Housing Focus Group to help tackle lengthy housing application process

National 2 minutes, 30 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

NATIONAL Housing Scheme (RPN) applicants in Brunei-Muara are still facing lengthy delays in receiving a house, prompting the government to form a Housing Focus Group to tackle the problem.

Development Minister Yang Berhormat Dato Paduka Hj Bahrin Abdullah told the 12th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday the current waiting period is approximately 12 years for people who applied for state-subsidised housing in the sultanate's most populous district.

He admitted the long wait was a setback for the Ministry of Development (MoD) in its nationwide target to grant applicants housing within a five-year period by 2021.

“The issue we need to take into consideration is the suitability of current methods in terms of implementing RPN, whether we will continue with our present approach and face sustainability issues or reconsider a more sustainable approach,” he said.

YB Dato Hj Bahrin explained the new approach could involve making the eligibility conditions stricter to ensure only deserving applicants receive the coveted housing.

“If we implement (such mea-sure), I think this will be subject to what is later obtained from the (review undertaken by the) Housing Focus Group. I think we may be able to manage the administration of granting land more quickly,” he said.

He said the group was recently set up with the approval of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The focus group involves relevant ministries and departments that have the collectively task of addressing the “complex housing issue” and related matters in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

They are also expected to come up with appropriate recommendations, including future house design and construction quality, in a bid to further strengthen and develop RPN.

“The major challenge for RPN is sustainability due to the very high rate of subsidy, the inability of recipients to pay off increasing arrears and limited land resources to continue RPN as low-density (housing),” said the minister.

He also noted there were low-income individuals in need of housing, but they are not eligible under the current scheme.

During the session, several proposals were put forward by LegCo members to review the eligibility criteria to allow the growing number of permanent residents as well as landowners, who lack the resources to build a house, to apply for RPN.

While all landowners including those who inherited land are disqualified from the scheme, it was highlighted some of them were unable to build a house as they are underprivileged.

“On the other hand, there were also those who are high-income earners, and should be able to afford housing in the open market, but (instead) are enjoying the highly-subsidised housing,” remarked YB Dato Hj Bahrin.

He said the Housing Focus Group will examine the issue of inequality within the eligibility criteria and develop satisfactory measures to resolve the problem.

To date, over 24,000 government-subsidised houses have been given to applicants across the country. A total of 27,000 houses have been built with another 2,000 units slated for completion within two years.

The Brunei Times