The Penang government has defended its move to evict residents from 22 units at the Taman Manggis government rental flats.
State executive council member on housing Jagdeep Singh Deo said the move was necessary as such rental units are in short supply.
He reiterated Penang had the least number of People’s Housing Project (PPR) units available for rental in the country.
"The waiting list for such rental units continue to grow, whereby the waiting list currently stands at 1,137 units throughout Penang," Jagdeep said in a statement today.
He cited data for the north-east district, saying that there were 734 applicants on the waiting list, with 494 applicants for Taman Manggis in particular.
The majority of Taman Manggis applicants have been on the waiting list for seven years (271 applicants), while some have been waiting for as long as 10 to 11 years (22 applicants), Jagdeep added.
"We have to be firm to be fair to those who have been on the waiting list all this while," Jagdeep said.
Jagdeep pointed out that although action was taken against 22 cases in Taman Manggis yesterday, its execution has been postponed until March 6 for them to vacate their units.
He said those who feel they have valid reasons to refute their ineligibility to rent such units may submit an appeal to the Housing Department to be considered before the said date.
He was responding to allegations from residents who claimed enforcement officers had forcefully driven them out of their homes yesterday without giving ample time to find alternative housing.
Located at the junction of Jalan Zainal Abidin and Jalan Burmah in George Town, the 18-storey low-cost flats, measuring 650 sq ft each, is home to 320 households.
Jagdeep said regular audits on the eligibility of tenants in public housing rental schemes will be carried out.
He said this was in order to make units available for applicants on the waiting list.
Jagdeep said the usual reasons for tenants to lose their eligibiity for such schemes is by defaulting on rental or maintenance payments.
They may also become ineligible “when their income increases and exceeds the income cap allowed for them to access such rental units.”
Those who are found to have married foreigners or own property will also risk losing their units, he added.
The exco noted that he had introduced a committee to review such cases three years ago.
"I had decided that since 2016, before any action is taken, their respective cases have to be referred to a committee that will decide on action to be taken, which is chaired by me," Jagdeep said.
Since 2016, the committee has sat 10 times and deliberated on 839 cases, out of which it was decided action would be taken in 246 cases, Jagdeep noted.
"We have assisted the majority of them by giving them various types of instalment packages so as action need not be taken against them.
"Clearly, action to evict is the last resort. For those who are found to continuously have arrears despite our assistance or who have been found not to be eligible for other reasons, action will be taken," Jagdeep said.