Soi Lek's Penang housing issue 'perverted logic'

Chua Soi Lek is the one who should stop misleading the people by lying about low-cost housing in Penang to divert attention away from the BN’s own failed housing policies.

During the second debate between MCA president Chua Soi Lek and DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng last Saturday, Chua attempted to belittle the achievements of the Pakatan state government by rattling off a string of untruths and wild accusations.

In a tirade about the lack of affordable housing in Penang, Chua declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be misled. There is no low-cost housing built by the state government from 2008 to 2010.”

Chua made this accusation not once but twice, repeating the same thing during his closing remarks, in which he also said that due to “limited land, escalating land costs, no low-cost houses built from 2008 to 2010… the poor in Penang will be slowly and surely squeezed out, I tell you.”

It is almost unbelievable how he has failed to understand simple facts. As Lim Guan Eng explained both during the debate and numerous times before that, the Penang government has, since assuming power in 2008, built 3,806 units of low-cost and low-medium cost homes. These units were built through the state development arm, Penang Development Corporation (PDC).

Besides the 3,806 units built since 2008, the state government has announced an additional 18,000 units to be built in every corner of the state, including 1,320 units to be located in a 6.9 acre plot of land along Jalan SP Chelliah in the heart of George Town to cater for the housing needs in the city.

Also in the pipeline are 12,000 units of affordable homes that will be designed by leading international consultant, Surbana (formerly known as HDB Corporation).

By arguing that the state government did not technically build any houses per se, Chua is guilty of fact-twisting. If this logic is accepted, then the federal government cannot claim any credit for homes built by agencies such as Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Berhad. What kind of perverted logic is this?

I am sure Chua knows this simple fact, but I do not blame him for trying to divert attention away from the fact that the dire housing situation in Penang is in fact a direct result of 50 years of failed policies by the BN government.

The fact is, the state government has no choice but to take ownership in the provision of affordable housing because the system has failed to do so.

The shirking of responsibility by the previous government by arbitrarily imposing low-cost housing quotas on developers without actually understanding the needs of the market and without regard for a proper mechanism of ownership and maintenance has resulted in sub-standard housing and worse, pockets of gaps all over the state due to supply not matching demand.

It is for this reason that the state government of Penang has taken active steps including allocating an unprecedented RM500 million for an affordable housing fund that will be used to meet the people’s needs for good quality and affordable housing.

Chua rightly said in his debate that “MCA has been involved in nation-building from day one”. If that is the case, it is no wonder that we have inherited so many intractable problems. As such, it is Chua who should stop misleading the people by lying about low-cost housing in Penang to divert attention away from the BN’s own failed housing policies.

ZAIRIL KHIR JOHARI is the political secretary to the DAP secretary-general.