Monday, April 28, 2014

Construction Noise Menace and the Useless City Hall

As the title suggest, we Malaysians suffer a lot from corrupt and useless authorities who we entrust to enforce the law with our tax money. Construction sites work day and night without considering the noise and smog affecting neighbours, although their permit limits them to certain hours.

So, people living in St Mary Residences suffer from the surrounding construction. On one side, the Hap Seng Building which is now nearing completion, another side we have the Public Bank building but nothing beats the reconstruction of the MAS building next door to block C.

The noise does not only affects Block C because the St Mary buildings are effectively a quadrangle so noise tends to reflect and bounce of the walls so all units tend to be affected.

The developer is PNB, Permodalan Nasional Berhad and the contractor is AZRB, Ahmad Zaki Resources, both politically well connected. They have a permit to work from 8am to 6pm daily and this fact is published on the development notice board outside the construction site.

However, work often goes on till 1am or 2am. Residents have in the past called the police. The police turns up only to tell them to stop work. They will stop and as soon as the police has left, they start again. It's literally a cat and mouse game. At many instances, the construction stops and all lights were switched off a few minutes before the arrival of the police patrol car. Then mysteriously as they went silent they started back again as soon as the patrol car left.

Up until one day, one honest sargeant told us the police is powerless to act against this type of menace. This is despite the law allowing them to confiscate any device such as loud speakers and musical instruments from bars who exceed the noise limit. So, he suggested we should stop calling them and instead call the city hall, DBKL.

There really is no difference between DBKL and the police. It's cat and mouse all over again. Then one day, the contractor called for a meeting with the residents. The intention was actually to ask the St Mary residents' sign off for them to extend their work hours to the night. They produced clever reports from consultants who claim that the noise level is actually acceptable. The report however did not specify what time the noise level were recorded at and since the report was paid for by the contractor they were not so "independent". Residents challenged and scolded the developer and all those who turned up for the meeting shared their story of untold misery such as having to wake up at 1am to calm their babies who were woken up by the noise.

The Project Manager who incidentally won a Grammy Award for best actor claimed he was unaware that his underlings have been flouting the permit's time limit. He expressed shock and even turned to his Project Supervisor for confirmation of such inconsiderate attitude. He then promised no more night works and provided his mobile number in case complaints need to be escalated to him directly.

Frankly, nothing changed even after the meeting and it's a cat and mouse game again with the developer while the Project Manager did not really follow up with any of the residents' phone calls.

Last Friday was probably the ultimate as the contractor managed to get DBKL's approval to assemble a giant mobile crane from Friday 25th to Monday 28th of April. The contractor also took the opportunity to catch up with their work although they were not supposed to. The permit only allows the assembly of the crane and Jalan Tengah to be partially closed for that purpose. The construction went on till 6am Saturday morning, then started again all of Saturday and Sunday.

This time, residents called DBKL. The DBKL officer said he will prepare a report and send his men to the site. No DBKL officers showed up. 2 hours later, at 1am more calls to DBKL, the officer said they were still preparing the report. The whole weekend, nobody from DBKL came.

The police cannot do anything. Now DBKL seems they have been corrupted. So, the only option left is to take this to the next level.... Let's see what it is going to be...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bandar Malaysia

Those of us driving into KL from the Seremban-KL highway won't miss the Sungai Besi airport on the left, complete with a landscape view of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower in the background.

This site will be redeveloped. World famous architect Broadway Melyan has been appointed to design the master plan for the area. 

This month, the media has also carried news that the KL-Singapore high speed train will terminate here. So, no more Sentul... You see, in Malaysia, things get changed according to who is in power. The high speed train project was mooted when Dr Mahathir was PM. That time it was YTL, therefore Sentul. Abdullah Badawi put the project on the shelf. When Najib took over, the project is revived and they are now putting it here in Bandar Malaysia... I am not saying this is right or wrong,... just that this is how the way it is ;-)

Obviously there is going to be an effect on properties in KL. Bandar Malaysia is obviously going to create tens of thousands of office lots and so is the TR Exchange just slightly up the same road. This will become the new KL, with everything brand new and modern, it will draw away tenants from the center and other parts of KL. Or it may well set a new benchmark for prices... we'll see.

Meanwhile, let's see what YTL is going to plan for that piece of land which was ear-marked for the KL-Singapore train terminal... how exciting...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Case of Barking up the Wrong Tree

A Penang local council has been urged to reclassify a condominium project from commercial to residential.1st of all, the land the project is built on is commercial land where only commercial buildings such as hotels, offices or retail outlets are allowed. To circumvent this, developers market and sell their condominiums as SOHO or serviced residences. Secondly, they do this to avoid putting the compulsory schedule H into the S&P agreement. However, since serviced residences are now considered as residential and developers must incorporate the schedule H, their only loophole now is to call their condos SOHOs.

Instead of screaming at the council for their classification, which in my opinion befits the land title and the SOHO status i.e. commercial project, buyers should boycott SOHOs altogether unless they are buying the property for real commercial purposes.

‘Unfair to classify condo units as commercial’

| April 9, 2014
MPPP has been urged to reclassify two condominium blocks under the small-office-home-office from commercial to residential.
one sky

GEORGE TOWN: It is unfair of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) to classify the two 26-storey condominium blocks of One World and One Sky in Bayan Baru as commercial, said a non-governmental organisation.

The council has classified the two condominium blocks under the small-office-home-office (Soho), which comes under the commercial category.

Penang Chant, an NGO to create public awareness on environmental protection and sustainable development, said it was unfair for the condominium units in Bayan Baru to pay commercial rates for electricity, water and assessment rates.

The 538 condominium owners said the assessment rates were even higher than other commercial units in the municipality.

The owners said the assessment rate of a commercial centre in Bukit Jambul was RM3,100 for a 730sq ft unit, while they were being charged between RM22,800 and RM28,000 for units measuring 1,160sq ft to 1,450sq ft.

Although the units were classified as Soho in their sales and purchase agreement, the assessment rates were much higher than other commercial units, they said.

The owners are willing to pay the commercial assessment rates but the amount was too high.
MPPP Financial Management Committee alternate chairman Joseph Ng Soon Siang had said the residents could write to the council to review their case.

On March 27, the council announced that the appeal by the condominium residents to reduce the assessment rates had been rejected on grounds that the premises were commercial lots.
Chant said it had told the Penang government several times that Soho projects were going to be a problem.

The group argued that the developers benefited by selling Soho units but it had caused hardship to the people.

“The state government must inform the people that they will be charged commercial rates if they bought Soho units,” Chant said in a statement today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Old Bangsar

People always relate Bangsar to affluence. But not every part of Bangsar is rich, however more and more of it is. Property prices here now can match KLCC area as seen from the launches recently of Nadi Bangsar and the Establishment

Bangsar consists of Bukit Bandaraya and Taman Bandaraya on a hill towards the north - this is the affluent part of Bangsar with many old Bungalows, the Verona Towns houses and many condominiums are located here. The recently refurbished Bangsar shopping complex is here too.  This is a very popular neighbourhood mall. With the addition of an office block by developer BRDB, it has become even more. A friend who used to run a shop here once commented that you may not see many people in the mall but the shops do well because people who come here, they come to spend money and they already know what they want to buy. This is unlike some malls where we see crowds but everyone is just window shopping...

Mid-Bangsar consists of the commercial Telawi area and the mostly terraced residential Terasek. This is the most high density part of Bangsar although there are no apartments or condos here. This is due to the eateries and  pubs in Telawi coupled by the Bangsar Village mall and TMC supermarket, with haphazard parking and cars blocking the roads and driveways of houses almost 24 hours. Personally I hate this place for the congestion but it seems to attract the trendy and the new.   

The link to the public transport in Bangsar is the Bangsar LRT station located in the less affluent Bukit Bangsar. Here we have low cost flats and C-grade commercial buildings. The flagship of the area is Dataran Maybank and UOA's Menara UOA Bangsar office which adjoins the LRT station. 

In all the areas mentioned above, one would struggle to find any piece of land where meaningful development can be carried out. However, at the southern tip, almost cut off from the rest of the Bangsar is the unnamed area which is so unceremoniously called "Off Jalan Bangsar" in googlemap.  Old geezers like us relate this place to the News Straits Times Press of Jalan Riong. But with the mainstream media such as NST having less prominence in our lives... due to often spouting much spin and shit from the ruling party, many in the younger generation don't know much about Jalan Riong  anymore. From inside the LRT and Jalan Bangsar, one can see vast tracks of land ripe for development.

In fact the Nadi Bangsar project has just started in this area. What's going to happen next is indeed very exciting... Notice the grey warehouse beside the orange NST Press in the picture below? This is earmarked to become a hub for arts and print. It will be turned into a trendy and artsy place for creative people to perform and create.

Indeed, unknown to fast paced business KL, there is a corner of town that is indeed still very slow, still very retro in fact...

Far deep into "Off Jalan Bangsar", past the towering condos such as Bangsar Permai, Bangsar Heights, Suasana and upcoming Nadi Bangsar is a residential community stuck in the 60's.

There really isn't a single name for the area, as every street is named after a different fish such as Kaloi, Sepat, Kurau etc... This is unlike other parts of Bangsar which have a single identifiable name with a street number like Telawi 1, Terasek 6 and so on... Despite that, the streets of the fishes have their own community hall, complete with a "town square" and a BBQ pit!  

I particularly love the terraced houses which are still untouched, unrenovated, maintaining it's old charm and facade... such as those below...

Unfortunately, many of these have been renovated and changed, some of them very successfully but most of them totally look bad taste!

The price tag of these 20ft wide houses are now well over RM1million. If these seem distantly affordable, consider the charming Bangsar Heights condo. It's a struggle to find any sellers here. Although prices are merely RM700psf today, old condos tend to be large, even for 1br or 2br units making them cost well over RM1million for a typical 3 bedroom unit. The cheapest I found was a RM700k 800sf 2br unit. With just over 100 units over 7 acres of freehold land, this is a gem!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Effects of MH370 on Property

Wealthy Chinese buyers buy up luxury properties in Malaysia. So, I think the effects will mainly be on the high end market while the lower to mid-range properties will continue their steady climb due to demand for housing from the population. Anyway, here's what Malaymail thinks

After tourism, MH370 fallout in China set to hit Malaysian property

Families of the Chinese passengers on the doomed MH370 flight and their countrymen became hostile towards Malaysia following its announcement on March 24 that satellite data showed the plane ‘ended somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean’. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Growing acrimony in China over Malaysia’s handling of the MH370 crisis could jeopardise Chinese buyers’ appetite for property development here, according to theWall Street Journal.
The news comes as rancour in Beijing over the Malaysia’s continued inability to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that carried 153 Chinese nationals among the 239 people on board has already torpedoed the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 promotions in the country.
Families of the Chinese passengers on the doomed flight and their countrymen became hostile towards Malaysia following its announcement on March 24 that satellite data showed the plane “ended somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean”.
The absence of physical evidence of the flight led some families to label the Malaysian government “murderers” for implying that all those aboard were dead.
“For now, marketing homes in Malaysia is going to be a bit awkward. It’s just like how we don’t market homes in Japan to Chinese customers,” an anonymous Beijing-based real estate consultant told the WSJ.
But the expected drop-off will not only hit Malaysian property developers; Chinese real estate firms who invested heavily in the market here could now end up with lots for which they might find fewer buyers.
One such firm was Guangzhou-based Country Garden Holdings, who began venturing into the local property market via Johor Baru in 2012.
Sales in its Country Garden Danga Bay project there last year reached roughly 7 billion yuan (RM3.7 billion), and was the firm’s biggest sales contributor.
“The (MH370) incident has brought some negative impressions of Malaysia (and the) Malaysian government, and we do not preclude the possibility that this would also affect our projects in the Malaysian market,” said Country Garden in a statement.
But it said it was still confident in its investment in Malaysia.
“We believe that Chinese buyers in the choice of overseas investment are rational,” it said.
Malaysia was fast becoming the regional “darling” of property buyers from mainland China following market restrictions in Hong Kong and Singapore.
In 2013, Chinese institutional and retail investors invested a total of US$1.9 billion (RM6.2 billion) into real estate in Malaysia, exceeding the US$867 million invested in Hong Kong and US$1.8 billion invested in Singapore, according to real estate consultancy Savills.
The figure also topped the US$1 billion invested in Australia, but lagged Chinese investments into Britain and the United States.
It is unclear the extent of the damage MH370 will ultimately deal to the property sector in Malaysia, but parallels are  being drawn between the missing plane and the China-Japan tension in 2012 that saw buyers in the former country organise concerted boycotts of products from the latter, which hit its automotive sector hard.
Still, analysts believe the effects will not be permanent.
“In the long term, homebuyers will consider more fundamental issues, like education and investment prospects of buying a home in Malaysia,” CIMB Securities analyst Johnson Hu told the US daily.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said that “Visit Malaysia Year” roadshows in China would be halted until the MH370 case is closed.
Nazri yesterday conceded that, less than a month since the plane was lost, the falloff was already taking its toll.
“I would be lying if I said that it is not affected.
“We are sure that the Chinese passengers’ families are angry at Malaysia including some of their artists who expressed the same sentiment,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.
China currently accounts for 12 per cent of tourist arrivals here, who contribute six per cent of the country’s tourism earnings or approximately RM39 billion last year.
On Sunday, several families of Chinese passengers of MH370 arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Beijing, and held a press conference to denounce Malaysia’s handling of the search for the plane.
Some held aloft banners that read in Chinese and English: “You must return relatives of MH370, no strings attached” and “Hand us the murderer”.
MH370 went missing shortly after departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing on March 8 and remains missing despite an international search involving over two dozen countries.