The Unesco heritage listing has had a side-effect: people are snapping up shophouses, driving up the prices to ridiculous levels, in the process altering the economic, social and cultural landscape of the city.
Speculative interest in the Unesco listing – together with developers focusing mainly on high-end condos and homes elsewhere in the state, low bank interest rates, and “quantitative easing” in developed economies – has contributed to soaring prices in the state.
See this report in The Star:
By JOHNNI WONG
THE cost of buying a pre-World War II shophouse in George Town, Penang, has reached RM2,000 per square foot — equivalent to the price of the poshest Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) condominium units.
An entrepreneur, who declined to be identified, has just paid RM4mil for a 2,000sq ft shophouse along Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street) in order to continue an existing business located on the premises which she had been renting.
Before 2008 — the year George Town was jointly listed with Malacca as Unesco World Heritage Sites — pre-war shophouses in Penang were generally going for about RM200,000 to RM800,000 depending on size and location.
In 2009, an unrestored shophouse of 10ft by 36ft in Lorong Chulia only cost RM150,000, but the asking price has since jumped to over RM300,000 of late.
Now, the asking price of even the smallest shophouse that spans only 11ft by 30ft in Lorong Toh Aka is already RM600,000.
Nearby, in Lorong Carnarvon, one unit of 17ft by 100ft has been sold for RM1.2mil, while Lebuh Amernian shophouses can fetch RM3mil each.
Full report here.
As George Town becomes gentrified, the effects are all round to be seen. Local businesses and communities are giving way to a galaxy of boutique hotels and trendy cafes increasingly priced out of reach of locals.