Housing Beyond Reach

Housing Beyond Reach Malaysia, News, Southeast Asia, Thailand
December 11, 2017

Economic prosperity is an oddity of some sort, an irony at best, especially for marginalised communities in Thailand and Malaysia. According to experts, the economy is expanding, but based on what I have observed during outreach the impact has sent the poor deeper into deprivation.

Most often poor families encounter challenges that prevent them from living a good quality of life – from their cramped homes made of rusted zinc and used cardboard in overcrowded urban slums, to small wooden rural homes in palm-oil plantations. Others face an unpredictable future of homelessness.

Combined with land, the lack of housing finance is a major constraint in accessing affordable and adequate housing. Houses in many parts of Malaysia have gone beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.

Do They Care?

Then you have the indifference – though institutions prefer not to admit that many families struggle to make ends meet, and young children work to assist their parents’ already-low income. Banks don’t really care; they’ll just blame public administrators, officials or the increasing cost of living due to an inevitable recession.

In cities, such as Bangkok, even the middle-income families face similar constraints. Down payment requirements are high, as are interest rates – all of which limit the ability to secure formal housing loans. Even when breadwinners secure finances, the banks technically own the property until such time the loan has been settled.

Then there is the informal debt. Too many people tell me about the horrific cycle of debt caused by unreasonable interest rates demanded by loan sharks.

Siapa lagi nak tolong aku ni? Dah lah periuk nasi pun tak tentu! Terpaksa aku pinjam duit. (Who else wants to help me? My rice bowl [income] is uncertain! I’m forced to borrow money.)

– Rashid bin Othman, a 32-year-old odd-job man, husband and father of two children / Kuala Lumpur.

Urban and rural, people face the possibility of losing their income in troubled economic times, retrenchments, evictions and through natural disasters. When it does come – the lost of livelihood, they stand to lose their house and remaining property.

Political uncertainty and the lack of consultation with concerned communities contribute to the increasing risks. Then what? Will the government continue to feed propaganda of a growing economy to the masses? Or perhaps continue with the state of indifference and abandon the poor to live in ruin?



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