The MPPP has 22 acres of land at Jalan S P Chelliah, which it could use for public purposes.
From what I understand, the Penang state government wants to use half of this land for low- and medium-cost housing. Perhaps it is keen to improve its record on providing LMC housing in the face of sustained criticism by the BN. Few could argue with any attempt to provide affordable homes.
Earlier reports had suggested it wants to build 1320 homes in this area.
But a few questions arise:
- Are we talking about 120 units/acre here, as earlier reports had indicated? If that’s the case, then 11 acres would be needed to build 1320 homes.
- Can the supporting infrastructure – roads, drainage and sewerage, public spaces – cope with such high density in the absence of decent public transport?
- Will the land be sold to a developer? Or will PDC build the houses? Who keeps the profits from the sale of the homes? The PDC or a private developer?
- Is this project in any way related to the Spice deal, which arbitrarily allows higher densities (like 120 units/acre) elsewhere and for the state government to provide the land for LMC homes? Or will the land be sold to a private developer for the provision of LMC housing?
- if the land is going to be sold, will there be an open tender for the sale of the land/construction of the homes?
- Have alternative MPPP sites been considered e.g. the Expo site and along Perak Road?
- What is the crime rate at the existing block of low-cost flats at Jalan S P Chelliah? Is it affecting the value of home prices there?
This is MPPP’s last significant prime land/green lung in the city. The provision of LMC housing should be weighed against the other important need of providing much-needed green lungs in the city – especially after much of the coastal land reclamation rights were sold to developers on the cheap. Even LMC housing needs open spaces for recreation.
In line with CAT, shouldn’t the MPPP be holding a public consultation to seek public views on what the land should be used for?
As a side note, in the 1960s, before local elections were suspended in 1965, the George Town City Council, then controlled by the Labour Party, used to build its own low-cost flats for the lower-income group to rent. The City Council was also the first in the country to elect its own President and City Council. Do you know, the City Council even engaged in a major engineering project to build the Air Itam Dam in 1962! Where have all our public funds gone?