This is a laudable initiative. The Selangor Govt should be given credit for trying to clean up the mess left behind by UMNO/BN.

Urban renewal a time bomb for Selangor government

By Debra Chong June 13, 2011

The courtyard of the Maju Jaya low-cost block as it is at present. — Pictures by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, June 13 — A project to breathe life back into the derelict Maju Jaya flats here under an overall RM10 billion plan has exposed the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Selangor government to charges of vote-buying ahead of the next general election.
Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s administration could also be opening the floodgates for the state to bail out any rundown high-rise home, including from the private sector, with public funds from the urban renewal programme.

An artist’s impression of the revamped courtyard in the low-cost Maju Jaya flats. — Picture courtesy of Veritas Architects

“This is a waste of resources. This, to me, is very clearly a case of showing favour to fish for votes, to remain popular,” a disgruntled home-owner in Seri Kembangan said to The Malaysian Insider.

“I am very upset about this because I pay taxes for the enjoyment of public property. I don’t think it’s a wise move of the Selangor government to do this for a private project to benefit a small group of people. There are other things they can do,” said the man who asked to be known only as Chai.

State economic adviser and PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had launched the project to revamp the Maju Jaya flats in PJS2, next to conflict-prone Kampung Medan where a bloody racial clash in 2001 saw six dead.

The Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) was roped in to help monitor the process involving the 60-unit low-cost block, built 20 years ago by property developer Maju Jaya Sdn Bhd, which will be repainted, repaired and upgraded to provide better security for its over 300 residents.

The Malaysian Insider understands the local authority was also asked to parcel off a piece of state-owned land edging the Maju Jaya property for recreation purposes, namely a new all-purpose hall, an herb garden and a children’s play area.

A child leans precariously against the rusty railguard in the Maju Jaya flats.

The facilities will be open for use to residents of the low-cost block and those living in two adjoining medium-cost apartments.

High-profile architectural firm Veritas Architects, known for its refurbishment work on the iconic Ipoh railway station, climbed onboard early this year, offering its renovation designs plans which, it says, have been approved by the local council.

Physical work has yet to start but the massive rejuvenation exercise on the private property has already sparked anger among certain groups in Selangor who question the state government’s rationale in using taxpayers’ money.

State lawmaker Haniza Talha defended the PR administration’s move, saying it has a duty to protect the welfare of low-income citizens even as she acknowledged the low-income group was taking advantage of the fact for its own benefit.

A little cottage industry to supply ikan bilis to pasar malam traders has sprung up in the flats as a way for the housewives to make money.

“The state has to be responsible because it involves people’s lives. You’re talking about human beings, not buildings.

“So no matter what, the authorities have to be responsible. Because we don’t want to be blamed for accidents,” she told The Malaysian Insider when asked why the state government was stepping in on a private issue clearly between the residents and the developer.

Haniza paused when asked why the state government was allowing itself to be held to ransom.

“Sometimes we have to make political decisions because people don’t understand their rights. So other people want to use them. So we have to be careful. I am sure there are people out there waiting to pounce on you so we have to be careful,” she replied.

Up to nine people share sleeping quarters in this 600-square feet unit.

“Now it’s like a time bomb waiting to explode,” she said, and sighed as she related complaints pouring in from residents unhappy with the rundown conditions of their homes.

She listed rampant drug addiction and vandalism as among the costly social ills that had plagued authorities for years, and forced them to pay millions of ringgit to rehabilitate addicts and repair damage to property.

“It’s a slum area. If you put people in such an area, they will have a slum mentality,” she said, linking the drug addiction and vandalism to living in crammed conditions typical of low-cost housing.

“Whenever residents from the low-cost housing experience water, electricity cuts or if the lifts don’t run, the residents will come running to my office and hound me asking ‘What are you going to do about it?’,” she added.

Retiree Akram Manap finds a suggested RM20 a month for maintenance fees reasonable but a challenge for the Maju Jaya flats’ elderly house owners.

At the six-storey Maju Jaya flats, The Malaysian Insider witnessed families of five or more squeezed into a hutch-like home measuring about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, or roughly 600 square feet in total.
Some, like 61-year-old retiree Akram Manap who raised seven children in the tiny, two-bedroom flats, are still taking care of their grandchildren in the same space.

Young children were seen running up-and-down the concrete staircase guarded with rusty metal rails and around the rubbish-strewn compound, wearing thin rubber-soled slippers.

Their teenaged siblings appeared to prefer to shoot the breeze on imitation leather couches lining the narrow corridors while the women of the house sat at the doorstep or low-stools peeling dried ikan bilis.

The entire block was involved in the little cottage industry to supply pasar malam traders with the dried anchovies; it helped bring in extra household income, a housewife told The Malaysian Insider during a recent weekend visit.

Haniza, the Deputy Speaker in the state legislative assembly, confessed that rehabilitation and repair were only stop-gap measures that had failed to fix the social problems.

“Educating people is far more important than giving them all this,” she said, referring to using taxpayers’ money to fund the physical facelift on the private-owned flats.

The central courtyard in the Maju Jaya low-cost block as it is at present.

The Taman Medan assemblyman said the state’s burden will lessen once the residents become aware of their own rights and responsibilities as private house owners under the law.
The Building and Common Property (Maintenance and Management) Act requires house buyers to set up a joint-management body (JMB) with the developer for the proper maintenance and management of buildings and common property.

The law states the JMB must be formed 12 months after the developer has delivered vacant possession of the property to the buyers, to enable them to set up their own management corporation.

“The problem is because the residents don’t want to set up their JMB. They don’t understand that setting up a JMB is to their benefit,” Haniza said of the Maju Jaya flat owners.

She added that the residents’ association was also unregistered, which compounded the problem as nobody now was willing to pay for the upkeep of their homes.

She said the owners could not be fully faulted either because the high-rise housing law was only approved on April 12, 2007 while the problems had continued to stack up over the years.

It began when the developer submitted the plans and the local authorities approved them without looking at the design, the lawmaker said, adding the state was trying to correct the problem at the source but that it would take time.

“In order to do things right, the state has to act first and help educate them. We have to give it a try and see how successful it is because it’s a pilot project,” Haniza said.

Her idea to teach the occupants how to take pride in and care for their homes involved only a fresh coat of paint, she told The Malaysian Insider, adding she had got sponsors for the job, but then her project was taken over.

“To me, it’s just an upgrade of the flats so it looks nice. Why it’s called urban renewal, you have to ask Latheefa [Koya],” she said, passing the buck to the MBPJ city councillor who is also PKR’s information and legal bureau chief.

A lawyer, Latheefa is one of the chief movers of the Selangor urban rejuvenation project, alongside artist-turned-social activist Wong Hoy Cheong.

She did not respond to The Malaysian Insider’s repeated attempts to contact her for clarification.