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Thursday, 24 May 2018

(NST) Q&A with new Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin


PUTRAJAYA: Pakatan Harapan in its manifesto has promised to improve the country's housing policy which includes having a special housing loan scheme to enable youths to own their first homes, aside from promising to bear maintenance fees for low-cost housing.

Newly-minted Housing and Local Government (KPKT) Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said she was committed to upholding the promises made in the PH manifesto, although the sector was not included in the top 10 main manifestos which the ruling coalition said it will fulfill within 100 days of it coming into power.

NSTP journalists Nur Lela Zulkipli and Arfa Yunus recently spoke to the minister, who is also the Ampang Member of Parliament, at her new office, here.

Q: What is your latest plan for the ministry at the moment, especially within the first 100 days of PH becoming the government?

A: In the PH manifesto, the housing sector was not included in the top10 main manifestos for the first 100 days. However, after being briefed by senior officers, I am now determined to propose to the Cabinet to rearrange all housing projects, including those which are being handled by the Prime Minister's Department, to be placed under one area as soon as possible. This includes the 1Malaysia Housing Programme (PR1MA) which is still being completed. PR1MA is not under my ministry but actually under the Prime Minister's Department. I feel that it should be placed under one ministry because the end goal is the same, which is to help the people. In fact, if PR1MA is placed under the ministry, we can review the mechanism and if there's a need for upgrade, that's what we will do. Aside from PR1MA, we would also like to look into the effectiveness of the People's Housing Project (PPR) and the Youth Transit Housing (MyTransit). We want to ensure that all home owners deserve such aid. We could also save cost when all housing agencies are placed under one umbrella and the savings can be channelled to the people. In a way, PH's promise to build one million houses can be realised immediately.

Q: In terms of implementing affordable homes, what new plans are you proposing?

A: Efforts to improve the people's lives is our priority although we are aware that we would be facing many challenges like changing the mentality of those from the low-income earners group so that they would know how to manage a good housing environment. This is part of the manifesto and everything offered is within our capability. We believe that our effort of placing all housing agencies under one umbrella can be realised under the National Affordable Housing Council, which was introduced by PH, who will monitor all the works. This council will be tasked with monitoring the construction of affordable housing, coordinating the database and to arrange a self-renting scheme for the B40 and M40 groups. For example in Selangor, there are low-cost houses which are now being upgraded to medium-cost housing.

Q: What about concerns on the difficulty for the people to obtain housing loans?

A: We noticed that there is a need to review the housing programmes thoroughly in order to find the most effective way of creating affordable housing prices. In fact, I had discussed with the Economic Affairs Minister (Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali) on this, where he said Bank Negara must be more relaxed with their loan requirements. However, there must be a win-win situation where both the banks and buyers gain benefits.

Q: How do you plan to tackle the problems surrounding PPRs, which lack maintenance?

A: I am very concerned with the low-income earners because most of them are renting in PPRs to save money. But problems like inefficient maintenance is a never-ending issue. After years of witnessing this problem myself, I plan to place the PPR management under the local authorities (PBT). Previously, they were managed by the Joint Management Body (JMB). We want those with low-income to enjoy a comfortable life. The PBT will take over the JMBs’ role until

PPRs are able to find another body to take care of them.

Q: What do you think of problems where PPRs are dominated by foreign workers?

A: Based on my observation, foreign workers live in PPRs because they want to save money on rent, and as such, a single unit is occupied by many people. This issue must be resolved immediately by forming a special unit to look into this. We will create a system to register all foreign workers who are renting at PPRs. By doing this, we will be able to monitor and also improve the residents' qualify of life.

Q: Any other improvements the KPKT is looking to make?

A: We are studying the role of the Fire and Rescue Department. They are among the first to arrive at a scene and have proven their capability in handling many problems. However, there are not enough fire stations nationwide. Data shows that Malaysia only has 500 fire stations and to ensure safety of Malaysians, we are in the middle of proposing to increase that number.

Q: Ministry works aside, did you ever imagine that you would one day become a federal minister?

A: I never even thought of becoming a Member of Parliament, much less a minister. But I view this as a mandate given by the people to improve their lives. This is a huge responsibility and I have to perform my duty in a transparent manner. God willing, I will be able to perform a better job than my predecessor.