Looking better but Kota Damansara flats still have long way to go

Kota Damansara flatsKUALA LUMPUR (Feb 15): Much has been done in a year to improve conditions at the Kota Damansara low-cost (PPR) flats in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. But although the public housing scheme once described as a slum is looking visibly better, those working on its rehabilitation know it has still some way to go before it can move past the blots in its recent history left by the deaths of two children.

Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang, who is spearheading the effort, told The Malaysian Insider that physical alterations for the better were only half the battle won.

“It took two children’s deaths for the money to come in to fix the flats’ long list of problems, but I would say now that we are about halfway there,” he said.

Phang said that the management under Perumahan Dan Hartanah Selangor Sdn Bhd (PHSSB) had done a good job of licking the flats into shape since the Selangor government released the sum of RM5 million to fix up the flats.

“The railings have all been repaired. They are sturdier and no longer rusted nor shaky like before. The lifts have been repaired and fitted with CCTV cameras. There is even a monitor on the ground floor with a live feed of the lifts’ inside.

“Work to paint the flats is still being carried out, and we are working to establish a Rukun Tetangga, which should be done by March,” he said.

Kota Damansara flatsPhang said the next step was to instil civic-consciousness in the residents.

“Their attitude is still in need of work. Residents are still littering and  throwing things down from the floors above, which is  dangerous,” he said.

Phang said he was also working with police and various other agencies to curb the crime rate in the flats.

“There is still theft. You can see stolen motorcycles that have been stripped for parts here. Drug addicts are not new as well. That is why we are working hard to change this by initiating various programmes that can help the residents to improve,” he said.

Phang believes that providing the residents with a good environment will empower them to take the initiative to respect and maintain the place where they live.

“When the Rukun Tetangga is up and running, there will be security guards doing the rounds to ensure vice is kept at bay," he said.

Enna Nordin, 41, one of the resident volunteers helping Phang, said she had seen remarkable changes in the last six years.

“When I first moved here, my son was about seven years old. I would not allow him to go out and play because it was dangerous. But it has gotten better, and he now plays at the playground.

Kota Damansara flats“Even the lifts work now, maybe not all at once, but at least two will be working. In the past, all the lifts would be out of order at the same time," she said.

Phang said that he was also pushing for PHSSB to practice open spending so that the people could see where every sen went.

“We want transparency, and I know that the residents will have more trust in them if they offer that. Right now, they are not telling us what they are spending on or how much they are spending, and it is  important that they do,” he said.

Phang also said that the management should not raise the rent of the units as that would further burden some of the residents.

“They have to understand that this is a PPR. MBPJ (Petaling Jaya City Council) used to charge deserving households RM124 for a unit and the rest, RM250. But PHSSB now wants to standardise it.

“The amount may not seem like much to some, but for these families, it is a large sum. We are now doing a survey to get a detailed account of the demographics here because we need to determine who they are and how we can help,” he said.

Kota Damansara flatsPhang said Prudential Assurance Malaysia Bhd has been enlisted as a partner to help the residents improve their lives.

“We don’t want the authorities to pass the buck. We want accountability from the management as well as MBPJ. We want them to work together and to know their roles and fulfil them. If what we do here is successful, we want to apply it at other public housing schemes that need help," he said.

On Jan 28 last year, Mohammad Zulhazriq Danish Alden, 4, died after he fell from the sixth floor through a gap in the railings on  Block B.

On June 21, 2013, Thinasraj Manickadass, 6, was killed in a fall from the 14th floor of Block D, also because of rusted and missing railings.

Following the death of Zulhazriq, the Selangor government gave RM5 million to PHSSB for the flats’ repairs and maintenance, the lack of which was blamed for the deaths of the two boys. -- The Malaysian Insider

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