Poser over Utar's RM30m snub

KAMPAR (Dec 12, 2010): Was the recent snub to a RM30 million donation meant to safeguard a business interest at the cost of university students?

That seems to be the murmurings in Kampar following Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s (Utar) turning down of development tycoon Koon Yew Yin’s donation for the construction of hostels at the campus.

Utar has a student population of more than 9,000 in its campus here, where many are from outside the state.

For a campus covering 1,200 acres, there is no hostel for out-of-towners. Also, there are another 2,300 students at nearby Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman.

A housing development by Tan Sri Hew See Tong’s Huges Group may shed light on why Utar feels a hostel is not an immediate need.

Despite the lack of hostels, there is an abundance of "house-tels".

The Westlake housing project is let out exclusively to Utar students and is known as the de-facto Utar hostel.

Located a mere kilometre from the campus’s main entrance, Westlake is managed by Danish House Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Huges Group.

Hew, who had served as Kampar assemblyman for three terms, sits as adviser on the Utar board of planning and development.

He is credited for the development of Kampar as a "university town", where he had said that Westlake is part of Kampar’s long-term development.

Westlake comprises 466 houses, each with five to eight rooms. New phases of the housing estate are being built to provide many more units.

Each of these houses is capable of accommodating between 10 and 15 students who pay rentals of between RM175 to RM310 each.

At these rates, it is estimated that at full occupancy, the Westlake housing area will yield a gross rental of more than RM1.3 million a month for Huges Group.

Other housing areas near to the campus are Eastlake, about 1km from Utar and Bandar Baru Selatan where rental ranges from RM85 to RM250 per room.

Most of these rooms have attached bathrooms.

But for those who cannot afford rental at these "house-tels", accommodation is a room for three at shop-houses in Kampar town, where they have to live in cramped conditions, with three mattresses laid next to each other on the floor as their beds, and a single foldable table as their "study."

It is also a 15-minute drive from Utar and gets very noisy at night from the restaurants below.

But since rental is less than RM50 a month per person, they have little choice.

"It is too expensive to live at Westlake, so this place is okay as I only pay RM30 a month," said Ricky Yong, 19, who shares a 10m by 10m unit with two others.

Hostels typically cost much less than renting rooms outside the campus vicinity. For example, a student staying at Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (KL campus) pays only RM100 a month, and has the convenience of being close to campus facilities. -- theSun

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