NHS: Shelter for the Bruneians

National 5 minutes, 46 seconds


THE Housing Development Department (HDD) under the Ministry of Development (MoD) has been on target to providing quality houses for Bruneians.

MoD continues with its mission to giving shelter to the citizens of this country while tenaciously take into account a number of issues such as the limited suitable land across the Sultanate, the Bruneians’ large families, flooding, land encroachment and so on.

Keepin all these in mind, the ministry has shifted its sight to constructing high-rise buildings in the future.

But the big question waiting to be answered is whether Bruneians are ready to become high-rise inhabitants.

The National Housing Schemes

The main objective of the National Housing Schemes (NHS) is to provide affordable and quality housing to eligible citizens of Brunei Darussalam. The HDD is responsible for the planning, designing and carrying out whatever is necessary to make the NHS a success.

The Unit of Community Development and Public Relation Administration Section under the HDD clarified to The Brunei Times recently that they would monitor the quality and the design of houses under the NHS. The design of the houses is based on the ethical values of Malay Muslim Monarchy (MIB) which is to provide at least three bedrooms for the family members.

The house designs are influenced by Brunei’s national values and to suit the average family in Brunei. The designs of the houses considered the plot size.

All the construction materials are approved by the Ministry of Development including the quality of worksmanship.

High-rise Building

The Minister of Development, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Suyoi Hj Osman said last November that there was a misconception among the public claiming there are vast expanse of land waiting to be developed.

He said from an aerial view, it seemed that the Sultanate have a lot of forests (and undeveloped land). However, most of the land is peatland, which is costly to develop.

The minister said two recent studies found that more than 70 per cent of Bruneians were receptive to the idea of vertical housing which he described as “the most efficient use of land”.

YB Pehin Pehin Dato Hj Suyoi added that the future of government housing depends on public acceptance of the $55 million project – which comprises 300 units housing up to 1,800 people, complete with a multi-storey car park and a football field, among other recreational facilities on its rooftop.

The first phase spanning 15 hectares and containing the residential apartments will be constructed in 18 months, with completion projected by 2016.

The construction of the high-rise building in Lambak Kanan which would begin end of this year, hoped to help reduce the burden on the government in providing sustainable housing, said the minister.

During the NHS Showcase exhibition held in October, some visitors suggested to the ministry a community-oriented housing by considering building more cluster houses.

Those interviewed said the cluster house promotes a sense of community because of the open space.

For other Bruneians, cluster deluxe house is ideal for the local families since it has four rooms compared to previous housing plans which only have three.

Another reason for choosing the cluster deluxe house is the chance of having “more space”.

Deluxe houses is divided into three floors: one for bedrooms, another for kitchen and another floor for living room.

Deluxe houses also meet the people’s need for bigger house to accommodate extended families

Big enough for the family?

The MoD is also facing other issues such as the size of houses to accommodate Bruneians with large family.

Some residents, especially those in Kampung Mukim Kedayan already have NHS houses somewhere in the Sultanate as they applied for the scheme earlier. However, they wanted a bigger residence to accommodate their large brood of children.

This was evident when some of the families of the 500 residents of Mukim Sg Kedayan refused to move out of their homes because they were denied houses in Kampung Katok B Gadong.

The residents claimed that should receive another house or other form of compensation before allowing the government to demolish their water village houses.

Residents in Kampung Sumbiling Lama, Kampung Bukit Salat and Kampung Ujong Tanjong said they refused to move out unless the authorities promised compensation in a letter.

In January this year, officials from the Brunei-Muara District Office, Housing Development Department and BSB Municipal Board had briefed the residents on the process of relocating to the national housing scheme at Kampung Katok B, Gadong.

Some residents were eligible to the housing scheme provided they are homeowners at Mukim Sungai Kedayan who have not applied for any public housing prior to the river beautification project under the Bandar Seri Begawan Masterplan.

Quality of NHS

Although the MoD has done their biddings by successfully accommodating many Bruneian families, they also received complaints about the quality of its facilities.

Twenty houses in the NHS Tanah Jambu Two were flooded due to heavy rain last month.

Residents blamed an ongoing drainage project nearby which flooded the ground floors of the houses at Jalan Limuru Barat with mud.

Land Encroachers

Another issue was to educate residents about illegal building extensions.

The MoD has planned to step up enforcement of its various departments to prevent residents from illegally expanding their houses, flouting signboard and land use norms and dumping and encroaching of road reserve.

According to Hj Md Lutfi Abdullah, permanent secretary (administration and finance) at MoD, many residents in the NHS construct extensions without following existing guidelines and without permits. Some of them are aware of this but continue to do so.

Current procedures involved a first warning letter on discovery of a violation, allowing a grace period of two months to rectify the issue.

Following failure to comply, a second warning letter would be issued. Court prosecution is considered as a last resort.

To build or not to build?

Should the government decide to construct high-rise buildings or stay with its concept of building cluster housings? This would largely depend on the Bruneians.

Part of the Brunei Vision 2035 is to provide high standards of living for the locals.

Although staying with the traditional concept of building cluster houses seems to be acceptable, it may persuade illegal land encroachments.

High-rise building may be ideal because it only requires small hectares of land to accommodate hundreds of Bruneians and can solve the flood issues.

But the government should also hear the complaints by those who are already living in flats. High-rise buildings would incur problems such as plumbing, privacy and noise.

The definition of development should aim to instil a sense of community within the residents of the NHS so that Bruneians would not live in a “gated-community”.

The government should prepare the young generation who are yet to apply for NHS in the future to be able to ensure the surrounding residential areas to be rubbish-free , and make use of the community assets for the development of the nation.

The Brunei Times