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House foreign workers in hostels, not public housing

Petaling Jaya (June 13): Penang has called on the new Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin to build hostels for foreign workers in areas where they are employed in large numbers, such as production-driven maufacturing sites.

The proposal was mooted by the state Housing, Town Planning and Local Government committee chairperson Jagdeep Singh Deo, to counter the rising nationwide concern over illegal rental of public housing to foreign workers.

Already an existing implementation in Penang, the guideline stipulates that the workers' hostels are to be built and managed by operators, and must be constructed in either commercial or industrial zones; not within the residential neighbourhoods where locals live in.

In Penang island, one such project is ongoing in Batu Maung, with four more now under construction on the mainland, namely in Juru, Permatang Tinggi, Bukit Minyak and Mukim 12, reported The Sun yesterday. These will provide some 2,200 hostel units to cater for about 24,000 foreign workers.

With the eviction of these foreign tenants from low- and medium-cost apartments making headlines recently, Jagdeep urges the Federal Government to tighten the loopholes in the Housing Developers Act 1966 now to stop their proprietors from leasing out to third parties.

"Owners of affordable housing units are essentially prohibited from leasing out the units as they should be the rightful occupants. But many of them abuse this (legislative) loophole and they are now getting away with it," Jagdeep said, adding that the foreign worker community in affordable housing estates tend to create social issues.

If possible, Jagdeep hopes the proposed amendments can be taken up by the new Pakatan Harapan-led ministry and be tabled in the first Parliament sitting scheduled for next month.

"We hope [Zuraida] pays special attention to Penang's appeal, which is also a nationwide issue. I understand she is looking into the matter with the legal experts," he told a press conference yesterday.

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