By Chieng Chui Chee is Research Analyst (Intern) at Institut Masa Depan Malaysia.
The social housing issues affecting houseowners of the People’s Housing Project (PPR), particularly in the Klang Valley, necessitate holistic and comprehensive approaches to make sure that the residents could take full charge of cleanliness and facilities in their respective housing areas.
The National Housing Policy 2018-2025 outlines that PPR projects are implemented mainly to assist low-income groups to own homes and improve their quality of life. Although most of PPRs feature a variety of facilities for dwellers’ comfort and convenience such as children-friendly facilities, kindergartens and playgrounds, community halls for social gatherings and special occasions, suraus and disabled facilities, they have yet to fulfil the purpose of an ideal living.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in line with Target 11.1 emphasises that everyone has the right to equitable access to a safe community, basic services and upgrading of slums. To achieve this goal in Malaysia, we must first address those issues around residents’ poor living conditions and facilities. Of course, this only calls for strong will and consistent monitoring on the part of PPR residents themselves and the relevant authorities as well as the respective local authorities.
A recently published report entitled “Decent Shelter for the Urban Poor: A Case Study of PPR,” by Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) highlighted the poor state of facilities and management issues in PPR, including insufficient maintenance and poor repair works that resulted in broken lifts, outdated designs and poor construction quality. All these would only create uneasiness among residents, especially the elderly, disabled and the handicapped who live on high floors.
Some outstanding issues surrounding PPR housing projects primarily stem from the mindset and behaviour of the residents themselves who are often seen as neglecting their shared responsibility and commitment in taking care of their own housing areas. Such an attitude often leads to problems such as indiscriminate throwing of garbage and parking in common areas.
The pathetic attitude and hazardous acts of throwing trash, even bulky items from windows and those reported cases of injuries and deaths due to such irresponsible acts, had made headlines. This needs to be stopped – with gradual shift in dwellers’ mindset to ensure sustainable, liveable, safe and clean environments.
The unhygienic condition of a PPR housing in Johor Bahru was recently brought to light by the Johor Sultan who had urged for improvement and cleanliness in low-cost housing areas. The urgency for PPR dwellers to kick such an attitude is real. They should be made to understand the concept of harmony and liveability of their respective areas and the importance of protecting the space above their head for an upward social mobility.
In order for cleanliness and safety in PPR housing areas to be managed, the National Cleanliness Policy (NCP), introduced by The Housing and Local Government Ministry in 2018, needs to be relooked as the NCP aims to help residents turn waste into cash while ensuring well-maintained and environmentally sustainable PPR housing units.
Some irresponsible PPR residents have also resorted to constructing illegal partitions within the small area of their unit which they later rent out to students and other tenants. This irresponsible act of maximising their earnings out from the property must be halted. Hence, monitoring by the relevant authorities is inevitable to put a stop to such an act.
The move by the government to compel prospective PPR houseowners to attend a civic engagement course to create awareness and understanding about community living and neighbourhood etiquette, is timely. Only when they understand their responsibility should they be allowed to collect their house keys.
The local authorities should implement an annual review mechanism, including regular house-to-house inspections to put a stop to illegal partitioning and ensure that PPR housings are utilized effectively to benefit the recipients.
Open communication channels must be established to facilitate regular discussions, information sharing and solution proposals between residents and their respective association members.
Active resident associations play a crucial role in organising community and other ground-up events, workshops and capacity-building programs that could foster social cohesion, a sense of belonging and address specific issues like unhygienic condition and poot maintenance. These could help initiate change in the mindset of houseowners for a better living condition in such housing areas.
Implementing a neighbourhood monitoring program with strong intervention and support from the Joint Management Body (JMB) of the PPR housing will enable residents to collaborate in monitoring and resolving safety concerns, encouraging vigilance and community safety efforts. Through these collective efforts, residents can at least minimise the problems they face in taking care of their respective housing areas. Public participation is, indeed, essential in creating a safer environment within PPR housings as no initiative can be successful without consistent and active involvement of the communities themselves.