Kota Kinabalu: The State Government has no intention to waive the requirement for housing developers to allocate 30 per cent of their projects to Bumiputera buyers, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor said Thursday.
"This is a government policy which applies not only in Sabah but also the rest of the country. This policy was meant to protect Bumiputera interest, but even then we allow non-natives to acquire the so-called 'Bumi lots' after a certain period of time," he told reporters after receiving a courtesy call by the new Japanese Consul-General for Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, Masashi Kono.
Hajiji was commenting on a statement by Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda) Secretary-General, Datuk Susan Wong, on Wednesday. Wong was quoted as saying that the Government should waive the requirement "to help Bumiputera buyers face the economic recession." She argued that under the present requirement, owners of 'Bumi lots' are not allowed to sell their houses to non-natives in the first five years of their ownership.
She pointed out that this might make it difficult for Bumiputera house owners should they need money "in times as these".
Hajiji felt that the problem of Bumiputera house owners not being able to sell their houses to non-natives within the first five years is negligible as not everyone sells his house within the first five years. "Buying a house is a life-time investment for most families so it is a well-thought out major decision before one makes the commitment. It is very seldom that one resells his house within the first five years," he said. Hajiji pointed out that the Government has to be careful as relaxing the five-year time frame may subject the benefits enjoyed by Bumiputeras to abuse. "For example, for argument's sake, what is there to prevent a non-native to pay a commission to a Bumiputera to book a 'Bumi lot' and then sell it to him say by the time the house is ready for occupation?" he asked. Apart from the 30 per cent ruling, Bumiputeras also enjoy a 5 per cent discount for the 'Bumi lots'. Hajiji felt that there is no need to do away with the 30 per cent quota ruling as the existing rules and regulations already give housing developers the much-needed leeway. He noted that under the present system, if developers cannot sell the 'Bumi lots' six months after the first newspaper advertisement announcing the project, they can then apply to the Ministry for 'release'. However, before the 'release' is given, the developer must have advertised at least three times within the six-month period.
On the statement by Shareda council member Francis Koh that housing developers were now more interested in high-end properties as the affordable housing segment was already pretty much covered by government agencies such as SPNB and LPPB, Hajiji said it should not stop the private companies from carrying out their social obligation. "Developers that are making tons of money should give something back to society by helping the needy," he added, citing the Wah Mie Group which even allocated a portion of their prime land on high ground for low and medium-cost houses at Sepanggar, near here.
Meanwhile, Hajiji also called on housing developers to incorporate facilities for broadband or high-speed Internet connection in their new housing projects. He noted that the Minister of Resource Development and IT, Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, had said on Wednesday that Sabah's broadband penetration rate is one of the lowest in the country. He, however, noted that a few local developers had already provided the facility in their high-end housing projects, including the Wah Mei and Wong Kok groups. "But I hope the same facility can be extended to the lower-end housing projects as well, if not immediately at least gradually," he concluded.
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