GEORGE TOWN: ATTACKS on the state government's apparent inept handling of affordable housing in the state have prompted Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to announce a rise in the minimum limit of property prices to RM1 million for foreigners.
"We need to give priority to our own residents and protect their interests. We propose to increase the minimum for foreign purchases of all properties from the existing RM500,000 to RM1 million. We want to do this by June 1," he said. "The minimum for landed properties on the island will be increased to RM2 million but it is RM1 million on the mainland. We will retain the RM500,000 limit for permanent residents."
Lim said that by ensuring Malaysians are given priority for less expensive properties, this restriction for foreigners will help provide a level playing field because foreigners have the advantage of high currency.
He said foreigners purchased 774 properties in 2010 and 890 properties in 2011.
"These transactions constituted only 2.98 per cent and 2.26 per cent, respectively, of the total number of transactions in Penang," he said.
Lim said expatriates under the MM2H programme would not be affected by the new minimum price.
"The MM2H programme has exceptions and their applications are considered based on the merit of the case," he said.
In the past few months, Lim has been attacked by several quarters, including MCA and individuals, for failing to address the lack of affordable housing for Malaysians on the island.
In fact, The Malay Mail organised debate on April 5 between Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua and Kota Belud MP Abdul Rahman Dahlan on affordable urban housing drew inspiration from the controversial Bayan Mutiara project which was alleged to not have affordable housing.
Among others, the debate underscored how Penangites had become victims of rising property prices on the island forcing them to seek affordable properties on the mainland or neighbouring states.
Asked if the federal government would oppose the new minimum price, Lim said it should not be a problem because this matter was a state issue.
"Increasing the limit is our jurisdiction. In fact, the federal government seeks our approval if they want to increase the limit because it involves land and land is a state issue," he said.
He also said the federal government had sought the approval of the state to increase the minimum limit from RM280,000 to RM500,000 in the past, which the state agreed.
Nevertheless, the state is willing to listen to objections by the federal government, he said.
With no dearth of all-round criticisms regarding this, Lim was quick to add that a holistic affordable housing scheme for the state will be announced soon.