The benefits of a two-coalition system can be seen as rival politicians try to do something for the long-neglected low-income residents of Rifle Range.
The Penang state government has completed a RM400000 refurbishment of 170 homes in the 16-storey Blocks E and J in Rifle Range. It is then subsidising the rental to the low-income group. Instead of the usual RM250-300 rental, the residents need pay only RM90. These homes were once used as army quarters until the personnel moved out in the late 1990s.
The state government has also spent another RM200000 in refurbishing another six blocks in Rifle Range. The state is being assisted by the Master Builders Association, under its CSR project, in these efforts. It costs RM10000 to repair each home.
After years of neglect, BN politicians have responded by dangling a carrot to the residents of Rifle Range:
One of the big problems in managing high-rise low-income flats is the lack of maintenance. This was one of the key points raised in the eight-point Plan of Action put forward at Penang Forum 5.
Responding to this, the Penang state government held its usual Local Government Consultative Forum last Monday, which focused on precisely this issue: maintenance of high-rise dwellings. At this forum, participants learned that poor maintenance was indeed a huge problem in some places.
To compound matters, the local councils face severe constraints in overseeing the situation. For instance, the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) has only eight staff, one officer and a director to monitor 948 high-rise schemes on mainland Penang!
The forum, chaired by Chow Kon Yeow, felt that the office of the Commissioner of Buildings, presently held by the Council YDPs, needed to be considerably strenghtened if this problem is to be tackled effectively. Also, there are funds available at the federal and state levels, but to take advantage of these, effective mechanisms need to be introduced. Meanwhile, people are waiting to see what the Strata Management Act will hold.
One of the main problems is that in quite a few low-income flats, many residents are in arrears with their maintenance fees. One participant made a pertinent observation: the problem, he said, was one of poverty and this needs to be addressed. After all, he noted, high-rise dwellings occupied by those who are better off generally do not have the same problem of collection of maintenance fees.
Another area that has to be tackled is housing for migrant workers in the state. Are their employers so interested in maximising profits that they are willing to cram their migrant workers into houses and flats that are clearly not designed for that many occupants?