WITH the elections around the corner, state governments and the local councils under them are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate their effectiveness by solving residents’ problems.
In February 2013, it was announced that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) would alleviate the woes of the purchasers of the abandoned Taman Petaling Utama Block E low-cost flat. It would do this by repossessing the land from the developer, building two blocks of flats comprising 480 units and 10 shop lots, and selling the flats, costing RM70,000, to the original buyers at RM35,000 per unit.
I had previously highlighted the plight of 262 buyers of the low-cost flats who bought the units in 2004. The project was supposedly stopped by a court order shortly after and was abandoned. Buyers are still paying off bank loans today, and only have a sales and purchase agreement to show for all the money they are paying. So with the MBPJ taking over the project, does that mean the buyers’ housing issue has finally been resolved?
Not necessarily. From the information available, it appears that the MBPJ is not in a position to repossess the developer’s land.
The buyers were informed of the MBPJ takeover during an official Selangor government meeting with council officers present. As proof that the Selangor government is reclaiming the land, the meeting’s minutes state that the land office issued Form 7A under the National Land Code (NLC) to the developer on 13 Dec 2012.
But Form 7A, issued under section 128 of the NLC, only requires the developer to remedy their breach of condition, in this case, the abandonment of the project. It makes no mention of repossessing the land. The order to reclaim a piece of land is in another form entirely, so the issuance of Form 7A contradicts the government’s assurance that the land would be repossessed.
Section 128. Summary action to secure remedying of breach of condition.
(1) Where –
(a) any alienated land is liable under Section 127 to forfeiture to the State Authority for breach of any condition; and
(b) it appears to the Land Administrator that the breach is capable of being remedied by the proprietor within a reasonable time,
the Land Administrator shall serve, or cause to be served, on proprietor a notice in Form 7A specifying the action required for remedying the breach and calling upon him to take such action within the time therein specified. (emphasis mine)
This brings into question the MBPJ’s ability to even develop the land. If it doesn’t own the land, it needs the landowner’s consent before anything can be done — in this case, the developer.
Another factor that is not mentioned is the reason behind the stalled project, which was supposedly stopped by a court injunction. There was no mention of the injunction in the latest meeting minutes, even though previous minutes mentioned it.
If the court injunction is still valid, the project might not be able to proceed until the reason the court gave the injunction is resolved.
The court injunction would also mean the government cannot simply repossess the land due to a breach of condition, as the developer can defend themselves by saying that they are complying with the court order.
Even if the MBPJ was able to overcome the legalities and technicalities required to take over the project as described above, the buyers may still not be able to afford the units.
The buyers have been told the apartments would be sold to them at half the cost, at RM35,000 each. The meeting’s minutes also state that their bank loan interest, legal fees and the 10% down payment for the original apartment purchase would be discounted from the selling price.
However, buyers would still be left paying off a bank loan for their earlier purchase, which means they would be billed twice for the unit. As low-income earners, it is doubtful the buyers can secure a second bank loan on top of their existing one.
And assuming that all the hurdles above can be bypassed or ignored, the buyers and MBPJ would have one final obstacle to overcome. At RM70,000 per unit for 480 units, the project would cost a total of RM33.6 million for 480 units. That money has to come from somewhere.
There is no mention that the developer would be made to bear the project’s cost. All that is mentioned is that the land is being repossessed by the Selangor government.
This means that the public may eventually pick up this very costly tab. As a Petaling Jaya ratepayer myself, I would certainly ask why the developer isn’t paying for the project or being sued by the government to cover the cost of developing the abandoned project.
The Taman Petaling Utama case is an example of how the promises made by politicians can be complicated and dangerous, especially when made for political expediency. Essentially, the loopholes I pointed out are easy escape clauses for politicians to renege on a promise.
After all, it would not be a lie to say that a legal impediment is preventing the MBPJ or a politician from fulfilling their promise.
Indeed, with the government being so opaque in their dealings with the residents, is it any wonder then that the Block E low-cost flat buyers do not know who to turn to for answers, who to hold accountable, who to praise, who to blame, and who to vote for or against?
Former MBPJ councillor KW Mak is aiming to run as an independent candidate for the Bukit Gasing state constituency. His prayers go out to the people of Sabah and our brave soldiers and police officers.