Dr Sim, Chong cross swords over affordable housing in Sarawak

Dr Sim (left) listening to Chong's question about housing prices in Sarawak during the DUN sitting today (May 25, 2022).

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, May 25: The median house price of RM326,500 in Sarawak does not take into consideration affordable houses developed by the Sarawak government, says Minister of Public Health, Housing and Local Government Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian.

He said the 2020 statistics by Khazanah Research Institute is purely based on houses built by private developers, thus, are irrelevant and cannot be equated with affordability and affordable housing.

He also explained that commodity prices in Sarawak are generally higher compared with prices in Peninsular Malaysia due to logistics and transportation costs.

“Furthermore, in West Malaysia, they have the economies of scale and size of the housing projects. Thus, housing price in Sarawak is generally and slightly higher than the national median house price which is RM326,500 versus RM295,000 based on 2020 statistics,” he said.

In terms of affordable houses, Dr Sim said the Sarawak government has 2,800 units at different stages of construction while the Sarawak Premier set a target of 2,500 units of affordable housing with a price range of RM90,000 to RM160,000.

He said the Sarawak government had also, over the years, introduced schemes like Spektra Lite, Spektra Medium, Putera, Housing Deposit Assistance Scheme (HDAS) and financing through Mutiara (Mutiara Mortgage and Credit Sdn Bhd) with low interest rates ranging from 1 to 3 per cent.

“In summary, our housing policies are very resilient to the housing market (sic) and have been affordable to the rakyat,” he said when delivering his ministerial wind-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

Dr Sim, who is also the Batu Kawah assemblyman (GPS-SUPP), was answering a question by Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) which the latter had raised.

While Dr Sim was addressing housing issues raised by the Kota Sentosa assemblyman, Chong requested to interrupt and inquired about the Sarawak government’s plan to lower the median house price in Sarawak.

Dr Sim did not answer Chong right then, but informed Deputy Speaker Dato Idris Buang that he had prepared an answer to Chong, but will be read out later in his speech.

“My answer (to YB Padungan) is coming. He (Chong) is jumping ahead all the time. I have the answer in my speech, but later on. He (Chong) is very impatient, trying to get to his press conference already,” said Dr Sim.

Undeterred, Chong stood and protested that Dr Sim was imputing improper motives with his statement that was “uncalled for”.

Idris replied to Chong: “I didn’t quite hear that one just now.” Dr Sim was then allowed to proceed with his speech despite discontent from the opposite bench.

Chong (top left) standing to speak up against Dr Sim (top right) and Idris in DUN today (May 25, 2022).

Following the adjournment of the sitting today, Chong held a press conference in the media room of the Sarawak DUN Complex, accusing Dr Sim of having no intention to try to lower the prices of houses in Sarawak.

“His (Dr Sim’s) reply shows that this government (led by Gabungan Parti Sarawak) has no intention whatsoever to try to lower prices of houses (in Sarawak),” said Chong. — DayakDaily