Former concessionaire warns of high-rise glut in Iskandar Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A former master concessionaire warns of a potential glut of high-rise properties in Iskandar Malaysia. These properties are being built without factoring in the necessary population, iPac Group chief executive officer Keith Martin told the audience at a conference on Wednesday.

Martin was previously chief executive officer of Global Capital & Development, the master concessionaire tasked with developing and selling 900ha of land at Medini Iskandar, which falls under Flagship B of the growth area.

“I see a lot of high-rise buildings in Iskandar, and land being reclaimed from the sea in a place with lots of affordable land,” Martin said. “I don’t understand how that happens. Where in the world do reclaimed land and high-rises work? [It took] Tokyo, Manhattan, Hong Kong ... centuries to be that way. [High] commerce [pressured] people to spend money to reclaim land and live in boxes.

“Reclamation and high-rise homes — are we really thinking them through? I mean, three years from now, when all these buildings are completed, who will live in them? The Johor families? They spend their savings buying those and then expect high rental to help them pay off mortgages — and I am really concerned about that,” he said.

Martin said Iskandar Malaysia was in its “wayward teenager” stage of its life.

“It had a good start to life, with a lot of government funding and attention, and high-level publicity. But then little Iskandar forgets to tidy away its toys ... what about the gap sites, the abandoned projects in Johor Baru? The developers are coming in and ignoring these things.”

He was speaking at the Township Development Conference. The two-day event featured 17 speakers from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and Hong Kong.

Issues discussed included how to make affordable housing viable. Case studies on successful master plans of cities and regional economic corridors were also presented.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 28, 2014.

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