IT is good to see that the State government is taking concrete steps to solve Sarawak’s problem with squatters.
Minister of Housing Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg has said that 20,000 affordable homes would be built in Miri, Bintulu and Kuching.
Now squatters are actually a problem globally, ironically often due to development and urbanisation.
In 2004, author Robert Neuwirth actually estimated that there are one billion squatters worldwide! That means around every one in six people in the world is actually a squatter.
In a publication called ‘Housing and Social Policy’, housing researcher Dr Kesia Reeve from the Sheffield Hallam University lamented that “squatting is largely absent from policy and academic debate and is rarely conceptualised, as a problem, as a symptom, or as a social or housing movement”.
Sarawak’s largest squatter populations can be found in Miri (4,000), Bintulu (3,000) and Kuching (1,000). Not too significant considering the State’s population of 2.4 million.
The government’s concern and plans to provide affordable homes for these squatters is therefore commendable. It is because the government has the foresight to prevent the problem from becoming a major one that there are targets to have zero squatters by 2020.
Notice how the opposition likes to harp on issues and often projects themselves to be champions of the poor and disenfranchised like squatters?
But who do you think is actually working hard to provide these groups with affordable roofs over their heads?
So while news of Sarawak building affordable homes for the people may not be sexy news to pick up, it is definitely worth putting on record because actions speak louder than the empty rants from the opposition soapbox.
How The Star reported it:
Sites found for 20,000 affordable houses in Miri, Bintulu, Kuching
By ZORA CHAN
KUCHING: About 20,000 units of affordable houses will be built in Miri, Bintulu and here to address squatting as the state strives to achieve zero squatters by the year 2020.
Housing Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the Land and Survey Department had identified suitable sites towards this end.
“According to the department, Miri has the highest number of squatter households, which is about 4,000, followed by Bintulu with about 3,000 and Kuching with 1,000.
“The new resettlement areas for squatters will not be far from their present living areas to ensure the people have access to basic amenities like schools and are not too far from their workplaces,” he told reporters after officiating at an appreciation dinner for the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) here on Sunday.
Johari said that squatters in the Lutong area would be resettled near Permyjaya and Tudan while those in Bintulu would go to Kidurong and part of Kemena.
“In Kuching, they will be resettled in Muara Tabuan, Tabuan and another site, which I can’t reveal at the moment, but all the sites will not be too far from the present squatter areas,” he said.
The affordable houses would cost between RM47,000 and RM54,000 each, he added.
The ministry would build 20,000 units to cater to extended families and poor families that needed proper housing, he pointed out.
He said he would lobby for one quarter of the RM400mil allocated by the Federal Government to build 10,000 affordable housing units under Budget 2012 to resettle squatters dwellers. Earlier in his speech, Johari said the HDC had identified a site in the city for mixed development to generate sustainable income.
“Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has agreed to give us a strategic site to build affordable houses in the city and it will be of mixed development inclusive of commercial centres,” he said.
It was important for HDC to strike a balance between its social responsibility towards the people and tapping the value of its commercial property so that its finances would not be in the red again, he added.
He said, a few years ago, HDC almost had to retrench about 100 staff members as its failed projects caused big financial losses, but it managed to survive with the Federal Government’s assistance.
“Therefore, we need to be financially independent and the upcoming mixed development project will be a great help to us,” he said.