PR1MA not on track with objectives

PETALING JAYA: The 1Malaysia People's Housing Programme (PR1MA), which was meant to alleviate the affordability issue in Malaysia, is facing difficulties in achieving its objective due to the way it is implemented.

National House Buyers Association (HBA) secretary-general Chang Kim Loong told SunBiz that the noble idea of the government setting aside land for PR1MA homes was meant to reduce the cost of the home and therefore ensure that they were affordable.

In order to ensure that PR1MA homes remain affordable, it was envisioned that the corporation would engage construction companies to build homes on land provided by the government, as land cost is high and makes up a large chunk of development cost for private developers.

"But PR1MA seems to be going into joint ventures (JV) with private developers and are sharing profits. Why don't PR1MA be a housing developer entity or act as a building contractor themselves? After all, the land is set aside by the government at free or low premium and they merely have to invest in the cost of the building structure," he added.

However, Chang said PR1MA homes are not much cheaper than homes sold in the market, as the JVs with private developers are likely to result in developers inflating prices for additional profits.

"In addition, there seem to be no transparency in the way private developers are chosen to develop these homes. PR1MA gets to pick and choose the developers that they want to JV with," he said.

"Who are these private developers? How are they chosen and what is the consideration for undertaking the task of developing on PR1MA land?" he questioned.

Chang said the PR1MA initiative lacks transparency and questioned whether they have met the targets that the government had imposed on them to achieve, under the affordable housing category.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA) past president Siva Shanker said there are too many agencies entrusted with the conundrum of affordable housing in Malaysia.

"That's why the planning and marketing for affordable homes is disjointed. It is a marketing issue. If you give the homes to a good real estate agent, he or she will package it well and sell it successfully," he said.

Siva said a central agency with all related information on affordable housing should be set up and and managed by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

"Secondly, the people who want to buy these homes are cash-strapped. Those who are renting may not be able to afford monthly repayments and pay rent at the same time," he said, adding that the government could consider allowing deferred payments for these people.

Although Perbadanan PR1MA Malaysia maintained that interest and demand in PR1MA homes is high, with some projects even attracting more applicants than available units, Siva said some projects do not garner such interest due to their less attractive locations.