The trilemma of Affordable Housing; Governments Vision, Developers Offering and Rakyat’s Aspiration

Whenever affordable housing is mentioned, it seems that it is indeed a National Agenda. It looks like we want to find a permanent and sustainable solution; reality check, we are far away from the solution. In fact, it is getting more complicated and complex. So, where did we go wrong?

Is it a case of Developers and Government being ‘ethnocentric’? Trying to shove down so called ‘solutions” which they believe to be right?

Trying to provide and enforce what they perceive is correct?

Or, should we take a step back, think and plan collectively with inputs from the ‘demand’ side, in order to deliver what is ‘aspired’, ‘demanded’ and ‘craved for’ by the intended recipients. We should go back to the roots, start all over again in a more rational way.

When we say ‘affordable’ housing, whom are we targeting? What is the definition of affordable? Definitely not only focusing on the price, though the weightage on price is definitely large and huge.

The demand side for affordable housing is very heterogenous, that’s a fact. The ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ of these different segments (strictly referring to first time home buyers) varies. New graduands, those who have just started family life, middle aged working groups with growing children, and those who have grown up children are among the segments of the buyers.

There is a significant difference to ‘owning a home’ and ‘buying a house’ – have we thought about these differences?

Owning a home is one of the biggest dreams if not THE biggest for everyone. No matter how you look at it, either from the western concept of Maslow or the Islamic view point of Maqasid Al Shariah, owning a home is fundamental. It is able to accelerate and facilitate other goals, such as a happy family, having better mental and physical conditions which will lead to higher productivity etc.

Owning a home is for ‘habitation’ and developing and nurturing families, while buying a house could be for investment purpose or as a ‘hibah’ or gift. People who intend to own a home have different expectation from those who intent to buy a house. Those who intent to own a home thinks about comfort, conduciveness, peace and calm etc, while those who buy a house think about the return on their investment.

Before even planning and developing affordable houses, inputs from the ‘demand side’ such as location, type of houses, expected infrastructure, arrangement and placement of rooms, dining hall, kitchen, even toilets needs to be considered. Developers need to consider the home owners’ needs and wants with a 70% weightage on their needs, and 30% on what is desirable.

A simple analysis of which segment is the majority in the area and expected to ‘purchase a home’ in future projects, needs to be conducted and analysed.

If we fail to plan, we plan to fail, and in another 20 years, we would be talking about the same thing.

By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Baharom Abdul Hamid

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