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The Quest for Greater Connectivity Towards Better Affordable Living: Interview with Datuk Ng Seing Liong

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Advocating greater accessibility in promoting a better affordable life…

 

 

In light of the Malaysian Government’s homeownership agenda, the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (REHDA) and its respective branches will be holding 22 property expositions nationwide, aptly called the Malaysia Property Exposition (MAPEX). Amongst the largest expos to be held this year is the national MAPEX, which was recently held on 14-16 April at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre (MVeC), Kuala Lumpur. With an improved public transportation network, it is only fitting that MAPEX 2017 is themed “Greater Connectivity for Better Affordable Living.” The recent launch of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and upcoming rail projects such as High-Speed Rail (HSR), are largely anticipated to change the lifestyle of all Malaysians. Public transportation is quintessential as the key vehicle or transport mode for travelling especially when commuting to work. An efficient public transportation frees our cities from the daily gridlock and traffic congestion, and also drives the nation towards better productivity and greater accomplishments.

 

 

 

Catalytic roles of REHDA and MAPEX

(L-R): Mr. Loo Chee Yang (MAPEX Committee Member), Ir. Tiah Oon Ling (REHDA Secretary-General & MAPEX Committee Member), Datuk Ng Seing Liong (MAPEX Organizing Chairman and REHDA Past President & Patron), Ms. Carrie Fong (REHDA Youth Chairlady & MAPEX Committee Member), and Mr. Chan Kim Meng (MAPEX Committee Member) striking a pose during the official launch of MAPEX 2017 at Wisma REHDA, Kelana Jaya on 9 March 2017.
(L-R): Mr. Loo Chee Yang (MAPEX Committee Member), Ir. Tiah Oon Ling (REHDA Secretary-General & MAPEX Committee Member), Datuk Ng Seing Liong (MAPEX Organizing Chairman and REHDA Past President & Patron), Ms. Carrie Fong (REHDA Youth Chairlady & MAPEX Committee Member), and Mr. Chan Kim Meng (MAPEX Committee Member) striking a pose during the official launch of MAPEX 2017 at Wisma REHDA, Kelana Jaya on 9 March 2017.

 

 

Car ownership in Malaysia is among the highest in the world. This is further compounded by the countless auto advertisements and car commercials which are continually being featured in the mass media. If there is one thing that needs to be done to encourage more Malaysians to use public transport is to educate the general public, and also to curb aggressive marketing tactics and excessive promotional campaigns by automotive manufacturers that are blatantly displayed almost everywhere. However, with a more reliable and efficient transportation system, there will be less need to own a personal vehicle especially a car. The easing of planning guidelines by the Government for carpark provisions for strata/high-rise development is to meet public demands particularly for affordable housing. The allocated space for carparks may be used for common spaces or green areas, eventually lowering the overall cost of development. MAPEX is truly an ideal platform for developers to showcase their projects especially their new launches to the public. For over two decades, MAPEX has assisted and facilitated thousands of house buyers in search of their dream homes, positively influencing the outreach and value of properties being showcased. The present market performance is still sluggish though overall demand for properties is rather robust, and end-financing issues have constantly dampened sales and hampered ownership. REHDA and MAPEX have continually appealed to local financial institutions to participate in future MAPEXes, and to continue to support house buyers in purchasing their affordable dream homes.

 

 

 

TODs to spur property development

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The vision to transform Kuala Lumpur into a regional hub for finance and commerce capital of high income nation by 2020 has made it essential for a comprehensive and efficient transportation network with excellent city links and interconnectivity. The Klang Valley must be able to provide an efficient and equitable city structure that allows all members of the community equal accessibility to all areas and facilities so that everyone may enjoy the maximum benefits of city living. The existing public transportation system in Greater Kuala Lumpur comprises the intercity buses (RapidKL), light rail transit (LRT), monorail (KL Monorail), express rail link (ERL), mass rapid transit (MRT) and commuter rail (KTM Komuter). Transit-oriented developments (TODs) are perceived as an ideal transportation solution for a fast growing metropolis such as Kuala Lumpur. Many of Malaysia’s leading developers are now focused on building townships that are centred upon a mass transit hub within the city centre’s urbanities and suburbs.

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Residential and commercial components housing retail and recreational facilities are connected to the transit hub to create pedestrian-friendly urban localities with reduced carbon footprint and traffic congestion. Developers making huge investments in TODs also contribute to the development of sustainable cities and central business districts (CBDs). Among the landmark projects undertaken by property developers to elevate and enhance public transportation is Latitud8, a joint-development by Prasarana Malaysia Berhad and Crest Builder Holdings Berhad. Another one of the biggest public transportation projects undertaken by the Government is the mass rapid transit system which will be fully operational by July 2017, with the Semantan-Sg. Buloh MRT Line already open to the general public since January 2017. The MRT will totally transform the KL metropolitan landscape with better and greater transportation coverage. Additional MRT/LRT lines will also increase Greater KL’s rapid rail network to approximately forty kilometres per million people once fully completed. A five-fold jump in train ridership remains the Government’s target for public transport usage in Greater Klang Valley, with a marked increase of some forty percent by the year 2020.

 

 

 

Efficiency is key to seamless connectivity

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The key to seamless connectivity is a dynamic and efficient transportation system with well-planned transportation networks comprising integrated bus and rail systems. Such a system is already in place with the MRT and its fleet of feeder buses which ply the urban and suburban routes with punctuality and precision. Kuala Lumpur’s inter-city connectivity improved dramatically with the completed LRT extensions. The Kelana Jaya LRT Line extension commences from Lembah Subang-Kelana Business Centre, enroute to Subang, USJ, Alam Megah, and terminating at Putra Heights. The Ampang LRT Line begins from Sri Petaling station, via Puchong, Kinrara, and ends at Putra Heights. Plans are also underway to build the LRT Line 3 to service the western corridor of Greater Klang Valley.

 

 

 

A plethora of Malaysian properties

MAPEX 2017 to be held at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre (MVeC) in 2 sessions: April and October.
MAPEX 2017 to be held at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre (MVeC) in 2 sessions: April and October.

 

 

MAPEX 2017 presents a myriad of property developments from affordable homes to exclusive and luxury residences, strata and landed properties, each with their own unique features by reputable and renowned property developers, all under a single roof. Over fifty premier developers have confirmed their participation, including Ecoworld, Mah Sing, Matrix Concepts, SP Setia, Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB), MKH Berhad, IJM Land Berhad, and many more developers. Property-related agencies such as Rumah Mampu Milik Wilayah Persekutuan (RUMAWIP) which falls under the purview of the Ministry of Federal Territories currently offer special schemes and incentives on affordable housing.

 

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As an added bonus, lucky patrons stand a chance to win tickets to LEGOLAND Theme Park in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor. A RM30,000 cash rebate is also offered to house buyers to purchase their dream homes. There are also a plethora of activities available throughout the duration of the expo, as well as property talks by industry experts and professionals. For more information, please visit us at: www.mapex.com.my, or contact us at: secretariat@rehda.com.my. Or simply contact us at: 03-7880 8000. Follow us on Facebook – ‘MAPEX Malaysia Property Expo’ and also Instagram:  MAPEXbyREHDA. The following is a classic quote from MAPEX 2017 Organizing Chairman, Datuk Ng Seing Liong’s speech during REHDA’s press conference on 8 March 2017, in creating greater accessibility as well as connectivity, and resulting in better affordable living for homebuyers nationwide.

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Datuk Ng Seing Liong, PJN JP

MAPEX Organizing Chairman,

REHDA Past President/Patron.

 

MAPEX is an ideal opportunity for you to promote your products and packages to your target audience. Currently, only Hong Leong Bank and Maybank Berhad have confirmed their participation. On behalf of the MAPEX Committee, I would like to express our appreciation to all developers who have been our loyal supporters all these years, making MAPEX the longest running and biggest property exposition of the nation. “MAPEX is BY the Developers, FOR the Developers, and OF the Developers.” Let us work together towards achieving the nation’s housing agenda. We still have some choice booths available but they are selling out fast. So act now and contact MAPEX Secretariat to avoid disappointment. Thank you for all your support! – Datuk Ng Seing Liong, MAPEX Organizing Chairman.

 

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Journey Towards Greater Connectivity For Better Affordable Living

 

With our government investing heavily in new public transportation networks, including the newly minted Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), we are fast establishing a city that is affordable and connected, much like our neighbouring country Singapore, as well as other highly developed cities such as London, Hong Kong and Geneva. REHDA, our national representative of property developers have long championed the mission of developing connected and affordable living in Malaysia. The key area of focus is mobility and through collaborating with a rich ecosystem of partners, we are in a unique position to progressively integrate estate developments with transportation hubs such as the LRT/MRT stations, feeder bus systems plus a network of walkways and linkways. Through this, we can decrease the car-dependent lifestyle and empower our communities to commute via on-demand public transport services.

 

Aptly themed ‘Greater Connectivity for Better Affordable Living’, MAPEX, the largest property exposition in Malaysia, will be holding its annual property exhibition from 14 to 16 April at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur. Running for 19 years consecutively, MAPEX will be participated by more than 50 renowned developers showcasing an array of properties ranging from affordable, strata, exclusive, from luxury to landed real estates. Among the exhibitors are Ecoworld Development Group Berhad, Mah Sing Group Berhad, Matrix Concepts Holdings Berhad, SP Setia Berhad, Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB), MKH Berhad, IJM Land Berhad, Putra Nilai Development Sdn Bhd and many more. On top of that, the state related agencies such as Rumah Mampu Milik Wilayah Persekutuan (RUMAWIP) under the Ministry of Federal Territories will also be taking part in the expo to offer quality affordable housing to buyers.

 

In addition to public speeches and talks regarding pertinent topics, visitors of MAPEX will be given the privilege to participate in a forum which will run on 16 April, featuring renowned industry experts such as Datuk Ng Seing Liong (2017 MAPEX Organising Chairman/Past President & Patron of REHDA Malaysia), Dato’ Wan Hashimi AlBakri (COO of Sime Darby Property/REHDA Vice President), Sr Elvin Fernandez (Managing Director, Khong & Jaafar Group of Companies), Dato Pretam Singh (Partner, Messers, Pretam Singh, Nor & Co) and Mr Ernest Bernard Towle (General Manager, StarProperty Sdn Bhd) as the moderator. We sat down with Datuk Ng Seing Leong, former president of REHDA and organising chairman of MAPEX and talked about the history, progress and future of the real estate industry in Malaysia. The following is a brief excerpt from the interview itself.

 

 

 

What are some of the progress MAPEX has accomplished in the past 19 years?

We have come a long way within the past 19 years. MAPEX started with only one property exhibition in 1998, but this year alone, we have 22 planned MAPEX expositions in the pipeline. Also, back in the day, we only had 10 to 20 developers on board, but today, we have over 50 prominent developers participating in one single upcoming MAPEX expo in Mid Valley. We are very happy with the turnout in support and participation this year.

 

What are the basic prerequisites and standards of ‘affordable living’ according to REHDA in the context of affordable living?

Firstly, to attain affordable living, we must have suitable land. We need more land that provides connectivity, such as access to public transportation lines. This makes the area suitable for home building to meet the demands of the people. Many cities around the world have developed public transportations systems in and out of the city, therefore, citizens can opt to live away from the city centre and face no difficulties in commuting to and fro.

 

How can greater connectivity translate to better affordable living?

When we talk about affordable housing, we have to bring down the standard of amenities around those areas to optimise cost. There is no need for so many carparks, as it’s very expensive to build. Also, facilities like gyms and swimming pools are lovely, but not compulsory. It is very important for developers to focus on quality of living – and developing areas that have access to connectivity. This is especially essential for the generation of first-time home buyers who are in their late twenties and early thirties. Let the people live first, then only transition to the next level. They can always upgrade and live in bungalows and exclusive condominiums in the future, but in the meantime, people need to survive first.

 

Greater accessibility in the form of public transportation often leads to improved standards of living. Kindly elaborate on REHDA’s role in encouraging the government and property developers in building more transit-oriented development (TOD) related projects in the future.

Our role is to encourage developers to take advantage of these public transportation links and accessibility to the train stations. On top of that, the government has to implement feeder bus services around the area of the station.  Once the system is in place and running, with fixed and timely schedules, the public will definitely be more inclined to take public transport services – just like Singapore, Hong Kong and London. For example, I was recently at Geneva and was given one access card that allowed me to commute around the city, hassle free. One more vital issue is, the government has to look into the situation of bringing down the cost to commute via trains and busses.

 

In meeting the demands of better accessibility and greater connectivity, what are some of the challenges encountered by real estate developers, property investors and home buyers alike?

The real estate market situation is slightly sluggish, but it isn’t because there is a lack of demand. There is big demand for affordable housing, but unfortunately, it’s the banks that are holding back on the lendings. People are facing difficulties trying to obtain a loan. Also, with a prominent property exhibition like MAPEX, these financial institutions ought to come forward to volunteer to assist home-buyers and contribute to the industry, however, only two banks have since agreed to participate in the expo. This is where our challenge lies – without sufficient partnership with banks, we will never be able to achieve our objectives. It’s the first-time home buyers that need help, whether it’s through bigger loan amounts or longer repayment periods with preferential rates of interest. In terms of value for money, the price of public transportation services needs to be reduced. There also needs to be one integrated card system that can be used on every public transport system, feeder bus network and even shopping mall car parks. There must be a political will to solve these problems.

 

What can the general public expect in a seamless, dynamic and integrated living community as espoused or advocated by REHDA?

Through achieving this shared vision, the nation can further progress in improving the quality of living. You and I will be able to efficiently move from one destination to another, without having to worry about traffic congestion, automobile accidents and so on. Plus, we all know that investing in property is rewarding compared to investment on a car for example. You’d lose money buying a vehicle, but real estate appreciates in value over time, and it also provides better yield in rental – especially when public transportation lines are easily assesible from the area. As challenging as it may seem, we have to strive towards realising this goal one day – where a seamless, dynamic and integrated living is made a reality. We need to stop being negative. I always believe that if we set a vision and implement it – it can be successful.

 

In what ways can premier property expositions such as MAPEX by REHDA assist in building better homes, and at the same time safeguard the welfare of property developers and house buyers?

MAPEX is only an association. We can come up with ideas and hopefully inspire developers to come up with their own initiatives and ideas on how to help house owners improve standards of living. An example would be, if you own a condominium block, it may be five or ten minutes away from the LRT station or a main shopping complex. Take the initiative as a developer, come up with proactive means to provide bus services to transport your residence to the nearest shopping complex and LRT station every one hour.

 

Please describe your portfolio and professional role in REHDA. How can you better contribute to the future and success of the local real estate industry – what are your hopes and aspirations?

I started as a sub-committee member in Klang, and I moved up the ranks over the years. From becoming chairman of the sub-committee in Klang, I transitioned to the position of chairman of Selangor, before joining the national committee. From the lowest position, I’ve managed to raise the ranks to the top, as treasurer, to deputy president and president. Today, I’m the patron and former president of REHDA. I’m happy to tell you that I’m proud of all the achievements we have accomplished today. That is our history. As for my vision for REHDA, I hope to see the organisation continue to develop as a professional association to help developers solve problems and at the same time assist our nation to develop the housing and estate industry. Despite being a former president, I still come back very often to contribute as much as I can. My hope for the future is that we perpetually stay positive and critical in contributing to our nation in development and advancement. Continue to engage and support the ecosystem of partners we have in everything we do, be it the government, developers or home-buyers.

 

REHDA

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Datuk Ng Seing Liong