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Penang to build 11,800 cheap homes

KUALA LUMPUR (March 30, 2012): An affordable housing project in Batu Kawan by state-run Penang Development Corp (PDC) will create at least 11,800 apartments with a total gross development value (GDV) of up to RM2.5 billion, said Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

The Bandar Cassia Affordable Housing Scheme will occupy some 200 acres (81ha) in Batu Kawan, Seberang Perai Selatan, Penang. The three-bedroom units will range between 800 and 1,000 sq ft with prices from RM72,500 to RM220,000 each, while the GDV is expected to range between RM2.3 billion and RM2.5 billion.

In an email reply to The Edge Financial Daily, Lim said the project is due to commence this year with the final phase slated for completion in 2026. There will eventually be 81 blocks of apartments, of between nine and 20 storeys housing at least 11,800 units of affordable dwellings. About 53% of these will be apartments measuring 1,000 sq ft while 24% would be 900 sq ft and the balance 800 sq ft.

PDC, the project developer, has roped in Singapore-based Surbana Corp Pte Ltd as consultant. According to Lim, Surbana (formerly known as HDB Corp Pte Ltd) was brought in for its proven record in providing comfortable and quality public housing in Singapore and other countries.

Lim said Surbana’s scope of work would involve consultancy services encompassing master planning, designing, contract implementation and administration during the tenure of the project.

He clarified that Surbana will not be involved in the construction, stressing that the state would call for an open tender and priority would be given to Penang contractors.

On the state’s decision to work with Surbana, Lim said: “If Penang wants to provide the best quality affordable housing to Penangites, then instead of imitating the best, why not choose the best?”

Nevertheless, an analyst said the success of Penang’s affordable property venture still depends on whether the state government can cough up land in central locations.
“Although it is low-cost housing, the state government cannot expect people to stay too far away from town and in areas not served by public transport,” he said.

According to Lim, the Bandar Cassia Affordable Housing Scheme, though not in the central locations, is set to provide housing to the increasing pool of workers that are currently or will be employed at the industrial and corporate business parks within Bandar Cassia and nearby industrial corridors.

Meanwhile, the upcoming Penang Second link will bring the island closer to Batu Kawan and enhance accessibility to the Bayan Lepas Industrial Park and Penang International Airport.

Surbana’s roots can be traced back to 1960 when the Housing and Development Board (HDB), a Singapore government agency tasked to solve housing issues and provide affordable housing in the island state, was established.

Subsequently, HDB’s Development and Building Division was corporatised in 2003 as HDB Corp Pte Ltd. That same year, HDB Corp through a JV built its first project in Chengdu, China.

In 2004, HDB Corp was acquired by the Singapore government’s investment vehicle Temasek Holdings and a year later rebranded as Surbana. In April 2011, CapitaLand acquired a 40% stake in Surbana.

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