LegCo members lament long wait in housing aid approval
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
LEGISLATIVE Council (LegCo) members aired their grievances over the long process of providing housing for underprivileged individuals under the government’s Housing Assistance for the Poor and Destitute programme.
During the 12th LegCo session yesterday, Yang Berhormat Hj Mohd Shafiee Ahmad said 34 housing assistance applications are still awaiting the government’s approval, even though it has already been endorsed by the Belait District Office.
The applicants are still waiting despite the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) making multiple enquiries on the proposed sites that can be used for the housing aid, he said.
“However, a decision is yet to be made (on the status of housing assistance applications),” he added.
In response, Second Finance Minister at the PMO YB Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim said the programme is fully funded by the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB).
He said the programme involves multiple government agencies, including the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
The funds were collected from zakat (tithes) worth $35 million.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman listed a number of projects that have been completed under the programme, including the ongoing development of 30 houses for the underprivileged in all four districts.
Out of the 30, he said, four houses are located in the Belait district and another two houses in Temburong.
He added that a unit has been established that caters to the processing of applicants, verifying their eligibility under the programme as well as making decisions on where the houses will be built.
“These processes of examining and evaluating the terms and conditions associated with the provision of housing assistance will take a lot of time,” said the minister.
YB Hj Mohd Shafiee also raised concerns over the programme including the origins of its funding and whether the PMO will be able to sustain the programme without a specific budget allocated for it.
The LegCo member, who is also the village head of Kg Lumut I in Belait, suggested the government make use of the abandoned barracks in the Belait district, and renovate them for the needy.
“If the abandoned barracks are utilised fully, (it) will cut down the government’s expenditure in comparison to building individual houses,” he continued.
Responding to YB Hj Mohd Shafiee’s suggestion to convert the abandoned barracks in Belait as housing for the underprivileged, YB Pehin Dato Hj Abd Rahman said the Ministry of Home Affairs is currently looking into renovating the abandoned barracks.
“Renovations will only commence after the underprivileged individuals have been identified,” he added.
Similarly, YB Hj Sulaiman Hj Ahad also lamented the long wait in approving the housing aid applications, saying that there are 77 applicants for the programme in Temburong.
“As of now, the process of the Housing Assistance for the Poor and Destitute programme takes a long time, which is more than six months,” he said.
The village head of Kg Belingos, Temburong added that some applicants have been waiting for years. “The houses that were promised (to them) have yet to be built and no confirmation has been done regarding the applicants of the programme,” added YB Hj Sulaiman.
The Brunei Times