House buyers pay for open space

Posted on 23 May 2012 - 05:07am

DATUK M. Kayveas is right in saying that there are officers of local governments (Bernama, May 21) who throw their weight around and think that they are above the law. Our long experience with the local government in Sungai Petani over the open space in Taman Intan speaks volumes of this.

There are officers in the Sungai Petani Town Council who believe that open spaces in housing estates, when handed over to them by developers, become the property of the local government. This belief is wrong. What is handed over to the local governments is not property in the open spaces, but the responsibility of maintaining them.

Open spaces in housing estates are a requirement of the law. For each house in a scheme the developer is required to provide an open space measuring 326.7 sq ft. This is about 10% of the area of a housing scheme.
Where the scheme is small and the 10% of its area may not be big enough for an open space, the developer has to make an equivalent value monetary contribution to the local authority.

The open space land is not free. Somebody has to pay for it. The developer would have paid for it. He must therefore recover the cost of the land which he has paid for but on which he cannot build houses or roads or drains. From whom does he recover the cost? Surely not from the local government to which he is said to "hand over" the land as open space.

The open space is part of the infrastructure (others being the roads, drains, water mains, electricity and phone cables, the power substation, street lights, sewage treatment plant, etc).

The cost of all these infrastructure is factored into the cost of the houses. Thus each house buyer pays not only for the land on which the house stands and the cost of building the house, but also proportionately for all the infrastructure including the additional 10% of the area of his plot which will become part of the housing area's open space.

It is therefore indisputable that the ownership of the open spaces in housing estates belongs to the house owners while the local authority to which it is "handed over" is merely a manager responsible for its maintenance.

The local authorities' responsibilities are the same as that of the management corporation (MC) of a high-rise. In the latter case, the developer hands over the common property to the MC set up under the law for the management of strata title properties.

In housing schemes (with the exception of gated properties) there is no similar MC and hence the responsibility of managing the open spaces is placed on the local authorities.

The local authorities are also wrong to think that before the open spaces are gazetted, they can do anything with them. On this premise, local councils are known to delay gazetting the open spaces and Taman Intan is one example.

Though the Town and Country Planning Department had told the Sungai Petani Town Council to gazette the Taman Intan open space about two decades ago, the proposal was submitted to the land office only in 2010 and there is still no news from the land office about the progress of the gazetting process.

Over the years, the council has given permission to developers to build roads in the open space, something which the original developer was not permitted to do. If this is not abuse of authority, what is it?

Ravinder Singh
Taman Intan Residents
Sungai Petani