When we talk about disparity, it can simply be defined as the gap between those who have and those who do not have. Thus, when an Umno MP comes out to say that introducing a housing discount to everyone instead of an ancient policy of keeping it exclusively for the bumiputeras, there is a disconnect in our understanding.
This is exactly what happened last week when Kuala Selangor MP Datuk Seri Irmohizam Ibrahim told The Malay Mail Online that a recent policy by the Selangor government would “worsen the disparity between the bumiputera and other communities”.
Of course, he couldn’t be more wrong.
First of all, the discount which was made inclusive across the board only applies to buyers of service apartments, small office/home office, and small office/virtual office developments. Are these even the types of housing the bumiputera are focused on?
Furthermore, had Irmohizam consulted with Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Chua Tee Yong, he would have known that half the overhang units are priced below RM300,000 — the threshold for what is called affordable housing in our country.
The article seen on The Edge Property even shows that properties priced under RM100,000 made up 15 per cent of the overhang — meaning that it has been on the market for at least nine months with proper certification allowing occupation.
So, how would maintaining lower prices exclusive for bumiputeras reduce disparity? It would not.
If Irmohizam and Umno truly object to disparity, then they should be looking amongst the Malays themselves rather than looking outside their race base for a scapegoat. Something they still refuse to do because of the need to keep their votes safe, of course.
Let us take a look at how Malays cannibalise themselves in the form of rent seeking in my home town of Shah Alam, as an example.
An apartment in Section 7, targeting the UiTM student population which are mostly middle- and lower-income bumiputeras can be priced at RM750 to RM1,200. It could go up to RM1,400.
Considering these will be student accommodations, I do believe we can agree that they are nowhere near “affordable” unless you split the cost a minimum of six ways a month. And even then, their loans from the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) will obviously not cover it on top of their fees and the need for a monthly stipend to survive.
I haven’t even began to mention the fact that there is currently no reliable public transportation to and from the university and their housing facilities, thus driving the need for a car.
All of which, of course, is limited because full time undergraduate students are barred from working jobs as per university regulations and thus, making them dependent on further funds doled out by parents.
Again, whom belong to the lower- and middle-class income groups which are already bearing the brunt of the cost of living.
To summarise, a rent-seeking landlord makes a profit while doing nothing and perhaps even being all the way in Kedah, benefits from the toiling students of UiTM getting cash from the government and their families, being unable to generate income due to university policies, all the way in Shah Alam.
What if the landlord had six units in the same area, officially owned by members of his family but all actually under his management?
That, is disparity. And quite frankly, that is where we truly have a problem with affordable housing.
How do you stop someone from owning multiple properties and basically creating their new-age fiefdom in an affordable housing project?
After all, we had a future Kuala Lumpur City Hall ‘Datuk Seri’ who is being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) somehow managed to acquire 31 condominium units worth RM15.5 million.
This isn’t a racial issue, of course. Greed and corruption transcends race.
Disparity is driven across racial and even religious barriers by one thing — corruption. And until we address the fact that developers, property buyers and local council members could in fact game the system, disparity will continue.