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Rights to the City: Malaysia’s first Public Housing Liveability Conference unlocks the potential to create sustainable and liveable public housing

The community of PPR Hicom did a special musical performance “Kita untuk Kita” during the Rights to the City conference.

The first Public Housing Liveability Conference organised by Think City in collaboration with Citi Foundation represents a major first step in devising interventions to promote better public housing liveability and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities living in Malaysia’s public housing, be it through policy recommendations or practice.

YBhg Datuk Azhar Ahmad, Deputy Secretary General (Housing and Community Wellness), Ministry of Housing and Local Government delivering the closing remarks at the conference, on behalf of YB Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Minister of Housing and Local Government.

Rights to the City conference featured YBhg Datuk Azhar Ahmad, Deputy Secretary General (Housing and Community Wellness), Ministry of Housing and Local Government, YBhg Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Chairman Khazanah Research Institute, Hamdan Abdul Majeed, Managing Director Think City, distinguished speakers from UNICEF Malaysia, Thrive Well, Malaysian Institute of Planners, Yayasan Hasanah, ARUP Malaysia in addition to voices of the PPR communities. This conference brings together policymakers, independent organisations, and community leaders to gain better understanding of the issues and challenges faced by residents at public housing and leverage on each other’s strengths and expertise to be more responsive in creating meaningful solutions and agile policies for improvement.   

Some of the issues faced by the residents at PPRs include constraints of locality and built environment leading to space, accessibility, and connectivity challenges, socioeconomic, welfare, cultural, and gender status affecting mental health and wellbeing, impact of climate change and resilience towards the macro-environmental shocks arising from financial and health status. 

YBhg Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Chairman Khazanah Research Institute during his keynote address “Together for Better Lives and Livelihoods in Public Housing” at Rights to the City Conference.

Presenting the keynote address at the conference, YBhg Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said, “The provision of housing or the affordability problem for the social sector is first and foremost an issue of poverty, not housing. The social sector primarily houses residents who are poor or those categorised as the economically vulnerable. In order to address this problem, solutions must therefore involve policies for the alleviation of poverty. Being deprived of housing can result in harmful consequences such as homelessness and the inability to lead a life they value. Therefore, state support in the form of direct housing subsidies, general income support and other social programmes are necessary.”

“We have understood that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to the external shocks, and have poor access to services, opportunity for decision-making, and avenue for redress and justice. Together, we must work on enhancing community capacity to protect themselves from future risks,” said YBhg Datuk Azhar Ahmad in his closing remarks at the conference, on behalf of YB Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, Minister of Housing and Local Government. 

The Minister said he looked forward to the findings of the conference to facilitate collaboration with the various stakeholders to realise a sustainable and liveable public housing. 

The drive for a system change stems from the discovery that the nation’s urbanisation push has impacted negatively on the B40 communities, especially those living in the PPRs and experience significant barriers to modern amenities, creating pockets of deprivation. While they are beneficiaries of isolated interventions by individual organisations, a cross-sector coordination is needed to bring together all stakeholders towards a common agenda to collectively define the problem and create a shared measurement system to track progress and coordinate efforts in maximising impact. 

Hamdan Abdul Majeed Managing Director, Think City shared that there is an urgent need to ensure the resilience of the livelihood of the public housing community, financially independent and receive social protection programmes, especially in times of crisis.

 “Malaysia has gone through a rapid urbanisation phase and fortunately through effective policies, Malaysia has been successful in housing the nation, with access to food, water, power, telecommunication, and broadband. However, when the city develops, the public housing community voice tends to be reduced, and inequalities in their living environment becomes evident. The low-income earning families living in these strata flats are often daily wage earners and a higher-than-average proportion are single mothers. Many of these households’ live meal by meal, making ends meet where they can. Therefore, there is an urgent need to affect the livelihood of the public housing community, to make it more resilient and to ensure that the residents are financially independent and receive social protection programmes, especially in times of crisis,” opined Mr Hamdan Abdul Majeed Managing Director, Think City. 

He also reiterated the objectives of the conference to seek a multi-pronged approach to remedy the issues surrounding the public housing system from social and economic challenges to the physical condition of the housing complexes and their surroundings that directly affect health and quality of life of the residents. Efforts to address the lack of social power and decision-making power to empower resident to look after their own living environment was also looked at, to enable residents to take full charge of their lives. 

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