the increasing cost of living.

The government targets to provide 606,000 new affordable houses during course of the 11th Malaysia Plan spanning from 2016 to 2020, introduce an integrated database to match supply and demand dynamics and also establish a land bank for future affordable housing projects.

This would be a continuation of the Program Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA), Ruman Idaman Rakyat and Rumah Mesra Rakyat initiatives.

The government looks set to establish a land bank for houses and an integrated database for all relevant stakeholders to match demand and supply dynamics.

Across the straits, the Singapore Housing and Development Board (HDB) is often cited as a success story in providing affordable and quality homes.

The HDB programme is a comprehensive nationwide strategy that aligns the government’s legal powers to acquire land for public housing purposes, act as a central authority on township development, while leveraging on the Central Provident Fund as a financing means to ensure affordability.

Moreover, there is a holistic township planning whereby the development of physical HDB flat infrastructure is complemented by socioeconomic integration that promotes a cohesive society.

No doubt there are studies that indicate Singapore’s median multiple ratio is around 5.0 times in 2015, thereby classified as ‘severely unaffordable’.

The scarcity of land in the island state limits the potential for competitive supply of land.

Nevertheless, the comprehensive central planning that the Singapore government employs allows it to have a firm grip on keeping property prices in check.

In short, the HDB programme provides the government with an effective means to ensure targeted housing supply meant for community dwelling.

Given that Singapore’s home ownership rate has increased from 29% in the 1970s to close to 90% in 1990 and a vibrant resale market for the private sector, it is a considerable success story for providing quality living standards for the nation.

While it would likely be a gigantic task for other countries to emulate Singapore’s public housing policy from scratch in light of the legal matters of land and elements of socioeconomic welfare distribution, the best practices from HDB should be carefully studied.

>Housing matter should be top on policy priority

In Malaysia, land matter is a state matter. For a comprehensive public housing plan to take off, the government would have to put up an economically viable proposal to develop new townships across the nation with a cost effective structure.

The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry is mulling over the idea of developing a ‘Youth City’ township to cater to the young population.

Perhaps that could be a platform for the government to walk the talk and deliver value-added townships for affordable housing.

On the other end of the equation, besides providing dwelling space, real estate is also an asset class that yields cash flow from rental and also capital appreciation through time.

Therefore, it is imperative that the housing market price should never be trapped in an asset class bubble.

The 2008 United States’ sub-prime mortgage crisis serves as a grave reminder of the dire consequences and the impact on the real economy.

Fortunately, Bank Negara has already in place various macro-prudential policies since 2010 such as limiting loan-to-value ratio to 70% for home financing, and increase in real property gain tax to 10% for sales of real estate within two years to stem real estate market speculation activities.

In light of these, the recent consideration to allow property developers to offer home buyers financing at a much steeper financing cost of 12% interest rate per annum should be deliberated properly.

It is one matter to provide easier credit facility to own a property but it is an entirely different matter to compromise on the people’s capabilities to service the loan in the longer run and the spillover impact on real estate prices.

In short, housing is a necessity and it is imperative for authorities to have a policy interest in the issue.

The policy challenges going forward would only be more challenging as demand for housing continues to surge. It would be interesting to take stock of the plan that government has in mind come Budget 2017 on 21 October.

By Manokaran Mottain

Manokaran Mottain is the Chief Economist at Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd

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High-rise living in below par, need professionalism in managing the property


Only 74 out of 7,325 high-rise residential properties in Peninsular Malaysia earned the top five-star ranking in an evaluation of their property management standards. And more than half are below par, earning only one and two stars.

IT is one thing to be a developed state by 2020. But it is another thing entirely to have a developed state of mind – and Malaysians have a long way to go to achieve that.

Take, for instance, condominium- and apartment-living.

Some of these properties may come with top notch facilities but when it comes to managing their upkeep, there is much to be desired.

Or so says the latest findings on the quality of managing stratified properties from a survey by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Every year, the ministry conducts its Strata Scheme Management Quality Evaluation, or “Star Rating”, which ranks the standards of joint management bodies (JMBs) or management corporations (MCs) of apartments and condominiums.

These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.

But, as it turns out, more than half – or 69% – of condominiums and apartments nationwide ranked “below par”, scoring only one and two stars in 2015. In 2014, a slightly smaller percentage, 65%, were ranked below par.

Only 1% – or 74 – out of 7,325 strata development schemes surveyed earned five stars in the 2015 ratings, made available to Sunday Star.

If such a trend continues, future residents will inherit poor standards of living amidst modern facilities.

Currently, almost six million Malaysians out of 20 million city folk are living in stratified buildings like apartments and condominiums.

“But this number is expected to rise in future as the country progresses and becomes more urbanised,” says Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division under-secretary.

He says one of the major problems that condo dwellers continue to face is the refusal of other residents to pay maintenance fees. Other problems are building defects and matters involving enforcement.

“For now, about 70% of residents are at a level where they are merely aware of what needs to be done in managing their property. They are not yet at a level to appreciate the benefits of cooperating with each other and creating a better living culture,” he says.

Mohamad Ridzwan says there is a need to change the mindset of people to foster more civic-minded communities in high-rise buildings.

“Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them,” he says.

He points out that there are also more people moving out of landed properties and into high-rise buildings.

“This group of people will have to learn to adapt to the culture of living in stratified buildings as it is different from living in houses.

“They will need to be more inclusive of and cooperative with their neighbours,” he says, adding that they would also have to learn to be more considerate when it comes to using shared facilities.

Stressing that it all boils down to the mindset of residents, Mohamad Ridzwan highlights the case of Rumah Pangsa Orkid, a low-cost flats property in Ulu Tiram, Johor, which made it into the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2014 for obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management.

“Until today, they remain the only low cost flat development to have achieved this,” he says, adding that there are yet to be any high-end condominiums accorded the same standard.

Mohamad Ridzwan says the ministry will continue to actively educate dwellers on proper management of their properties.

“We will embark on more education programmes to promote better practices through advertisements in the mass media,” he says.

On the Strata Management Tribunals to hear disputes, Mohamad Ridzwan says four such tribunals have been successfully set up to cover different zones in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Since their formation the tribunals have heard about 200 cases per month,” he says.

In March, Sunday Star reported that residents who do not pay maintenance fees and other charges were set to face the music, with the Government forming a team to strengthen the enforcement of the Strata Management Act.

The Act also enables residents to take their disputes to a Strata Management Tribunal to settle matters.

Building Managers Association of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan agrees that the “biggest and most critical” problem is the collection of fees, saying that it is rare that JMBs or MCs are able to collect payment from 80% of residents.

“It is more common for the collection rate to be at 40% or 50%,” he says.

Chan laments that petty excuses are often given by residents to defend their refusal to pay up.

“Some refuse because they don’t use the facilities.

“When people ask why they don’t want to pay, they simply say they don’t swim or play tennis,” he shares.

Chan adds that many unit owners live elsewhere or are based overseas and so are reluctant to pay.

“Some are not satisfied with services like garbage collection and defy orders to settle the fees,” he says.

He urges future condo owners to refrain from buying properties that come with all sorts of facilities if they are unwilling to pay up.

“Sometimes, it isn’t about whether they can afford the fees or service charges. It is about their attitude and mentality.

“Some don’t pay simply because their neighbours are not paying and are getting away with it,” Chan says, adding that such attitudes have resulted in some apartments owing up to RM200,000 in water and electricity bills.

The lack of money in the sinking fund also hinders JMBs and MCs from paying for major works like repairing lifts.

“It becomes a vicious cycle. Because people are not satisfied with the upkeep of the place, they do not pay the fees.

“But when they do not pay, there isn’t enough funds for upkeep,” he says.

Also, developers must do their part by informing all potential property buyers of the exact amount of all service charges, says Chan.

“Developers will try to promote their projects for more sales but they should also inform buyers of the fees they are expected to pay.

“Owners should also consider that, after a year, the fees may go up as warranty periods for equipment expire,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says many complaints against MCs have been made to the federation.

“High-end condominiums are generally better managed. We received a lot of complaints from people in medium cost apartments,” he says.

He says that consumers and the building management should both be more responsible.

“Consumers need to settle payments that they have agreed to. But they should also be receiving good service in return, like efficient rubbish collection,” he says.

Selvaraj highlights that the only way forward is for management bodies and residents to have a good working relationship.

“People should understand that managing their building is a collective responsibility.

“More dialogues should be held on how to improve the community to ensure good quality of life wherever we live,” he adds.

by Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

More professionalism needed in managing high-rises

WITH more high-rises mushrooming, a Building Managers Board is urgently needed, according to Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, deputy president of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia (BMAM).

BMAM is an umbrella body comprising stakeholder organisations representing management corporations (MCs), joint management bodies (JMBs), chambers of commerce, developers, engineers, architects, shopping and high-rise complex managers, and managing agents.

Appealing to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry to set up the board urgently, Teo says such a body is long overdue.

“Millions of stratified properties are coming up. Building management is becoming a very big industry. We have to start regulating. All building managers must be registered and regulated,” he says.

To date, some 600 building managers have voluntarily registered with the association, he shares, estimating that there are probably tens of thousands more.

Meanwhile, the BMAM is focused on educating its members and interested parties on good management via collaborations with institutions of higher learning.

Describing building management as a multitasking, multi­discipline function that attracts people from various backgrounds and with a variety of skills, Teo says that basic criteria for the role is needed. A Building Managers Board, once set up, will have guidelines and regulations to bring professionalism to the role.

Persons deregistered by the board cannot be hired as property managers, he suggests. This, he feels, will make hiring building managers cheaper while ensuring that they are monitored.

“So long as they fulfil the board’s requirements, anyone can be a building manager. The board will monitor and weed out the errant ones. JMBs and MCs can hire cheaper, smaller companies, even individuals, to manage their buildings if they don’t have the budget.”

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division undersecretary Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin acknowledges the proposal to set up a Building Managers Board.

“However, no decision can be made by the ministry yet as this matter is still being discussed,” he says.

He says the ministry issued a directive to Commissioners of Buildings nationwide last month to register all managing agents to protect residents from unscrupulous parties.

The BMAM would also like to see the country’s 150-plus Commissioners of Buildings (COB) given proper funding and staff. The role of the commissioner is mostly undertaken by local council heads or mayors, which isn’t right because they already have so much on their plate, he says.

The Commissioner of Buildings must be a dedicated, full-time position supported by an adequately funded department. Now, it’s mainly a one-man show, he observes.

“The Act is a good tool,” he says, referring to the Strata Management Act 2013, “But it’s for the COB to implement it efficiently. An effective COB can nip many things in the bud – the COB can call a unit owner, find out the grouses and give directives. If the COB can offer easy resolution, a lot of problems will be solved.”

Apart from supporting the position of COB, JMBs and MCs must familiarise themselves with the Strata Management Act, says Richard Chan, a committee member of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia and a past president of the Malaysian Association for Shopping and High-Rise Complex Management.

“For instance, many aren’t aware that money collected should go to JMBs and MCs – not the companies or individuals hired to manage the property. What if these companies don’t pay the service contractors?”

On Tuesday, a full-day strata management seminar will be held at Wisma Rehda in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, to explain the Act, he says, urging stakeholders to attend the event.

Teo feels that the Act is too harsh on JMB volunteers. Calling it a thankless job, he says it’s difficult getting residents to even attend AGMs, what more serve on the JMB.

“Despite not being paid, JMB members risk personal liability actions. It’s too onerous. It’s overkill because there are already laws like the Penal Code which imposes fines and jail terms.”

And he feels that the Act places too many obstacles in front of willing volunteers.

“The JMB chairman and members can only serve for two and three years respectively. Such restrictions will make things worse because as it is, no one wants the job. Our solution is to extend the chairman’s term to three years; but if at the AGM there’s no one else who wants the post, he or she should be allowed to stay on. And members should be permitted to stay on for as long as they want.” –  The Star

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China cracks down on P2P lending to curb illegal activities


biznews005 CHINA’S P2P INDUSTRY OPERATION

BEIJING: China’s banking regulator issued tough new rules on Wednesday to tighten regulation of the country’s $60 billion peer-to-peer lending sector, which has been dogged by scandals and fraud.

The measures mark the latest attempt by China to reduce risks to the world’s second-largest economy by cleaning up the its rapidly growing but loosely regulated online financial sector.

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) platforms will not be able to take deposits, nor provide any forms of guarantee for lenders, according to a joint document issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), Ministry of Public Security, Cyberspace Administration of China, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The regulator said some P2P firms were running Ponzi schemes and raising funds illegally, and said it would bar firms from 13 “forbidden” activities.

Under the new rules, P2P firms would not be permitted to sell wealth management products which are popular with many Chinese investors, nor issue asset-backed securities, and must use third party banks as custodians of investor funds, the regulator said.

It added that P2P firms cannot guarantee investment returns nor investment principal, and they would be subjected to higher disclosure requirements.

The regulations follow the April passage of a plan by the State Council, or cabinet, to clean up the non-bank financial sector after rare demonstrations by angry investors stoked fears of social unrest.

The banking regulator is responsible for tightening regulations over P2P, online trust businesses and online consumer finance firms

China’s online P2P lending platforms, which match small business and individual borrowers with retail investors with spare funds, has seen rapid growth in the past two years largely due to the lack of regulatory oversight.

The industry raised more than 400 billion yuan ($60 billion)by November last year, CBRC data showed.

But among the more than 3,600 P2P platforms, more than 1,000 were problematic, the CBRC had said.

The rise of P2P lending was originally seen by the government as a type of financial innovation that could make funds accessible to credit-hungry consumers and small businesses, which continue to struggle to get loans from traditional financial institutions.

Beijing’s hands-off approach to promote the rapid development of the sector, however, led to a large number of high-profile P2P failures, scandals and frauds.

The consequences have devastated many retail investors, who dumped their life-savings into P2P platforms in hopes of receiving double-digit returns, threatening China’s social and financial stability.

Ezubao, once China’s biggest P2P lending platform, turned out to be a Ponzi scheme that solicited 50 billion yuan ($7.5 billion) in less than two years from more than 900,000 retail investors through savvy marketing.

Investor funds were squandered by Ezubao executives on lavish lifestyles. Retail investors are still unable to get back their hard-earned money, and many have blamed Beijing for its lack of regulation and scrutiny. – Reuters

Related:

Sub-anchor: New guidelines: P2P lending should be small-scale

  •  the China Banking Regulatory Commission are finally laying down the rules. This comes eight months after China started a campaign to crack down on faulty P2P lenders. According to the new rules, P2P lenders should mainly just do small scale lending. The sector should target borrowers who are not serviced…

    • Crossover: P2P financing sector still to develop?

    •  Crossover: P2P financing sector still to develop?. For more on P2P regulations, we talk to Chen Jiahe, chief strategist at Cinda Securities.Q1. The recent series of P2P defaults seriously damaged investors’ faith in P2P financing. Do you think P2P still has a lot of room to develop, after these regulations?…
  • China tightens rules for troubled P2P lending sector

  • China tightens rules for troubled P2P lending sector. China released new rules on Wednesday to tighten regulations covering the country’s scandal-tainted peer-to-peer lending sector. Government officials say reducing risks and illegal activities in the US$60 billion sector has become a key

Homestays, a booming business: Homes vs hotels, a study of the industry


Homestays, a booming business

HOMESTAYS, once popular in rural areas, have now become big businesses in towns and cities nationwide.

Thousands of homeowners have discovered how to make money with their properties and avoid paying taxes.

They have joined global home-sharing marketplaces, and just like how Uber has made life for government-regulated taxi drivers difficult, the home-sharing phenomenon is shaving off hotel revenues.

By paying a mere 3% service fee per booking, homeowners – also called hosts – can connect with over 60 million travellers worldwide through online giants like American company Airbnb and Singapore-based HomeAway.

Airbnb’s website has a tool to help homeowners gauge their expected weekly income and according to this, the country’s chart-toppers are those in Langkawi who can make RM2,801 a week, followed by those around Malacca’s Jonker Walk (RM2,495 a week).

Close behind are Penang home-shares in Tanjung Tokong (RM2,494) and Pulau Tikus (RM2,449). In Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur, they can expect to earn RM1,676 weekly, while those near Taman Pelangi in Johor Baru can expect RM2,287 a week.

The above estimated earnings are for apartments or houses catering to groups of five travellers.

There are homeshares even in the hinterlands. They can make an average of RM923 a week in Kota Baru, Kelantan. In Kangar, Perlis, homeshares can expect to collect RM1,619 a week.

Unlike hotel occupancies, the government has no knowledge nor way of tracking these check-ins.

All the payments are transacted via the home-sharing portals’ overseas payment gateways and the earnings are transferred to homeowners through international money wires, PayPal or direct deposits.

Their guests are also “exempted” from the RM2 per room per night heritage tax fee in Malacca and Penang’s local government fee of RM3 per room per night for four-star and five-star hotels, and RM2 per room per night for three stars and below.

“They don’t have to pay corporate or income taxes. They don’t need to collect GST or report their occupancy rates.

“They don’t need to install fire doors or water sprinkler systems. If this goes on, budget hotels can just take down their signboards and become home-share operators,” said Malaysia Budget Hotels Association president P.K. Leong.

He said his association had raised the issue of home-sharing with the government several times and urged them to regulate this business but no action had been taken.

“We estimate about 15% of our business is being siphoned into the home-sharing market. And it’s not really sharing,” he said.

“People are buying residential properties specifically to start short-term rental businesses. We believe this is growing at an alarming rate but we don’t have any way to track them.”

In 2014, Airbnb was reported to have over 800,000 listings worldwide. Now, the company declares on its website that it has over two million.

Five-star resorts contacted, however, do not feel threatened by the home-sharing operators.

Managers in two five-star hotels, who declined to be named, said these setups target budget travellers who come to Penang on business or already know what to do when they come to Penang.

“Our hotel offers a level of service not found in home-shares. It’s a different market,” said one manager. – By Arnold Loh The Star

Homes versus hotels

 

Home-sharing services like Airbnb are becoming a hit among Malaysians. But hotels are urging the Government to regulate such services, claiming that rental of private apartments and studio units is illegal. Noting such calls, the Government is currently discussing how to address the matter.

LIVING rooms instead of hotel lobbies. Apartment units instead of hotel suites. This is the trend today.

More Malaysian holiday-makers are choosing to rent private properties as accommodation on their trips, instead of booking hotel rooms.

They do this using home-sharing services like Airbnb and Singapore-based HomeAway, which offer travellers the option to stay in a local host’s property.
Ranging from single rooms to entire apartment units, guests can book their accommodation from hosts, who list their property on such websites to be leased out for a fee.

Sometimes, the fees are even lower than the room rates offered by hotels.

This is one of the factors that drive the popularity of such services, with the San Francisco-based Airbnb having over two million property listings for rent from local hosts in about 191 countries around the world.

In Malaysia, home-sharing services are also gaining traction among travellers and homeowners, who want to earn some income from offering short-term rentals.

However, the hotel industry in the country is claiming that such services are eating into their business, with some estimating about 5% to 15% of their business being diverted.

Hoteliers are also saying that consumers are not fully protected under such arrangements.

Likening home-sharing services like Airbnb to Uber in the taxi business, hoteliers claim that the hosts are not subjected to the same regulations imposed on hotels and do not need to pay taxes or collect the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

As the industry calls on the Government to regulate such services, the Tourism and Culture Ministry says discussions are ongoing to address the matter while the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry is open to feedback on the issue.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Sam Cheah sees the growing popularity of such home-sharing platforms like Airbnb as a threat to the hotel industry.

“It isn’t a level playing ground because the hosts who are offering their properties for rent are not subjected to the same requirements, including safety standards,” he says.

Cheah points out that the hosts can afford to offer lower rates because their operating costs to run their businesses are smaller.

“They pay domestic usage for quit rent and utility bills. They are not required to adhere to safety requirements such as installing proper fire protection,” he adds.

Cheah explains that hotels also have public liability insurance and protect consumers in the event of negligence or fire.

“We are obligated to protect our customers. But there is no such policy for home-sharing hosts,” he says, urging consumers to be aware of such risks.

Cheah also points out that it is illegal for homeowners to operate a business for tourists and travellers when the property is meant for domestic dwelling.

“It is unfair for residents who are neighbours of such hosts as they will have strangers walking in and out of the premises,” he says.

These tourists will also be using the swimming pool, gym and other facilities meant for residents.

However, Cheah says the association, which consists of 881 member hotels, cannot discount or prevent such a business model from being practised.

“But the Government should regulate such businesses to protect tourists and make it an even playing field for hotel operators,” he says.

If left unchecked and unregulated, Cheah foresees the Government will have a problem dealing with the projected 36 million tourist arrivals by 2020.

“If we do not regulate Airbnb and other home-sharing services, we wouldn’t be able to monitor the industry. We wouldn’t know if we have an oversupply or over-development and businesses may lose out.

“It is just like Uber and GrabCar in the taxi industry. You cannot stop them but you have to regulate them. Then it makes sense,” he says.

Echoing Cheah’s call to the Government to impose regulations, Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners secretary Anthony Wong calls such home-sharing services illegal as hosts are not licensed to provide lodging and insurance for guests.

“It is amounting to making private arrangements and guests who are hurt during their stay are unable to claim insurance for any mishaps.

“As legal entities, hotels have permits to comply with. Our operating costs are expensive and we pay taxes,” says Wong, adding that hotel rates are also competitively priced.

He claims that the emergence of such services and illegal homestays have caused hoteliers to lose about 5% in revenue.

Acknowledging the concerns by hotels, Tourism and Culture Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Ong Hong Peng says the ministry has received complaints from the industry on the emergence of home-sharing platforms.

“This issue has been acknowledged and discussed extensively by the Special Task Force on Service Delivery and its working group.

“This working group is represented by government agencies such as the ministry, Malaysia Productivity Corporation, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry and the police,” he tells Sunday Star.

Dr Ong adds that the question of regulating home-sharing platforms and conducting enforcement on homeowners under such services comes under the purview of local councils.

In the meantime, the ministry has its Malaysian Homestay Programme, which offers a unique experience to tourists.

“The programme enables tourists to stay and interact with local families who act as hosts.

“Under this programme, families and their houses register with the ministry after completing the homestay training module and following the guidelines,” he explains.

But Dr Ong points out that this is different from merely offering accommodation as it is a community-based tourism programme which offers tourists a lifestyle experience of rural villages.

In 2015, Malaysia attracted 25.7 million tourist arrivals, a decline of 6.3% compared to 27.4 million tourist arrivals in 2014.

For the first quarter of 2016, Malaysia registered an increase of 2.8% in tourist arrivals, which Dr Ong perceives as a positive outlook.

“A strong growth in arrivals is expected for the remainder of this year,” he says.

Former Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who was just replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, says it is still too early to decide whether to regulate homeowners involved in home-sharing services.

“This will require extensive discussion. The ministry welcomes feedback from stakeholders on this matter, including hoteliers, and will be more than happy to listen to their concerns,” he says.

The issue of regulating or even banning Airbnb and other home-sharing marketplaces is of growing concern.

Recently, it was reported that New York State in the United States may make it illegal to advertise apartments on Airbnb if a Bill is made into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Meanwhile, the German capital of Berlin has stopped tourists from renting entire apartment units using Airbnb and other similar websites. The move bans homeowners from leasing their property to tourists without a city permit.

Japan released national guidelines for home-sharing services, making properties only available for rent if guests stay for a week or longer.

Other places are more receptive towards home-sharing platforms, including London, which amended housing legislation that makes it legal for locals to rent out their homes through websites like Airbnb. –  By Yuen Meikeng The Star

Airbnb: Malaysia is a really ‘exciting growth market’ 

AS more Malaysians open their homes to tourists, Airbnb describes Malaysia as an “exciting growth market”.

Nevertheless, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company also encourages hosts to familiarise themselves with regulations in their area.

“These can differ from council to council and even street to street, all over the world,” Airbnb tells Sunday Star in an email.

Despite the growth of Airbnb across Malaysia, the company says the traditional hotel sector continues to do well too, with growth in occupancy and room rates.

“We’re proud of the economic benefits Airbnb provides to families, communities and local businesses that otherwise wouldn’t benefit from the tourist dollar,” it says.

Overwhelmingly, Airbnb says its hosts are renting out their homes occasionally, earning a little extra to help supplement their income.

“The vast majority of our hosts across Malaysia are everyday people renting their spare room or home occasionally, not commercial operators,” it adds.

Airbnb also says it has a good working relationship with the Malaysian Government and have partnered with it in the past.

In December last year, it was reported that a pilot project was being conducted in Malacca involving 130 homestays in 11 villages to help them market their business using online listings.

The programme was a collaboration between the Multimedia Development Corporation, the International Trade and Industry Ministry, the Tourism and Culture Ministry and Airbnb.

Airbnb says over 80 million guests have had a safe, positive experience using the platform.

“We help promote positive experiences through a global trust and safety team available 24/7, authentic reviews, verified profile information, and the $1 Million Host Guarantee,” it says.

A check on its website showed that the Host Guarantee will reimburse eligible hosts for damages up to A$1mil (RM3.06mil).

“The Host Guarantee should not be considered a replacement or stand-in for homeowners or renters insurance,” read the website.

Airbnb also has a refund policy for guests if the host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing, the listing booked is misrepresented or isn’t generally clean or unsafe, among others.

“Airbnb’s community operates on the principles of trust and respect. Our host and guest review systems demonstrate our commitment to responsible behaviour,” it says.

Meanwhile, some local Airbnb hosts in Malaysia have mixed views about the idea of having the Government regulate their business.

A full-time Airbnb host in Malacca, known only as Chen, says she welcomes such a move as long as it is done fairly and does not overly restrict the business.

“It can be beneficial for both the hosts and guests.

“If we are given licences by the Government, we can even put up signages to advertise our business. And for guests, they would have more protection,” says the 30-year-old lass who rents out one apartment and two townhouses.

Chen, a former marketing manager, quit her job two years ago to become a full-time Airbnb host, calling it her “interest and passion”.

She denies having any opposition from her neighbours in renting out her properties to tourists.

“I informed my neighbours before doing this. While they were initially doubtful, they are now happy I have guests,” Chen adds.

And in the event the Government decides to ban such services, Chen says hosts like herself will transform and adapt to the situation.

“This is the global trend and many are using this business model now. It is important to stay competitive and adapt to the times,” she says.

Another full-time host, Ridzuan Effendy, 29, hopes the Government does not impose regulations on Airbnb.

“Home-sharing services aren’t the same as hotels. Many tourists use Airbnb because the prices are cheaper compared to hotels.

“It is a case of having a willing buyer and seller. It shouldn’t be illegal,” says the former engineer, who lists his properties in Kuala Lumpur.

Related: Travellers drawn to cheap prices

Home-shares annoy neighbours 

BE nice. Buy fruits for your guests or colouring books for their kids and potentially make RM8,000 or more each month renting your apartment or house to short-stay tourists.

Unofficial hotel: At one time, nine of the 28 units of one of the blocks in Halaman Pulau Tikus were available for short-term rentals by medical tourists.>>>

The key performance indicators for home-share operators are the guest reviews on their listings in global marketplaces like Airbnb and HomeAway.

“My guests and I review each other. It’s like Uber (global ride hailing app). You will know your guests’ reputation and your guests will also know yours.

“If anything bad happens, the guests or I can report it to Airbnb and we can be banned,” said an operator in Penang who only wants to be known as Sue, a housewife.

She rents out a house in Batu Ferringhi (RM320 a night) and a condominium unit in Pulau Tikus (RM400 a night) as a host on Airbnb and said her properties were now rated four-and-a-half stars.

The location may seem to be a secondary consideration, with one three-bedroom low-medium cost apartment in Air Itam having a five-star rating on Airbnb.

“It may look like a low-cost apartment from the outside and parking is limited. But it is lovely inside. Love the design and everything,” wrote a reviewer.

From the photos on this listing, the owner had decorated the place with a profusion of wallpaper and the furnishings and paintings within can rival a plush hotel room. There is bed space for up to eight guests and it is only RM150 a night.

But the surge of home-share operators may have inconvenienced neighbours.

Halaman Pulau Tikus management corporation chairman Khoo Boo Eng said his block in Lengkok Berjaya had become the haunt of medical tourists looking for a place to stay while seeking treatment here since several years ago.

He said he had seen medical tourists arrive who were truly sick.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to stay in our residential area. Some of my neighbours are worried that if they had contagious diseases, we would all be at risk,” he said.

He said at one time, nine out of 28 apartments in his block were rented out this way and many unit owners complained about the constant flow of strangers.

“Ours is a small, exclusive residence. We had to install extra security cameras and have a security guard 24 hours a day for our residents’ safety.

“They are making commercial use of their residential properties. We are planning to take them to court and seek injunctions to stop them from renting to short-stay guests,” he said.

Earlier in the week, officials from four departments of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) carried out a spot check and four unit owners in Birch Regency Condominium in Datuk Keramat were fined RM250 each for operating a business without licence.

They knocked on the doors of 15 units believed to be available for rent on a short-term basis and found four being occupied – two units by Singaporeans, one by Australians and another by Canadians.

Tanjung MP Ng Wei Aik, who was present, said the officers spoke to the foreigners who confirmed they were here on holiday.

However, owners argued that there were no laws prohibiting them from renting out their units for any length of time.

One hurdle they had to go through is the complaints from other condo owners.

“We get many complaints from our fellow residents about these short-stay guests. We’re just doing our duty to maintain the peace in our condominium,” said a condominium committee member.

When contacted, Penang Island City Council Building Department director Yew Tung Seang said there could be a legal loophole that would make it hard for authorities to stop residential property owners from offering short-term rentals.

“Property owners have the right to earn rent and there is a grey area over short-term and long-term rentals.

“But when apartments or houses become like hotels, their operations can become a nuisance for neighbours.

“The council is planning a machinery to control this sort of activity,” he added.

In January, Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong was reported as saying that homestay operators at housing estates in the urban areas in the state would no longer be allowed to use the word “homestay” to promote their accommodation.

He said there were plans to regulate and standardise the homestay segment in Johor.

He said many home owners in the urban areas had converted their properties into homestay facilities to cater to customers looking for a short stay.

In the United States’ New York State, legislators tabled a bill last month to ban the advertising of short-term home rentals of less than 30 days, with fines of up to US$7,500 (RM30,000).

“Every day I hear from New Yorkers who are sick and tired of living in buildings that have been turned into illegal hotels through Airbnb because so many units are rented out to tourists, not permanent residents,” Manhattan assembly-woman Linda Rosenthal was reported as saying last month.

It was reported that New York City has over 40,000 home-share listings and each earns an average of US$5,700 (RM23,300) a month.

Study the homestay industry

 

I REFER to the reports “Home versus hotels” and “Travellers drawn to cheap prices” ( Sunday Star, July 3) and “Govern home-share under new laws” (see above).

It is well known that homestay is popular not only in Malaysia but also all over the world now. I have used both types of lodgings and find pros and cons in both.

Homestays are likened to the Airbnb concept which was launched in 2008 and has experienced rapid growth since then. Statistics show that at the end of 2015, Airbnb hosted eight million guests, chalked up three million nights of cumulative booking, were used by 50,000 renters per night and has a market capitalisation of US$2.5bil. This demonstrates the effectiveness and popularity of the concept used by Airbnb.

However, in the US where this concept began, there is concern among the traditional hospitality industry that it is a threat to their business. There is pressure on the government to either put a stop to Airbnb activities or regulate them. According to a report commissioned by hotel associations in the US, some of the financial effects of Airbnb (focused in New York city but gives a strong indication of what may be happening in other parts of the world too) are:

i) Airbnb is growing because it is less labour intensive and requires lower level of service;

ii) There is no marginal cost for such services as new rooms can be added incrementally (or removed) and overheads are negligible compared to hotels;

iii) Hotels were losing revenue due to loss of room nights. This also had an ancillary effect on other services offered by the hotels such as F&B outlets and business centres; and

iv) Hotels in areas where Airbnb is established have responded to increased competition by reducing their prices.

I also looked up issues of competition in this market which may be a cause for concern. If we look at the homestay concept, what it offers is the opportunity for consumers on the supply side to supplement their income by providing a service via a peer-to-peer platform. It also offers travellers a chance to live like the locals and take part in cultural exchanges.

It is also basically a connection where supply meets demand and other needs such as budget constraints, personalised service, easy accessibility and homely atmosphere and all are rolled into one. Airbnb portrays itself as “a platform that allows the little guy to build up a complimentary industry, one that increases the size of the hospitality pie rather than take a slice from existing business.”

Applying this concept in Malaysia, it is a wonderful way to not only expand our hospitality industry especially in areas where hotel rooms are limited or extremely expensive but also allow locals to interact (people from the peninsula going to Sabah and Sarawak and vice versa, for example) or foreigners a chance to live like the locals.

This would in turn generate a multiplier effect on the local economy as other services such as restaurants, laundry, cleaning or transport would be required to support the homestay service. Besides all these, it would put money in the pockets of local residents and also support small businesses outside the hotel districts.

Will the homestay industry be a threat to the hotels? From a competition point of view, there may be some concerns (especially to budget hotels) but these could easily be overcome with careful formulation of policies and guidelines.

As consumer demand has shifted, the markets are or may be different, and it is ultimately up to the consumer to choose where he wants to stay.

Hotels are mainly located in the city or town centres and offer better services, amenities and standards. On the other hand, homestays and Airbnb serve up lodging options that cater to a more local and less touristy experience. Hotels and Airbnb/ homestays operate differently so there is room for both to coexist as long as they are after different customers.

Having said that, regulators and policy makers in Malaysia need to carefully study the implications of introducing regulations to homestay or Airbnb users from the supply side. Many countries have taken steps to address the issues emerging from the rapid rise of Airbnb and homestays. It would be useful for the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) to commission a study on the effects of such concepts on the hospitality industry in Malaysia. This will then give the policy makers some empirical studies to formulate the required guidelines or regulations.

Competition is always threatened when there is a threat to the sharing economy (as in Uber versus the traditional taxi service). The sharing economy is where industry can collaboratively make use of under-utilised inventory via fee-based sharing. The market is always uncertain and nervous when a new marketplace is created, which in turn increases the difficulty of defining the market in competition law. The way businesses are being done and change in consumers’ tastes all merit a thorough study before any action is taken to manage a growing industry.

Two factors have arguable given rise to the rapid growth of peer-to-peer platforms – technology innovations and supply side flexibility. A win-win situation is always possible. If competition is distorted, as in when people buy into residential property to turn it into a business venture, that is when the authorities could step in.

By SHILA DORAI RAJ Founding and former CEO Malaysia Competition Commission

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While young adults all over the world are renting homes, Malaysian prefer to own homes as soon as they get their first pay cheque Instea…

Penang property prices move sideways in Q1 2016


THE Penang housing market moved sideways on both the primary and secondary markets in the first quarter of the year, says Michael Geh (pictured), director at Raine & Horne International Zaki + Partners.

“I noted active transactions on the secondary market with prices staying flat,” he says in presenting the 1Q2016 Penang Housing Property Monitor.

Banks, he adds, only provide loans of up to 70% to 80% of a property’s value and serious first-time homebuyers have to make up the difference in order to sign the sales and purchase agreement.

Michael Geh“A few primary market projects have obtained the Advertising Permit and Developer Licence (APDL) and moved into the stage of processing loans from commercial banks and signing the S&P.” These projects include I-Santorini, SummerSkye and ForestVille, all under Ideal Group.

Will the prices of Penang houses, considered expensive, drop because of the soft market conditions? Geh says prices have come down to more realistic levels, especially with the government pushing the developers to build properties priced from RM300,000 to RM400,000 in the last two years, specifically for owner-occupiers.

Some of these properties, in areas such as Sungai Ara, Patani Road and Relau, have been taken up and are currently under construction, he adds.

Elsewhere in the country, some developers are pushing sales by providing financial assistance to the purchasers. Will those in Penang follow suit?

Geh says such a practice is not widespread for now. “Besides Sunway Bhd and S P Setia Bhd, I don’t see any other developer providing financial packages at the moment. I believe there are plans for such assistance but so far, nothing has been announced.”

Image result for Penang Transport Master PlanHe believes a catalyst for the state’s housing market would be the much-talked-about RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (TMP). The ambitious plan will not only benefit the people but also bring about a more equitable housing situation and help retain local talent.

The TMP, he feels, will lead to equitable home property prices as areas that are not in prime locations will become more accessible, boosting demand for homes and resulting in higher prices. Properties in prime areas, which normally fetch higher prices, should see some price correction as demand is more evenly distributed across the state.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan

Apart from that, Geh opines that the TMP will help retain talent, which will subsequently impact the property market as the pool of workers seek to rent or own residential properties.

Image result for Penang Transport Master Plan“Penang needs the TMP to grow in the next 10 years. We need to stem the migration of youths to the Klang Valley, Iskandar Malaysia and Singapore in search of better job opportunities. We need to create jobs and make conditions more liveable for our youth to prosper,” he says.
Penang LRT map route masterplan

At present, two light rail transit lines have been approved under the TMP — one from Prangin Canal to Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas and the other from Prangin Canal to Straits Quay.

 As for creating jobs, the state government is making a concerted effort

to develop new business sectors so that Penang can stay relevant to the
global economy.

“An industry that has been highlighted by the state is the knowledge economy, such as apps and animation,” Geh says. This has been identified as a key economic sector for the next decade.

There is a proposal for three reclaimed islands in the southern part of Penang island to locate businesses for this sector, he says, and for the islands to be connected by an LRT line that extends from Penang International Airport.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the TMP because one of its components — the Sky Cab or cable car system — has been rejected by the federal government. The 4.8km cable car system, according to the Penang government’s TMP website, was to have connected Butterworth on the mainland to Jelutong on the island. While this is a blow to the state government’s plans, Geh does not believe it will affect property prices.

“Cable car systems are generally more for tourists and not meant to move high volumes of people. I don’t think there will be a large negative impact on the property market. High-volume, high-frequency vessels that travel on water may be a better solution,” he says.

Another component of the TMP is an undersea tunnel linking the island with the mainland. However, further details are not forthcoming at present.

A development that will have an indirect impact on the Penang housing market is the much-debated Gurney Wharf. This 3km-long reclamation project lies just off the shores of popular tourist spot, Gurney Drive.

Geh believes this project has great potential to benefit the island. “I believe Gurney Wharf is an exciting development because it creates recreational activities for Gurney Drive. I think it is a boost to the area.”

Terraced houses

The prices of landed properties did not rise much compared with those of high rises, the data compiled for the monitor reveals. This is due to “stagnation” as there were very few transactions during the quarter under review, compared with the high-rise sector where there was much more activity, Geh explains.

Nevertheless, property values have increased compared with a year ago.

For 1-storey terraced houses, some areas surveyed showed activity year on year but little movement quarter on quarter.

On the island, properties in Jelutong showed the highest price growth, rising 5.88% to RM900,000 from a year ago, followed by houses in Tanjung Bungah (up 5.26% to RM800,000). Houses in Sungai Dua, Sungai Ara and Bandar Bayan Baru saw slight price increases of 2.56%, 2.04% and 1.96% respectively while those in Green Lane and on the mainland saw no changes.

For 2-storey terraced houses, there was no activity q-o-q but prices rose y-o-y in some of the areas surveyed.

The prices of houses in Pulau Tikus rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million, followed by those in Sungai Ara (5.26% to RM1 million) and Sungai Nibong (4.55% to RM1.15 million). Prices remained unchanged in Green Lane and the mainland.

Semi-detached and detached houses

The 2-storey semidees in some areas saw more activity in 1Q2016 than in the previous quarter and last year. Prices in Sungai Dua and Minden Heights rose 6.67% to RM1.6 million q-o-q, followed by those in Sungai Nibong (up 5.71% to RM1.85 million) and Island Park (up 2.27% to RM2.25 million). Prices in Sungai Ara remained unchanged.

There was no q-o-q increase for 2-storey detached houses but 50% of the units surveyed in the monitor saw y-o-y activity.

Island Glades bungalows saw a 3.57% increase to RM2.9 million y-o-y , the prices of Green Lane houses rose 2.86% to RM3.6 million and Pulai Tikus houses were up 2% to RM5.1 million. House prices in Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Minden Heights remained unchanged.

Flats and condominiums

Three-bedroom flats in Green Lane and Bandar Baru Air Itam showed price increases q-o-q as well as y-o-y .

In Green Lane, prices rose 5.26% to RM400,000 q-o-q and 17.65% y-o-y. Units in Bandar Baru Air Itam rose 4.35% to RM240,000 q-o-q and 20% y-o-y.

Compared with a year ago, the prices of flats in Paya Terubong were up 12.5% to RM180,000, followed by Sungai Dua and Lip Sin Garden (6.06% to RM350,000) and Relau (3.45% to RM300,000).

Among the 3-bedroom condos, the biggest gainers were properties in Pulau Tikus, which rose 4.62% q-o-q and 9.68% y-o-y to RM680,000.

In Island Park and Island Glades, prices rose 4.17% q-o-q and 6.38% y-o-y to RM500,000 while condos in Batu Ferringhi rose 2.22% to RM460,000 q-o-q and y-o-y.

Batu Uban condos rose 5% to RM420,000 from the previous year but there was no activity q-o-q. The prices of Tanjung Bungah units remained unchanged.

The Edge Property

Soaring house prices worry Penangites below 30

GEORGE TOWN (June 21): Despite the affordable housing programme by the state government, Penangites, especially those below the age of 30, are worried that they are unable to own a house in the future.

This is because housing prices in Penang island have risen by about 50% for the last five years and even for houses that was built under the affordable housing project.

A Bernama survey showed that several affordable housing projects that were completed less than 10 years ago in Bandar Baru Air Itam was originally priced at about RM175,000 but currently being resold at RM300,000 and above.

State Housing, Local and Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo, said the state government had no power to control the price of houses being sold by house owners.

At present the state government had set a moratorium of five years for affordable housing and 10 years for low cost housing before it could be sold in the open market.

“There’s nothing that can be done by the state government to control the price but, what we can do is to provide more affordable housing so that the people can buy at a lower price,” he said.

Muhamad Amir Amin, 26, who worked as a graphic designer, said he earned about RM2,300 per month and could not even able to buy a low cost house with that wage.

“A low cost house costs RM42,000, which I cannot even afford to buy and from my observation, there is no low cost housing in Penang any more.

“All are either low medium cost or affordable housing which cost RM75,000 and above,” he said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Social Science senior academician, Zainab Wahidin said that building more houses to tackle the increase of property price was not a solution given that Penang’s land was limited, especially on the island.

“If the state keeps building houses as an effort to provide affordable housing there will be more empty houses than those being occupied.

“There must be a regulation to control the housing price as a house is a basic necessity. Everybody needs a house to live in,” she added.

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