Saturday, 28 February 2015

(The Star) HGS akin to guaranteeing developers’ profit

The first question the Government needs to face is why does abandonment of housing projects take place? The root cause is the lack of and lax in enfocement of existing laws.

The National House Buyers Association (HBA) is deeply concerned that the Government proposes to set up a Housing Guarantee Corporation (HGS) purportedly to protect buyers and housing developers in the event of abandonment of housing projects by developers. What is more worrying is that the loss caused by abandonment is to be incurred by the Government. The Government will hold 70% equity in the HGS while the balance is held by private funds i.e. Rehda and government-linked agencies such as the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Tabung Haji.

Lax and lack of enforcement

The public who rely on legislations are often let down by the enforcers. Any law is only good on paper and will continue to remain in our archives unless the existing laws or whatever revamped “for the protection of house buyers” are used to their full capacity. The problem with enforcement is not because of the lack of laws but because of the lack of or lax in enforcement. Enforcement programmes must be organised and must be implemented.

We have Section 10 of the Housing Development (Control & Licensing) Act 1966, where it is stipulated that the minister may direct the controller or an inspector to make investigation (under condition of secrecy investigate the commission of any offence under this Act or investigate into the affairs of or into the accounting or other records of any housing developer) if he “has reason to believe” that the housing developer in question is carrying on his business “in a manner detrimental to his purchaser’ or “has assets insufficient to meet his liability”.

This section is further enhanced and amplified with the inclusion of Sect 11 (Powers of the Minister to give directions for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of purchasers) and Sect 10A (Power of entry, search and seizure) and all safeguards and safety nets under the legislation. The minister and his ministry have wide-ranging powers to intervene and salvage a “sick project” and to offer “treatment to provide cure”.

However, just look at the number of abandoned projects which emerge as a dire financial picture for naïve and innocent buyers. Individuals and the community are being harmed by the lax in enforcement and monitoring mechanism.

Misguided Concept

The Housing Ministry having attributed to developers’ abandoning of housing projects, now takes it upon itself to rehabilitate the abandoned housing projects, all at the taxpayers’ expense. The Housing Ministry’s Housing Guarantee Scheme (HGS) simply means that the matter is taken to another level in making the Government go further in ‘teaming-up’ with developers.

This is clearly a case where the Government has been ill advised or, to put it plainly, misled by business groups with vested interests on how to tackle the problems of abandoned housing projects which they caused themselves without any expense to themselves. The saying that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” certainly holds true for the proposed Housing Guarantee Corporation (HGC). It will not solve the problem of abandoned housing projects but will increase them exponentially. HGS will also not solve issues that relate to shoddy workmanship, sub-standard materials, timely delivery and a host of other problems which one has to encounter with errant and wayward developers.

The setting up of the HGC will be seen as a “licence” for developers to recklessly launch new housing projects in huge volumes regardless of its viability. The most-talked about case is where a developer launched over 9,000 housing units simultaneously a few years ago as the norm. Going forward, developers know that they can abandon the projects should things turn bad for whatever reason and the HGC will take over the project and “mop up” the consequences of abandonment. It will be a clear example of “Profits Privatised – Losses Nationalised”.

Gambling house buyers’ monies

Housing Developers will be encouraged to gamble with house buyers’ monies through the progress billings under the current sell-then-build system only to abandon the project at the earliest sign of trouble. This will result in a big increase in cases of abandoned housing projects throughout the country and will pose a huge strain on the HGC and, ultimately, the Government and taxpayers while the housing developers laugh all the way to the bank.

This ill-conceived HGC is not the solution to minimise abandoned housing projects. The only way to minimise abandoned housing projects is when developers have to use their own money and not house buyers’ monies (under the sell-then-build system) in order to complete a housing project. When people use their own money, they will be more careful.

This ill-conceived HGC will face all the same problems to revive abandoned housing projects, that is to deal with so many different parties, namely house buyers, end-financiers, bridging financiers, insurers and all of which have different objectives and interest.

Built-Then-Sell (BTS 10:90) concept

Under the BTS 10:90 concept mooted by HBA, the bridging financier can immediately take over an abandoned housing project without having to deal with so many parties and the task of reviving the project will be much easier.

Under the BTS 10:90 concept, the developers will walk away empty-handed should the project be abandoned as the developers will only have access to house buyers’ funds when the project is successfully completed. Under the BTS 10:90 concept, should the project be declared abandoned and the developers had taken a bridging loan to fund construction cost, then the developers’ financiers can take over the project, and it will not involve any public funds.

The BTS 10:90 model as proposed by HBA is the solution to minimise abandoned housing projects as under the BTS 10:90 concept, the developer must use its own monies or borrow from banks to launch and successfully complete the housing projects. Under the BTS 10:90 concept, the developer will suffer the most if the housing project is abandoned. Hence, the developer will do all it can to ensure the project is completed on time.

But first some questions:

> Why burden house buyers with payment of premium of between 0.5% and 1% (of the house price or the loan amount) when the benefits of lower risks accrue to banks and developers who bear no upfront cost. Is this not another case of hitting innocent purchasers to spare developers?

> Invariably, a tax payer unable to afford to buy a house is actually funding a house buyer to own a house? Does this make sense to you?

> Who will ensure the interest rates charged for home loans by financial institutions will be reduced for this scheme?

> House prices have shot through the roof. Why the additional cost to buyers whose affordability is already severely constrained?

> Why should the Government fund the scheme but house buyers still have to bear extra cost?

> What are the pre-conditions that must be fulfilled before HGS is activated? Will there be a continuing set-back for victims of abandoned housing projects?

> Is there a need for additional public funds with layers of bureaucracy and headache just to buy a livable house?

> Isn’t the proposed HGS seen for what it really is – an exit door for errant developers? The errant developer will wind up the company and its directors will go scot free by hiding behind the corporate veil, something which happens too rampantly. Then, the HSC is left to deal with another abandoned project. Isn’t this another form concocted as false protection for house buyers?

> Is the Housing Ministry mindful of the news headline “Korea Housing Guarantee Receives Massive Bailout” in 2001? It was reported in the Chosun media on May 31, 2001 that the government and creditor organisations decided to inject a total of 1.84 trillion won into the Korea Housing Guarantee Corp, which has tottered on the brink of insolvency, to put the state-invested housing guarantee firm back on track.

The South Korean model which has been touted by developers as the way to go has to be studied thoroughly. Maybe there are now robust checks and balances in South Korea for the protection of house buyers from unscrupulous developers.

The minister and his ministry should engage all stakeholders before making a decision. What is good for South Korea may not be good for our country.

Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation manned by volunteers.

(The Star) Only 3% take-up rate for CIDB quality assessment system

KUALA LUMPUR: The Quality Assessment System in Construction (Qlassic), which is expected to be compulsory for all development projects including residential and commercial projects in line with the 11th Malaysia Plan next year, had a take-up rate of only 3% last year.

Take-up rate is the percentage of development projects that have been assessed by CIDB Malaysia using the Qlassic method.

It is used as an oversight of the domestic construction sector to assess and evaluate the quality of workmanship of building projects based on industry standard.

Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia chief executive Datuk Seri Dr Judin Abdul Karim said that the method was intended to raise the quality of development in Malaysia.

“To-date, a total of 1,000 housing projects by small and big developers have been assessed using the Qlassic method,” Judin said.

CIDB Malaysia’s technology division senior manager Sazali Che Amat said that last year 272 projects implemented the method out of 5,000 projects that were being developed, compared with 160 projects in 2013.

“This year we are expecting 300 projects to be evaluated,” Sazali added.

Judin noted that big developers were seeing the necessity to implement the system in projects.

“Big developers such as MK Land Holdings Bhd, Sime Darby Property Bhd, I&P Group Sdn Bhd and IJM Land are making it a practice to get their developments assessed for quality,” he said.

Yesterday, MK Land Holdings Bhd inked a memorandum of understanding with CIDB Holdings Sdn Bhd to use Qlassic in its housing project.

CIDB Holdings is a subsidiary of CIDB Malaysia.

MK Land executive chairman Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar said that to-date 13 projects developed by the group were using the system.

On another note, Mustapha said generally property prices were expected to increase slightly after the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

“Property prices may increase slightly by 2% to 3% after GST and would normalise when the market is ready for it,” he said.

(The Star) More affordable houses will be built to give groups a chance to own homes

BENTONG: More affordable houses will be built to boost home ownership among the low and middle-income group here.
Bentong MP Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said this was one of the efforts taken to raise the standard of living of locals.
“We are now identifying suitable locations for the PR1MA (1Malaysia People’s Housing programme) projects,” he said during a Chinese New Year gathering with residents at Batu Satu flat and Taman Gemilang here.
Liow, who is also Transport Minister, said that long- and short-term plans were being drafted to ease traffic congestion in the town.
“Bentong is congested during major and long holidays as the Karak highway is used by those going to Raub, Kuala Lipis as well as Mersing and other places in Kelantan.
“I have asked the local council to look for solutions to improve the situation,” he added.
Liow said one of the alternatives was to connect roads in the housing estates so that locals need not use main roads.
Another option, he added, was to upgrade and expand the Karak–Mempaga road, which also leads to the east coast states.
“Many people are reluctant to use it because of the poor condition.
“So, we are looking into improving this road to give more options to motorists,” he said.
During his one-day trip to his constituency, Liow also attended several other gatherings in Sungai Pejuring, Taman Bentong Makmur and Bandar Bentong.
The MCA president also gave out ang pow to the elderly and children.
“It has been a tradition for me to celebrate this festival with the people in my constituency. “Every year, I will go from one village to another to meet them,” he added.
Later in the day, Liow watched a Chinese cultural show performed by members of the Yunnan Vocational College of Culture and Art with hundreds of Bentong folks.
The show, which was jointly organised by the Culture Ministry of China and Chinese Embassy in Malaysia, was to raise funds for SJK (C) Ketari.
The audience was entertained to a variety of cultural and acrobatic shows incorporating traditional elements from the minority tribes in Yunnan, a province in southern China with some 25 ethnic groups.
Liow was also invited on stage to assist a magician during a show and later pledged RM30,000 to the Chinese primary school.

(The Star) Network solutions that go the extra mile

NUSAJAYA: Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB) has signed an agreement with Edotco Malaysia Sdn Bhd (edotco) to deliver solutions to mobile network operators in EduCity here.
Under the agreement, two new telecommunication towers will be built to enhance the 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile coverage in the area.
This move benefits students, teachers, universities, schools, business owners and other mobile communication end users in the area.
IIB president and CEO Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said that the partnership would create the best possible environment for everyone living, studying and working in the vicinity of EduCity.
“The added features such as lamp poles to serve students at night will indirectly enhance safety measures within the areas,” he said.
Syed Mohamed added that the new towers would also be consolidated to avoid duplicating mobile network infrastructure in Nusajaya and added that there was also a plan to erect a third structure at the EduCity Sports Complex soon.
Meanwhile, edotco group CEO Suresh Sidhu said that this collaboration affirms its drive to encourage network sharing and reduce the overall environmental impact of towers.
“We are committed to focussing on initiatives such as energy management technologies and innovative engineering to improve operational efficiencies and better serve our customers,” he added.

(The Star) Launch of attractive and budget-friendly houses

KUCHING: Hock Seng Lee Construction Sdn Bhd (HSL) will launch its new Bayu Jingga II double-storey terraced houses at Samariang Aman 2 here this weekend.
The award-winning developer, a wholly-owned subsidiary and property development arm of Hock Seng Lee Bhd, expects an enthusiastic response given its strong sales in the area.
Named after the cool breezes and peaceful ambience of the location, Bayu Jingga II is a follow-up to the recently sold-out Bayu Jingga, Bayu Ungu and Bayu Biru houses.
Samariang Aman 2 is located on 99-year lease, mixed-zone land with convenient access via the new Bako-Demak link road and the future riverine loop road linking Matang, Samariang and Petra Jaya.
It is adjacent to Samariang Aman, HSL’s top selling 642-unit residential estate which previously won the prestigious Sheda Excellence Award for Outstanding Development – Residential Landed Development in Sarawak.
The double-storey terraced houses released for sale this weekend are budget-friendly and attractively designed, featuring practical layouts with quality materials and contemporary finishes.
The spacious four-room homes have a walled-up area of 1,522 to 1,548 sq ft with land sizes from 4.2 to 10.4 points.
With only 44 units available, customers are advised to check in early with HSL’s sales team to have a choice of lots.
HSL is offering free legal fees on sale and purchase agreements and memorandum of transfer. Its sales consultants can also provide advice on housing loans.
They will be at the Safari show home in Samariang Aman 2 from 10am to 4pm daily in March.
For more information, call 019-8887 979 (Angie), 019-8272 755 (Khairul), 012-8889 494 (Farah), 012-8082 186 (Shawn) or go to

(The Star) Eco-friendly features

Kinta Properties Sdn Bhd delivers another residential development project in Bandar Baru Sri Klebang with the launch of their Abby show houses.
This project is the latest addition to the group’s 263ha master plan for the proposed township, located in the Grand Retreats 2 community.
Group marketing manager Leong Mei Yee said each unit was designed with a well-defined al fresco area to be shared with family members and loved ones.
“We offer a spacious living area including a powder room and a defined courtyard space with eco-friendly features throughout each house.
“These features include solar water heating, rainwater harvesting, large windows for natural lighting and ventilation,” she said during the show house launch.
Distinct layout: The spacious and comfortable show house living room.
Distinct layout: The spacious and comfortable show house living room.
Apart from that, Leong also said a comprehensive three-tier security system has been put in place within the community to ensure that residents are well looked after.
“There are close-circuit televisions, secured perimeter fencing and security guards patrolling around the area.
“It is only called a home when one feels safe and secure, and this is what we wish to provide to our buyers,” she said.
Leong added that the houses are close to the Centro Recreation Centre, located in the heart of the township.
“A 25m swimming pool, gymnasium, driving range, tennis courts and a cafeteria are available at the centre.
“It is ideal for our buyers to lead a healthy lifestyle here,” she said, adding that schools such as SJK Poi Lam and SK Klebang Jaya are also within close proximity.
The Grand Retreats 2 comprise 96 units of the Abby two-storey semi-detached houses, with a built-up area of 2,780 sq ft and a lot size of 40’ x 80’, due for completion February 2017.
The area will also have 100 units of single-storey detached homes (Aster), two-storey detached homes (Amber) and two-and-a-half-storey detached homes (Alder), which were launched last year.
The group also held a Chinese New Year open house in conjunction with the launch.
There were performances by a 24-season drums troupe and lion dancers as well as lucky draws and trucks serving food and beverages to guests.

(The Star) Natural hot springs site to be upgraded

Perak will soon add another feather to its eco-tourism cap with the Lubuk Timah Hot Springs recreational centre set for an upgrade.
Located near Simpang Pulai, it is a hidden gem and its waters were once used for tin mining in the early 20th century.
The reservoir may have long silted up, but water still flows over the dam on both sides, forming two waterfalls further in after two serene pools of natural hot springs.
Managed by Pusat Rekreasi Lubuk Timah Sdn Bhd, its chief executive officer Datuk Wira Mohd Yusoff Kassim said it was their wish to develop the place to cater to more visitors and eventually earn a place in the Perak tourist destination map.
“During peak periods such as long weekends and school holidays, we receive around 1,000 to 1,300 local visitors and foreign tourists from as far as China, Japan and Korea.
Walkabout: Dr Zambry (right) taking a stroll along the riverside with Mohd Yusoff (in white).
Walkabout: Dr Zambry (right) taking a stroll along the riverside with Mohd Yusoff (in white).
“I hope that the state government could assist us financially in this aspect so that we have the means to serve visitors better,” he said at a press conference during the official launch by Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir at the centre recently.
Wira Mohd Yusoff also said the management is looking to add more public amenities such as chalets, hostels, a multi-purpose hall, restaurants and a children’s playground.
“We have already begun the first of four phases for building chalets and we expect all construction phases to be done within the next five years.
“It would cost up to RM20mil to achieve our goal and once it has been achieved, we are expecting more than 2,000 visitors to come in and enjoy the beneficial qualities of our hot spring water,” he said.
The centre currently has six chalet units ready for use.
Entrance fee to the centre is RM3 per person and RM1.50 for children and senior citizens.
People with disabilities (OKU) enjoy free admission.
Also present during the launch were the centre’s managing director Fadzil Datuk Wira Mohd Yusoff and Kinta district officer Tarmizi Abdul Manap.

(The Star) Own a hotel unit with breathtaking view in Port Dickson

Amanari at Tanjung Tuan in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, will be the best choice for those keen to invest in a hotel unit.
The project features a rare double bay formation, which showcases an extraordinary landscape with golden sandy beach at a bay, and white sandy beach at another bay.
Scheduled to be completed in 2018, the project covering a total area of 2.02ha (5 acres), is developed by Tian Hong Holdings Sdn Bhd, with 327 units up for sale out of the total 630 units in the project.
Tian Hong Holdings’ chief executive officer (CEO) Lee Lisaid Amanari promises buyers isolation, privacy and serenity, in addition to having a magnificent backdrop of a crystal clear serene sea.
He explained that investors would be granted the land ownership title deed and the rooms purchased would be managed and rented out by the hotel operator.
He said one of Amanari’s highly anticipated feature was its eco-friendly master plan, which creatively incorporated elements of mangrove trees, sea water and terraced fields into the building design.
“With the starting price from RM741,900, this prestigious development features an award-winning eco-friendly hotel design with fully furnished suites boasting a breathtaking and unobstructed views of the landscape as well as private landscaped balconies.
“The hotel includes comprehensive spa and wellness facilities surrounded with lush green forest which will provide a calm and serene ambience.
“In addition, the ballroom can accommodate up to 500 seats with an unmatched panoramic view overlooking the sea,” he said.

(The Star) Penang seeks public feedback on RM3mil upgrade of 100-yr-old market

The more than 100-year-old Campbell Street market, being one of the oldest markets in George Town, will be upgraded at a cost of RM3mil.
State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the Penang Women Development Corporation (PWDC) had been appointed as the agency to carry out a survey from the public and traders on the project.
“The survey is to obtain public feedback on the proposal of the upgrading works.
“There will be four stages in the survey and it will be conducted in four languages namely Bahasa Melayu, English, Chinese and Tamil,” he said before launching the survey at the market in Campbell Street yesterday.
PWDC will hold the survey from March to June.
Chow said the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) would also conduct its own survey to obtain public feedback.
The survey started yesterday and will be carried out until the end of April.
Among the upgrading works proposed are the repair of the market’s roof, to rearrange and upgrade the interior, to upgrade the piping and drainage system and others.
PWDC board of directors committee member Dr Cecilia Ng said the four stages of the survey were census, focus group discussion, dialogue with the community and detailed planning of the project.
There are 52 licensed traders operating at the market currently.
The market is located within the buffer zone of the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site and is a Category 2 heritage building.
Campbell Street market was built in the 1900s on a piece of land which was formerly a Muslim cemetery.
The Municipal Commissioner bought the land in 1899 for the purpose of building a market.
It was reported on Feb 18 that the market would be closed for upgrading works in June.
Tanjong MP Ng Wei Aik had said that the market would be closed for 18 months.
He had declined to reveal further details about the project.
Ng however, had said that there was a proposal to develop the market as a major tourist destination, with the heritage aspects of the place being retained as the site is located in the George Town heritage enclave.

(The Star) 300 households oppose conversion of carpark in PJ

Residents of Taman Mayang in SS25, Petaling Jaya, have objected to the conversion of a multi-level carpark in Jalan SS25/24 into a warehouse as it would aggravate traffic congestion.
SS25 Taman Mayang Rukun Tetangga (RT) chairman Chan Chow Wang said about 300 households have expressed their disappointment that the owner of the carpark had been allowed to misuse the building as a warehouse.
“The residents are irked that Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) had allowed this to happen,” he said.
Chan recently handed a memorandum and a petition on the issue to MBPJ.
He said the signature campaign would continue until it had the support of all 500 households in the neighbourhood.
“Under the Uniform Building Local Council By-Laws, the developer was required to provide sufficient parking bays for the 14 shop-offices approved under the Development Order (DO). The conversion to a warehouse is against the original DO approval and action must be taken to revert it to the use it was meant for,” he said.
On Oct 16 and Dec 22, last year, StarMetro had highlighted the issue and it was reported that the closure of the multi-level carpark had aggravated the parking shortage in and around the SS25 commercial area.
SS25/24 RT assistant treasurer B.H. Quah said the multi-level carpark was much needed and its closure had exacerbated the situation.
“There is an obvious shortage of carpark bays along Jalan SS25/22, SS25/35 and SS25/24. MBPJ must be decisive and issue an order to the owner to revert to the original use of the building,” Quah said.
On Oct 16 last year, MBPJ Urban Planning Development director Sharifah Marhaini Syed Ali had said based on complaints, the council’s site supervisors had carried out an investigation and found that the building had been misused as a warehouse.
She added that under Section 70 (12) of the Road Drainage Act 1974 (Act 133), the operator had been told to cease all activities and would be given time to remove all the goods.

Friday, 27 February 2015

(The Star) Rooms and features that offer customisability for buyers

Tucked amid lush greenery and limestone hills near the Gunung Lang recreational park, Gunung Lang Development Sdn Bhd is poised to woo Ipoh folk to its new Teak Villas project.
At the launch of its show house units located in Lang Valley, the company’s general manager, Deric Loo, said construction for all 62 units of its double-storey guarded terrace house had begun last December.
“Around 30% of our units are already snapped up, and the project is expected to be completed by May 2016.
“Each unit is perfect as a family home, as we offer an open floor plan that makes it ideal for your own design, and a beautiful view of the greenery in the yard.
“Our bedrooms are also large enough for buyers to create a comfortable and relaxing private space,” he said at the event recently.
Loo said one of the noteworthy features of the house was the suite-like master bedroom.
“It is a room within a room, where the rest of the space can be used as a mini home theatre, study or even for a baby crib.
“It is up to the buyers on how they wish to utilise this space,” he said.
Loo also noted that there would be a new 30m-wide access road connecting the Lang Valley area to the North-South Expressway soon.
“We are planning to launch our mixed development project at the new access road in the near future.
“It will comprise commercial, residential and recreational space on a plot of land measuring more than 5 million sq ft.
“This would be ideal for residents living around Lang Valley as it caters to their needs and wants,” he said.
The Teak Villas terrace house units have four bedrooms with attached toilets each, with a built-up area of 1,850 sq ft and a lot size of 22’ x 70’.
It is a gated and guarded community, with a central monitoring system and closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) installed.
During the show house opening, which was held in conjunction with Chinese New Year, guests were treated to a buffet spread and an appearance by the God of Prosperity handing out ang pow.
The event also saw lion dance and dragon dance performances.

(The Star) Explore Perak and Selangor while treasure hunting

Discover Malaysia through a treasure hunt from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh organised by The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).
The treasure hunt, which will be held on April 18 and 19, is aimed at promoting domestic tourism in conjunction with Discover Perak and Discover Selangor 2015.
“The route will go through less-used roads in Selangor and Perak so that participants can discover small, out-of-the-way spots and little tourist treasures.
“Unlike most other treasure hunts, it is not time-based. The point is not to rush from one place to another but for participants to discover the hidden gems that are in these two states,” said MATTA president Hamzah Rahmat.
The participants will be flagged off from MATIC in Kuala Lumpur and travel to Kinta Riverfront Hotel, Ipoh.
They are encouraged to do research on the history of the heritage sites for a stronger chance to win up to RM3,000 as well as consolation prizes such as air tickets and hotel vouchers.
“There will be riddles related to heritage locations in Ipoh and KL for participants to solve along the way.
“This will require them to do some homework on the places beforehand.
“Safety will be given priority throughout the treasure hunt route and we will be enlisting marshals along the way.
“Each car is restricted to four adults and families with children are welcome to enter, too.
“We will also provide transport for disabled participants who are keen to take part as we want this treasure hunt to be accessible to all,” Hamzah said, adding that it was open to locals and foreigners.
Registration fees are RM600 per car, inclusive of accommodation at Kinta Riverfront Hotel.
Closing date for registration is April 3.
For details and registration, visit MATTA or call 03-9222 1155.

(The Edge) KL office market vacancy rate drops due to higher domestic demand

KUALA LUMPUR: The average office market vacancy rate in Kuala Lumpur was at 12.8% in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14), a decrease from 15.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) due to higher domestic demand, according to Jones Lang Lasalle Property Services Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s (JLL Malaysia) property market monitor for January 2015.

“[As for the office] rental market, the average rental rate is stable as most of the supply comes after 2Q15, vacancy is expected to marginally increase due to more office lettable area supply,” JLL Malaysia country head YY Lau told The Edge Financial Daily.

In 4Q14, the average gross asking rents for prime office buildings within Kuala Lumpur increased to RM6.20 per sq ft, a 3.5% rise y-o-y from RM5.99.

According to JLL Malaysia, a total of two million sq ft of Grade A office space is expected to be completed by 2015 within Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the developments include Naza Tower @ Platinum Park by Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd offering 506,000 sq ft of net lettable area (NLA), which is targeted to be ready by April this year; Ilham Baru Tower by IB Tower Sdn Bhd offering 394,000 sq ft of NLA; and Summer Suites and Versatile Office Suites by UEM Sunrise Bhd offering 540,000 sq ft of NLA.

All the developments are located within the Kuala Lumpur City Centre vicinity.

(The Star) The jet-set world of pre-flight retail

Budget travel has already revolutionised the industry, but technology is bringing even more innovations.

IN this day and age where travel is a given, it’s no surprise that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it expects global air travel to grow significantly this year. Much of this growth will happen in South-East Asia. In Malaysia, it’s not an under­statement to say that budget travel has revolutionised the airline industry.

AirAsia, and to a lesser extent Firefly and Malindo, are spearheading the country’s foray into this multi-billion ringgit industry.

With more airline choices than ever before, the onus is now on airports to cater and provide for the increase in passenger traffic. I know I’m late to the party, but I finally got a chance to visit KLIA2 this week.

Boy, was I impressed. Passengers can be forgiven for thinking they are at a shopping complex, not an airport.

KLIA2 is actually a mall set in an airport, or maybe the other way around. The sheer number of retail, food and service stores is simply amazing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to explore the airport (it probably would have taken me the whole day) as I had an AirAsia flight to catch to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

Which brings me to a question. As a relatively frequent traveller, I think it should be a given that free WiFi is a must at any sizeable airport.

International travel, with additional security measures in place, dictates that travellers must be in the airport three hours before a flight.

Passengers are spending more time at airports than ever before and while it’s good that passengers have access to a variety of shopping options in KLIA2, it’s also important that they have access to free WiFi.

I’m glad to say that KLIA2 has free WiFi. However, this service is only available for an hour upon your first online registration. In contrast, WiFi is free for three hours at KLIA.

Clark, a much smaller airport, has free WiFi, period. No time limit.

A quick check online will show you the availability of free WiFi at our neighbours in Changi, Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok (two hours).

Personally, my first rule of travelling is to stay connected – at all times. Hence, airports that provide free WiFi are high on my list of service providers.

Next on my list is access to electrical ports/outlets. Not all airlines have ports to charge your phones and iPads, so it’s important that airports provide enough of these at strategic locations.

The one thing I noticed at KLIA2 is the amount of walking one has to do to get from check-in to immigration to the departure gates. It’s probably the most I’ve ever walked at any airport.

It would be helpful if Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) builds “walkalators” to help people move around more easily.

MAHB does provide free buggy rides but should increase the number of vehicles so families travelling with children and senior citizens will be sure to get a seat.

I know that KLIA2 was built as an upgrade rather than a replacement for the old LCCT terminal but in terms of facilities, there is definitely room for improvement.

The one thing that irritates me as a traveller is hidden airport costs.

At Clark, departing passengers are charged 500 pesos for airport and another 100 pesos for security taxes.

Back home, the airport tax or Passenger Service Charge (PSC) is added to your ticket price and paid to Malaysia Airports.

I can understand passengers paying a tax to use airport facilities, but charging them for security is a little bit over the top.

I am looking forward to using my smartphone on a plane soon.

The days when the flight stewardess will tell you to switch off your phones before takeoff will be over because technological advances will allow WiFi to be available 30,000ft in the air.

Another advance that travellers can look forward to is to choose who you sit next to. Networking can be taken to greater heights because passengers of Malaysia Airlines will soon be able to choose seat-mates based on social media profiles – mile-high dating anyone?

Another innovation has already been put to use at Narita Airport in Tokyo. Location-specific alerts enabled by nearby bluetooth sensors will buzz your phone to let you know how long it will take for you to reach your gate.

Closer to home, we can look forward to more shopping malls at airports. MAHB will open the Mitsui Outlet Park in May, just 6km from KLIA.

Mitsui will be the largest factory outlet shopping mall in South-East Asia and together with KLIA and KLIA2, it will form the future airport city called KLIA Aeropolis – a hub for aviation, aerospace and logistics.

Executive editor Brian Martin believes that the recent move by certain airlines to do away with the fuel surcharge will further spur travel in the region. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

(The Edge) Trinity Aquata in Sg Besi to be launched in April

KUALA LUMPUR: Trinity Group Sdn Bhd will launch its Trinity Aquata condominiums in Sungai Besi in late April, said the group.

The project, which has a gross development value of RM270 million, will come up on 3.58 acres (1.25ha) of freehold land, said the group in a recent statement.

The development will comprise two blocks, each of them 26-storeys of 492 condo units on top of six storeys of parking lots, which will be linked by a landscaped bridge.

All the units will feature three bedrooms and three bathrooms, with built-ups from 1,179 sq ft, and each unit also comes with its own balcony.

Trinity Aquata has a three-tier security system that includes a panic button within each unit.

The project will feature 16 facilities which allow water to flow freely through seven water-effect zones, while residents can also entertain guests at the vivarium and sky terrace provided.

Trinity Aquata is accessible via the Besraya Highway, Kuala Lumpur-Seremban Highway, Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) and Maju Expressway.

While the project is not officially launched yet, it is currently open for booking.

An artist’s impression of Trinity Aquata. Photo by Trinity Group