Housing project gaining speed

National 2 minutes, 33 seconds

BELAIT

THE Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) has improved the efficiency of its Housing Assistance for the Poor and Destitute project since its inception in 2008, citing land availability and a shortage of technical expertise as challenges affecting the previous first phase, said a MUIB official.

“We acknowledge that the first phase involved lengthy waiting times for successful applicants,” said the official on the project’s action committee.

He explained that there are two scenarios for the land issue. “It was simpler for landowners, as we could construct on their land but even in some cases, the area is not sufficient.”

The government would be required to allocate land under its housing schemes to applicants who did not own any, added the official who declined to be named.

He said land has been set aside in Kg Tagap (Brunei-Muara), Lumut planned village (Belait) and Bukit Udal planned village (Tutong) specifically for this project.

Another critical area that the project lacked was technical expertise.

Today, it is led by the Prime Minister’s Office as the secretariat heading three committees: the working group committee formed by district agencies that collects information on applicants, the verification committee that validates eligibility and forwards to MUIB for approval, and the housing assistance preparation committee, which facilitates technical implementation chaired by permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Development and Prime Minister’s Office.

“We were inexperienced in housing when we started out but with the direct collaboration of agencies such as the Public Works Department, engineering and construction skills are now on board… the true role of MUIB is to facilitate the various actions from all stakeholders,” added the official.

However, the project continues to face challenges on the side of contractors tasked with construction.

The project has slashed waiting time by conducting tendering in clusters instead of individually as was practised during in the first phase, but continues to work to ensure private contractors keep their commitments on delivery.

“The project has received about 700 applications from Belait alone… and from time to time this number grows... we are attempting to complete this current second phase as fast as possible, but implementation is based on prioritisation of urgent needs… financially we face no challenges as it is fully financed by _zakat _funds,” said the official.

“Before this project started, housing assistance was splintered as various government agencies were responsible and it was difficult to coordinate and optimise available resources. Alhamdulillah, the process has become much smoother now with one coordinating body,” he concluded.

A family in Belait yesterday received their new homes from the project in a handover ceremony at Kg Mumong B after more than a decade of waiting.

Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office Yahya Hj Idris handed over the ownership certificate to 68-year-old PWD retiree Mohamed Hj Alias, while Head of Community Development Department (JAPEM) Belait Noridah Hj Ishak handed over welfare assistance.

The event followed similar ceremonies for four new homes at Brunei-Muara and Tutong this week, with Temburong to follow. To date, the project has handed over 57 homes.

The Brunei Times