‘Kg Panchor’s rows of vacant units worrisome’

National 2 minutes, 45 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

RESIDENTS of the Kg Panchor National Housing Scheme have voiced concerns that the number of yet unoccupied houses will only give rise to social ills if they continue to be left vacant.

When visited by The Brunei Times yesterday, rows of terraced and semi-detached houses were still vacant two years after being completed in March 2014.

Some houses were missing windows and concrete drain covers and a few of the front doors were either unlocked or left slightly open.

A resident of the housing scheme, Mohammad Hj Tahir, said he believes the vacant houses are easy targets for thieves.

“When I moved in about half a year ago, I already heard complaints from neighbours that their houses had been missing windows or even ceiling fans when they wanted to move in initially, so they had to request for replacements which cost the government money unnecessarily,” said the 56-year-old.

“Also, the vacant houses which have been left unlocked for some reason are making it easy and inviting perhaps to some people who might be looking for a place to commit social ills such as drug-taking or fornication - not that I’m saying that these things happen regularly,” he said.

Mohammad, who is a veteran of the Fire and Rescue Department, said the unkempt state of the exterior of the vacant houses could also attract unwanted pests such as snakes which could endanger local residents.

“Based on my many years of experience on the job catching all sorts of animals, the tall lalang grass like that growing around the vacant houses is usually where snakes could be hiding,” he said.

“Most of the time, it’s usually a harmless python. But there’s always a possibility of someone dying from a poisonous snake bite like in Malaysia,” he said, referring to a 7-year-old girl who recently died after she was bitten by a snake in the state of Kelantan.

Another resident, who wished only to be identified as Alif, said security measures have been relaxed over the last few months and that crime could be deterred in the area if the houses are all filled.

“Currently there are police patrols in the area, which I’m grateful for. But I remember security was more strict when I first moved in a year ago as construction workers would set up barricades and patrol the area themselves. But that’s no longer being done,” he said.

“I’m unsure why many units have been vacant for this long, but I trust that the housing authorities will approve the applications and draw lots (to determine the applicants who get the houses) soon so that they will be filled as the vacant houses could encourage thieves to take advantage of the situation while security is relatively lax,” he said.

Diana Asai, who moved into her terraced unit in the housing scheme in October last year, said that having a village head specifically for the residents of the 4,000 houses in the Kg Panchor National Housing Scheme would be helpful.

“Currently, there is no village head for this national housing scheme. But if there was one like in other older national housing schemes in the country, it would be helpful as he could organise neighbourhood watch patrols, especially around the rows of vacant houses,” she said.

The Brunei Times