KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — What is it like to live in a 650 square feet (60.4sqm) home with 12 others?
If you are a low-income earner living in the city, living in cramped quarters may be better than living without a home.
That is how 19-year-old R. Sarania feels about living in a tiny three-bedroom flat at the Desa Rejang Public Housing project in Setapak Jaya.
Staying with her are her parents, six brothers and three sisters-in-law. One of her brothers has a child, with yet another on the way.
THEY JUST CAN’T AFFORD IT
Almost all of her brothers are already working, but their finances did not permit them to rent another home.
Her married brothers Suresh, 30, Ravi, 32, and Karthik, 29, were given priority to the rooms in her home, while she had to sleep in the living room.
“The lack of privacy is stifling as we are all grown ups, yet I don’t even have a decent place to change my clothes”, she lamented.
The cramped home also made it difficult for her to study.
Sarania’s brother, Suresh, previously rented a unit in an adjacent block, but had to move into her parents’ home for the time being.
“I am in the process of moving to a unit in another block. Although I have been working for five years now, I have yet to save enough to buy a home. For now, I still have to rent.
“I am pinning my hopes on (securing a unit in) the public housing project”, said Suresh, who has a daughter and is expecting his second child soon.
A HOME IS JUST A DREAM
Their story is just one of the thousands experienced by the urban poor.
Like others, they dream of a home large enough to accommodate their needs. But it will remain just that – a dream.
For now, their main concern is simply having a roof over their heads.
A general survey done by the writer revealed that flats built in the 1990s cost around RM90,000 a unit. Today, they exceed RM300,000.
A two-storey terrace that used to cost RM100,000 is today over half a million ringgit.
The inflated costs of homes are not commensurate with the average salary of a Malaysian household today.
Those who struggle with even putting food on their plates probably have no choice but to squat somewhere.
There are also those who go homeless, making public places or spots on the sidewalks or even under the bridge their temporary homes.
High rentals have pushed many to become squatters. This is, in fact, the main reason of the existence of squatter villages in big cities.
Basir Parto, 58, a teacher, earned only RM415 when his work required him to move from Bentong, Pahang to Kuala Lumpur.
He initially rented a place in Selayang.
“My rent in Selayang at the time was RM200 a month. I was already married then, and my salary could barely cover living expenses.
“In 1978, I became one of the early settlers of Kampung Sri Temenggong in Gombak, a squatter village. There were only a few of us, initially, but the number grew fast”, he said to Bernama.
Although his annual salary increment made life easier, Basir did not consider moving as he had become comfortable living a rent-free life. He stayed on until he was asked to move by the Selayang Municipal Council in 2005.
Basir and several other villagers refused to move until they were offered an affordable home by the developers taking over the site.
“They offered us housing units in Sri Gombak for RM60,000, a moving cost of RM1,000 and a RM500 rental for the first two years.
“I decided to accept it. It is a chance for me to own my own home”, he said.
NO OTHER CHOICE
However, for Hazuan Ismail, owning his own home was a success hard-won.
The 35-year-old who is blind is his left eye was an engineer in a private firm, but the escalating costs of homes put the dream out of reach.
He eventually left his job to try his luck in the public sector, as he wanted to access benefits such as low-interest government housing loans.
“I have been working with the Transport Ministry as an N11 Operations Assistant for three years now. It was quite a pay cut from my previous job, but this job comes with many perks.
“Among them is the possibility of living at the three-bedroom and two-bathroom government housing quarters in Putrajaya”, he said to Bernama.
He had been actively looking for an affordable home when his friend suggested for him to register at the Selangor Housing and Property Board.
He was rewarded for his perseverance when he succeeded at the balloting for a housing project by the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) in Bandar Baru Bangi.
“It was such good news for us, particularly for my wife who was pregnant with our first child at the time.
“We even got a ground floor unit because of my disability. The housing unit is also near many facilities such as banks”, he said.
Hazuan is currently renting a room with his wife and two sons in a 450 square feet (41.8 square metres) home in Sungai Merab, Sepang and is expected to move into his new home very soon.