Do you know what 87 units per acre looks like?


Is this what we want for Penang? This is the sort of density that could be approved for a string of new projects in the pipeline.

This is what a typical city block would look like based on 87 units per acre - Graphic: Penang Forum

This is what 87 units per acre looks like (click on graphic to enlarge). The Penang Forum Steering Committee showed these images to the Chief Minister during their meeting with him last Sunday in a bid to illustrate what is in store for Penang.

Can you imagine how our roads will cope – especially when the independence of traffic impact assessment reports is suspect? At the moment, a separate TIA is required for each new property development project. (These are usually prepared by consultants hired by the developer. Independent?) But what is really needed is an independent collective TIA for all new property development projects coming up in a particular area to measure the overall impact on traffic in that area.

And yet, new projects across the Island are seeking approval for 87 units per acre – this is close to three times more than what was previously allowed.

Places like Jelutong and Kelawai Road could eventually look like this:

Graphic: Penang Forum

I doubt if this sort of high-density development was ever envisaged in the Penang Island Local Plan, which the MPPP approved in 2008. If at all there is provision for higher density, it would be in areas which are deemed to be transit nodes. But where are the transit nodes? How can we even think of such high density without the public transport infrastructure in place?

That is why the Penang Forum called on the Chief Minister to implement the much-delayed Penang Island Local Plan.

The Chief Minister responded by saying that the Special Area Plan for the George Town heritage area has to be completed first so that it doesn’t conflict with the Local Plan.

There was some discussion about whether the implementation process for both plans could be done simultaneously.

In any case, as the SAP process is close to completion, the Penang Forum Steering Committee called for the Local Plan to be expedited as the situation is urgent.

If the argument is that higher density projects are needed for affordable housing, we have already seen quite a few high-density projects. Do you really think that high-density projects will translate to more affordable housing – or will it simply result in increased profits for developers?

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anil, your website now nice lah, i did not log in for a long time.

87-units per acre……….rumah sarang lebah, sarang tebuan, not even rumah buring merpati. Lim Guan Eng…is this what we get voting you?


Actually it does look nice if they add some skybridge here and there, hanging garden and balcony for each unit. Too small unit? Ikea have lots of idea for small apartment, Hey, can we have some positive side please?


Saya tunggu developer offer saya harga tinggi untuk tanah saya di kampung melayu di Bayan Baru,dekat Bukit Jambul. Lepas dapat duit besar boleh saya bersara di Permatang Pauh dengan senang lenang!

Lim BC

What do you expect from a person who think other are brainless, no brain etc and only his idea will work. These people will always says that the state gvm should do this and that but do they know the implication or not? Why is the problem if developer make huge profit? Other people also make huge profit, the char koay teow fellow also make huge profit. It it market driven, if the house or unit is not sellable, do you think the developer going to build more? These people want the state gvm to act according to their wishes.… Read more »


I am fed-up with those irrelevant comments from Eu Soon that is flooding this blog. Totally useless and miss the point.


I’ve stayed in a 150 units per-acre development before…haha..(not in this country). Its not ideal, but not too bad…the bottom line is actually the size of your private space. So if your apartment is 700 sq. feet – similar to a medium-cost Penang apartment, it won’t feel much different living there. It helps if you have a clear view out of your window…..The city I was in had opted for high-density construction, with compulsory open spaces in between, which is actually effective for a quality of life viewpoint. Takes good, comprehensive overall town planning, though. The cleanliness and the upkeep… Read more »

semuanya OK kot

For capitalism, development is hardware development, not the development (upliftment) of society. Here, hardware means infrastructure, real estate and factories. Capitalists cannot make any progress without client or partner authories – fascism.



High density development need not to be necessarily high rise, there are good examples of low rise, high density development in other countries but of course it needs certain amount of political will to do that. If you have time, I suggest you to read Defensible Spaces by Oscar Newman page 21 (pdf page 27)
and Myths & Facts About Affordable & High Density Housing by California Department of housing

Ong Eu Soon

If you take an isolate view on 87 units per acre. For example the College Heights at Bukit Jambul, you might not feel the intensity. But if the surrounding development also at 87 units per acre, then you will feel the density. If you want to see a real example take a look at Tent city of Boston, the whole areas are of 85 units per acre. You can take a satellite view from google map to see how bad is the density. Mind you that Boston has a better public transport then Penang. Ever image how many transit station… Read more »


Don’t use irrelevant example like Boston to compare to Penang.

This is really irrelevant and really misleading.


Since Ong (he share the same name as I do (in english) of course, whoops! cat is out of the bag) wanna compare Boston with Penang, how about Kowloon Walled city then

Lagi better!

Sze Tho

Wow Ah Soon, trying to impress us by listing all the stations? Thanks but we can google it too. In regards to Bkt Jambul, how many floor are the blocks? If the infrastructure and amenities are sufficient for the residents, why not/
You claim to be able to “feel” the density by looking at the google map. Thats quite amusing.

Ong Eu Soon

The example of 86 unit per acre in Penang is College Height at Bukit Jambul. The land area of College Heights is 9.25 acres with total dwelling units of 795.


something is terribly wrong with your graphic. i did a 75units/acre scheme in pj few years back and still have enough for a football field, (slightly smaller than international standard)

Sze Tho

Agreed. Despite all his good work, I think Anil should relook the graphic above. It is not reflective of the 87 unit density that he has been writing about. Anyone who has stayed in a condo can see that it is a distortion. I stayed in a condo in OUG, with 3 tower blocks (21 storeys each) and we had 2 pools, a tennis court, a separate badminton hall, over 80 open parking lots (this are in addition to the 1-2 covered lots per unit). If the graphic was meant to illustrate a point…it needs to be reasonably accurate to… Read more »

Sze Tho

Please read the above comments and accompanying calculations, Anil. It clearly spells out why the graphic is inaccurate. It is a poor excuse to just say it is a take off from an existing low cost project. Look at the graphic: it has 33 floors with about 16 units per floor. Thats 528 units per block . The points raised by a few other readers has not been addressed. If a graphic projection is to be used, then be accurate about it. To each his own in regards to opinions, but lets be fair and not give a distorted picture… Read more »


Sze Tho, Everybody has their own agenda. That includes Anil. Reminds me of a recent parliamentary debate in singapore when Slyvia lim use Bhutan as a comparison for happiness as basis of debate. I believe anil is open enough to accept rebuttal. I hope that anil would also admit he’s wrong if that’s true. Otherwise, it makes no difference than BN if he doesn’t Frankly, there must be a tradeoff. There is no utopia. One can’t turn back time. We have to make do with what we have Like I say before, why not have a mixture of residential commercial… Read more »


Anil, why dont u google taman medan cahaya in pjs 2/2, pj. 1512 units of lowcost house built on 19 acres of land complete with sewerage treatment plant, play ground, football field, and a detached surau.


Put another 1 or 2 blocks on top of each other and there you have the football filed and other recreational land


Soon it will look like Darth Vader’s helmet of Star Wars (as proposed for Penang Hill Railway Sation) but with a flat top for the convenience of sucide jumpers who eventually cannot pay their Maxed-Up Home Loans of Wannabes of Rich & Famous Lifestyle.
Soon, Penang will just look like Macau from HK shores but with super condos of 100 storeys and tightly packed for the sardine-minded. From a far, they will look like joss sticks for the Pray, Pray No Disasters of greedy developers & Daily Pray, Pray For Rain Money of the rainy green horned speculators.

Ong Eu Soon

Should we have a high density development? We can have development density high as 87 units per acre if the development is a transit oriented development with the goal to provide housing and transportation choices that give residents access to homes, jobs, recreation opportunities, stores, and community services to meet their daily needs, without having to rely on a motorized personal vehicle. This has the long-term result of increasing the quality of life and reducing the cost of living for residents, lessening the environmental impacts of development, and reducing transportation and energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It should have plans, policies… Read more »


Dont look right.
1 acre = 43560 square feet.

87 units on landed would mean each plot is 500 square feet.

That is not too bad considering most landed terrace house now only have about 1400 square feet of land. Someone double check my math.

Ong Eu Soon

You don’t need to have car park, open space and space for community amenity. Don’t confuse plot ratio with development density. Development density is about the limit of population ratio in relation to the provision of public facilities, such as transport, utilities and social infrastructure.


Ah Soon Koh, that’s commonsense. But in the dizzy minds of money-to-grab in Serengeti Property Chase, who would want to use commonsense? Not even if we will soon be living like packed sardines or Kolkata slums. The days of unsustainable development and high inflationary trends are not years or decades away, but in the next tomorrows. We are still smarting (alec) ourselves trying to compare with the sardine-packed living of HK, Singland or Sardineland of high incomes with the self Ego-boosting or self deceptive affirmation of miraging a metropolitan style of self aggrandizement of GaGas. With job prospects for the… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Gerakan to sue LGe over sPICE. The land use of PISA is gazetted asopen space for recreational and sport. Gerkan is questioning why a Hotel, a commercial entity is allowed to build at a land which is gazetted as open space for recreational and sport. How LGe going to defend his administration in Court of law over the allegation that the sPICE deal contain the elements of cronyism and nepotism? How is LGe going to defend his move to build a Hotel on a land which is not mean for commercial use? The sPICE is also the main culprit that… Read more »


Isn`t PISA for commercial use

Ong Eu Soon

It is about the piece of land for the hotel that has been gazetted as open space for recreational.

Monyet King

1. The graphics are exaggerated. 87 units per acre will look much less dense than what the graphics potray. 2. You asked whether we want to be like Hong Kong ? Your choices are limited. Let’s look at population growth – the population of Penang is growing. [note : Malaysia’s populaiton is increasing by about 500,000 per year]. All these people will have to be fed, sheltered, clothed, educated, and eventually employed. Where and how are we going to house all these people given that Penang has so little land left. Unless of course, the state government tells everyone to… Read more »


Anil’s idea is simple. Shoo those Johnny comes lately to mainland & leave the pristine Penang with those who planted the flag much much earlier. Perhaps, that’s the only way

Of course, you can revert to rental system but then be prepared to have slums because there is no incentive for people to maintain them.


P.S : I am not discrediting Anil’s ultimate motive. But we do not live in the utopia country. Plus, you can’t find one policy to satisfy every single person

Ong Eu Soon

According to Penang Island Structure Plan, the permissible maximum density for primary development corridor is 30 units per hectare (less than 15 units per acre not 30 units per acre as most have assumed ) while for secondary development corridor is 20 units per hectare (less than 10 units per acre not 20 units per acre as most have assumed). The reason why the development density is so low is because the island has limited space for road system development. We need to lobby for a mandatory Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for all properties development to act as an enforcement… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Based on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EAI), the state government should come out with the Environmental Impact Report to justify the decision it made regarding the properties development approval. Only then will we be able to see Competency, Accountability and Transparency in practice.


In KL, 40 per acre is considered low density, in prime area, this is for the luxurious segmnent. In land scarce penang, if you what FDI, no doubt population will increase as jobs opportunity rise. If singapore and HK are doing 250 per acre, how long can you hold off increase in density? People want to live near the nucleus, so either they have to pay a ridiculous amount of money or accept higher density. Not ideal, but then what is the alternative? Look at Ipoh, you will love the low density there… but would you like Penang to be… Read more »


Yes, the key word is what is the alternative for Penang island for low density low cost development?

Better take up the Batu Kawan offer before the price go up.


Perhaps, what state government should is to decentralise CBD? Have some light industries near those area. Minimise on the travelling time. Penang can’t afford to have seperate area for residential & commercial. That would alleviate travelling time
Come to think of it. Some works can be done at home too. of course, Anil prefer the good old days.

400 years ago, Penang is a barren land. We should vacate everybody out of the island. Just make it a heritage island

Ong Eu Soon

Why we have so many problems with the Heng Ong Huat administration when come to development issue? It is because the CAT is stand for Condos, Apartments and Towers not Competency, Accountability and Transparency.

Ong Eu Soon

We need to lobby for a state planning policy that provide the basis for controlling the site and design of residential development throughout Penang. The state planning policy should have a map to designate the applicable zone and residential density coding for individual site. The density coding outlined should provide the permissible maximum development densities under various circumstances of land use permitted in particular zones. The maximum density permissible or permitted shall not exceed the density permissible under the density rating system, or applicable policies contained in the future land use element. In fact, the MPPP should lessen density or… Read more »


Seems like many Penangites (& future Penang born babies) prefer to stay on the land scarce island. To do so high density accommodation will a reality with high rise buildings close to each other. So what to do now ? Don’t be lured by developers that island is a better place to live and then take a 2-generation loan to pay for RM500K-RM750K (a norm now) condo. Go check out the mainland and get a cheaper alternative there. Can always come over to Penang Island to meet your friends for street food there; and money saved could be used to… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Welcome Ong Eu Soon 王佑舜 to Anil’s blog. Another Mad Ong is emerging!

Ong Eu Soon

Hi … You simply use my name 王佑舜. Beware that the soul of my great grand ancestor might enter your body. You may have a symptom that show muscle ache particularly at your left hand side, chest pain and pain in the inner part of your arm…. When you do, I am not sure whether I can help or not. Hee…Hee… Hee…

Gopal Boboiboy

Ah Soon
Cursring is as bad as hatred only create bad karma.
I think every ancestor having ascended to heaven (or worse descended t #@^%) would testify that we ca clease our souls if we love our fellow bros n sis.
Cheers to the bright future of Penang !

Ong Eu Soon

I did not curse that is what happened to me!


Good say…long live Penang main land…if you want busy and pigeon hole lifestyle, go island, if you want serene, relax and more green, go mainland….i always like the contrast, like Shanghai Pudong and Puxi. Personal opinion, you can’t have all in one place, from the viewpoint of architectural student, mainland for residents(passive), island for work and business(active) or the other way round, waterfront for public amenities(not always for the rich), all zone with pocket parks, all connected by a public transportation loop and branch to move the people, simple idea. Too many empty expensive unit bought by the rich, but… Read more »


If you want public transport – MRT, then its likely unavoidable. HK density is as high as 250 per acre. Singapore’s housing even public housing near the city is already the there for a few years already.


How doee 87 unit per acre compares to Singapore & Hong Kong?


Have you thought maybe, potential wise for much smaller Penang, you would be lucky to live like Singapore and HK?


I know we are not on par. But I think it’s a good model to benchmark against. If PG need to be 87unit per acre, then we need those transport systems

Sze Tho

Dear Anil, can the Penang Forum Steering Committee clarify the term 87 units per acre? Does it mean 87 individual units or 87 tower blocks? From your illustration, it looks like 10X4 = 40 apartment blocks which would be incorrect and misleading if it was the former. A typical condo configuration has 12-20 units per foor. Meaning a 15 storey block alone would have 180-300 units, or 2-3 tower blocks per acre. I also find it strange that on one hand, there is criticism of about the high property prices, and yet demands that density not be increased. Land is… Read more »

Sze Tho

Lets be realistic Anil. You want guarantees? If you maintain density level, and the price of the land rises, prices are guaranteed to rise even more! Bear in mind, pricing is determined partly by costs, but even more by demand. If you reduce density ,that means less supply on a given acreage. Since you mentioned profits, lets look at that too. At the end of the day, these are commercial ventures, meaning profits are a major consideration. there is no avoiding it, unless you want to regulate developments to the point where none will occur. Let them build, but make… Read more »


Want to be like kota kemuning etc is it? Allocation of amenities space ke?

Aiya, we know all the developer tricks la. MPPP also know but they all buat bodoh and go along ma.

And, the prodeveloper CM? I bet he even teach them what to do la to get approvals. Or is it the other way around — hmm… sama sama enjoying the game of fooling the people. Got trophy what… just you watch me, KTK… i lebih pandai o!


There is no easy solution to this! You can have 2 cakes & eat it at the same time. If that’s possible, the current Penang born Singapore National Development Minister, Khaw Boon Wan would not such big headache downsouth Anil, So how what’s next then? Still low density buildup. But still property prices would still go up Lest you wanna nationalise the entire Penang property so that all Penangites can stay in those houses every 1/2 year or 1 year. Anil, Anyway, I do agree that Penang should improve on public transportation. Who controls transport policy now? Though the state… Read more »

telur dua

The only guarantees in life are death and taxes.

Prices go up and down due to supply and demand. The demand for housing and other resources keep increasing in tandem with the population.

We do have plenty of land where a developer can build cheaper, but not in Penang. Just drive along the PLUS Highway and look left and right. But who wants to stay there?


Do you know anything about property economics? Lower prices with higher density? Who built for lower prices? The economics of property development in open market means that you need at least some rise in prices in order for growth in units built. If prices fall, unit built falls. Penang is a private property market, govt don’t own much land. Can’t happen to increase supply in declining prices.

Sze Tho

Dear Anil, again i think you have misread and misrepresented what has been said many times. Lets make this clear: 1)the increase in density is to help mitigate the increase in land/construction costs, thereby mitigate (not eliminate) any price increase, not miraculously create “affordable” housing. Affordability is very subjective. How much do you think is affordable? Back to basics again… and demand. 2) Your assertion that the gov is giving away reclamation rights “at a song” is somewhat puzzling. Have you forgotten it was a tradeoff for the SPICE project and associated works at PISA? 3) What alternatives do you… Read more »


Its all relative. Higher density slows down the increase in prices not lower it. If you take all the reclamation project possible in Penang, it won’t add up to more than 5% of its land. Reclamation is expensive, there is no way Penang govt can reclaim land and hold it without huge surpluses. Reclamation must be for the rich and Penang is lucky to be able to do it. Its silly to talk about reclamation and housing for the poor or even middle class. BTW. I don’t own property in Malaysia and don’t like the sector in fact. I can’t… Read more »


BTW, I was wrong. Singapore highest density is already close to 300 unit per acre. Duxton Place, public housing, is actually 298 per acre. What you are talking about is just average of Singapore, on a smaller land mass. Just not realistic.

Ong Eu Soon

The permissible maximum densities are stated in The Penang Island Structure Plan. It seem like the Heng Ong Huat administration doesn’t give it a damn. Why we definite the permissible maximum density and subsequently ignore it? Control of residential density is a fundamental component of effective land use planning, as the relative distribution of population has major implications for the provision of public facilities, such as transport, utilities and social infrastructure. We need the density control to preserve the residential character of an area and to have regard to any limitations posed by the local street system or other infrastructure.… Read more »


you see when Ah Soon becomes more gentle (minus the hatred) his reasoning may be more positive in the making.
so we hope Ah Soon throws away the hatred so that he can also roar like a king kong to bring positve impact to the state n nation.


Concur with Ah Soon Khor about provision of facilities. But wanting to get rid of a new state government which is only 3 years out of 60 years of in grained culture by Gerakan/MCA/UMNO. Just look at UMNO spending time on sex and sex. Rome, Beijing, Toa Payoh, Jurong Town or Tuen Mun are not build in 1 day. People like Yang wanted affordable housing but Penang Government is not like LKY’ PAP Government. PAP Government has money that can bury all of us. Now even Sinkapore, HK and even China’s houses are not cheap and affordable. People in Beijing… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

I only believe in 2 party system. The one can’t perform get lost! You only believe in 1 party system. ie. PR. BN must die! LGe has 5 years, but never learn! Test for 5 years, die 5 years. Try another term die forever!


You really believe that PR state government really in charge right now, And really given the free hand to carry public transportation policy

Why Brunei never join Malaysia?


More than 80% on Ah Soon’s list are not the responsibility nor jurisdiction of the local authority. Ah Soon probably doesn’t know even bus routes in Penang must be authorised by Putra Jaya. He thinks a state in Malaysia has the same power and financial resourses as any state in USA or Australia.


MCA/Gerakan Government has given more than 50 years to perform and now is the other party’s turn. If Ah Soon Khor thinks PR is not doing the job over 3 years with all the EXCOs are rookies and greenhorns, then Ah Soon Khor MUST stand for election. Ah Soon Khor is just ranting the planning acts but what solution? Transport and Rapid Bus are controlled by Federal UMNO/Gerakan/MCA. The same goes with the the taxis. Just look at the Bus Station at the Ferry Terminal. The Ferry is run by the UMNO Government run Penang Port Commission and they do… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Are you trying to tell us that the decision to increase the development density to 87 units per acre is done by KTK or UMNO not LGe?


If you have low-density development on a land-scarce Penang island, then the price of the housing will be very high. In other words, the 99% cannot afford to buy, only the top 1% can buy.

Do you want Penang to be resided by the rich and famous only?

Lu pikirlah sendiri. Get real.

p/s: so far what is the alternative plan by BN/3rd Force on low-density, low-cost, yet sustainable housing development for Penang? Its seems like a mission impossible as they are quiet on this matter all this while.


The problem now is that even with a higher density the developer are not building and selling any cheaper house. The developer is using this loop hole to build and sell more to further enrich themselves. In fact they are not even building any more low cost unit. They are selling a 150K house in the guise of a 72K unit and with an even lower built up area. Example 685 sq ft selling for 145K.


you should highlight your plight to that gaji-buta housing minister chor chee heung.

Dragon King

This had been questioned by the media in Q&A at press conferences over the years. The Housing ministers & deputies had always answered “It all depends on the market forces” which means if there are demands the prices will keep going up! The government has passed the responsibility of housing the ra’ayat to the private sector not like years ago where the government takes responsibility. Remember those Rifle Ranges flats, Free School Road flats, Sungai Pinang etc. Actually what is the housing ministry for? We have abandoned projects by developers that can get away with it, poor quality material used… Read more »


When one buys a property, one should be discerning.

SP Setia & its subsidiaries will be view with suspect in all their new projects on the island.

I do not think they will & can sell their units unless those are specifically meant for low cost projects.


The prices of Penang’s properties (built, newly built and to be build) are getting more surreal by the days, how to get real? And by the look of surreal demands singing along surreal developers’ pricing rationalisation (even with given free land reclamation rights), who in their right cranial voids will get real? I would rather say it out loud that speculative, opportunistic greeds are in the play. Why the sudden madness in Penang’s property market in the last 2 years as if surrealist artist Salvador Dali has resurrected to paint a rosy surrealism painting of Penang Property Chase. Partly the… Read more »


Saljit made a good point in a very concise manner.

The rest of the comments below are mostly from frustrated people who let their emotions take over their sense of logic.


Yes, only Saljit’s comment made sense as the majority of the rest cannot cope with the harsh reality and simple economics.