‘Values of Section 14 houses intact’ (June 14, 2009)

PETALING JAYA: Section 14 has been the subject of much talk following the collapse of part of the old Jaya Shopping Centre in the early evening of May 28. The building was in the process of being demolished when a 5-storey portion of the structure gave way, killing seven construction workers.

A few days after the incident, the scene of the tragedy continues to attract curious passersby. The once iconic landmark has been  reduced to a heap of crushed concrete.

The row of 2-storey terraced houses directly behind the collapsed building has been sealed off with yellow police tape and several police officers stand guard under two red tents nearby. The authorities have evacuated the 12 affected households. At press time, the occupants were staying at nearby hotels while a few were staying with relatives.

“It’s such a sad and tragic thing to happen to this building. I think most of us here who are long-time residents have a sentimental attachment to Jaya Supermarket,” says a resident who wants to be known only as Madam Wong. She has lived in the area for nearly 30 years. Jaya Supermarket had long been the popular name for Jaya Shopping Centre.The 5-storey portion of Jaya Shopping Centre gave way on May 28, resulting in the death of seven construction workers

Another resident, an elderly gentleman who declined to be named, says: “Did you know that this was the first supermarket in Petaling Jaya?”

Indeed, Jaya Shopping Centre was opened in 1974 and had, until 2007, served as the neighbourhood shopping centre for residents of Section 14 and the surrounding Sections 13, 19 and 20.

Section 14 has humble beginnings. It was previously a dumpsite before it was developed in the early 1970s. The area now consists of over 1,600 terraced houses, more than 400 bungalows and four condominium projects. Being one of the oldest areas in PJ, Section 14 is also one of the most populous parts of the city.

According to a real estate negotiator familiar with the area, the homes here are leasehold and over 30 years old. Most of them have about 60 years left in their tenures.

The 1-storey terraced houses here, with land areas of between 1,300 and 2,000 sq ft, can fetch up to RM230,000 to RM280,000 each. The rarer 2-storey terraced units with similar land sizes can fetch up to RM320,000, says Metro Homes Sdn Bhd’s director See Kok Loong.

The condominiums in Menara Bakti and Menara Jaya are transacting at RM150 to RM 230 psf while those in Istara Condo and Millennium Place are going for RM260 to RM300 psf. Built-ups for these units range from 887 to 1,500 sq ft.

The prices for bungalows in Section 14 with built-ups of 3,000 to 10,000 sq ft, meanwhile, range from RM900,000 to RM3.5 million.

“The market value for landed homes in Section 14 has generally held steady over the years, with not much increase compared with newer developments,” See tells City & Country.Authorities have evacuated 12 households directly behind the collapsed Jaya Shopping Centre

He estimates the selling price of the 4-storey shopoffices here, with floor areas of 1,500 to 2,100 sq ft, to be between RM250,000 and RM700,000, depending on frontage and floor levels.

Alvin Chong, business development manager for Asian Land Realty, says: “Section 14 is a very mature area, so there is not much room left for future development. Most of the house owners are elderly and the houses have been owned by their families for two to three generations. While buyers prefer newer houses, the demand for landed homes in Section 14 is still there, mainly because of the location. In the past five years, we have seen some old bungalow owners refurbish or even rebuild their houses and then sell them at a premium. This has helped to drive up the value of the surrounding houses.”

Will the collapse of the shopping centre affect the market value of the surrounding properties? “No, this is an exceptional situation. If the cause had been a natural disaster or if it were an occupied building that had collapsed, then it would be different,” says Chong.

Savills Rahim & Co’s valuation services director Chee Kok Thim concurs. “The evacuation of the 12 houses is more of a precautionary move by the authorities to ensure the safety of the residents. There is the fear that the other half of the building might collapse as well but it will not affect the market value of these houses,” he says.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 758, June 8 – 14, 2009.
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