Can PPR schemes break out their 'unliveable' mould?

07 Jul 2023 09:04am
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX

KUALA LUMPUR - Hussin Yahya never gets tired of the view of the playground from his flat on the second floor of a 12-storey low-cost housing scheme in Pandan Utama in Ampang, Selangor.

The 67-year-old government retiree, who has been staying at Rumah Pangsa Pandan Utama since 2003, enjoys watching children frolicking or playing badminton or on the swing and teenagers playing futsal on a nearby court while the older adults sit on the benches and chat.

The playground exudes an unmistakable air of harmony and it resonates with the sense of well-being that can be felt in the rest of the housing area, which is rather unusual for a low-cost public housing scheme.

Each time Hussin gazes at his surroundings, he feels relieved and vindicated as his efforts to change the mentality of his 600 or so fellow flat dwellers, 90 per cent of whom previously lived in squatter colonies, have not been in vain.

"It was not like this before. We used to face the same problems people living in other flats faced... residents on the higher floors would hurl down their garbage to the ground and the walls were covered with graffiti. We also had to deal with vandalism and bear the stench of urine and it was also hard to get the residents to cooperate.

"Worse still, we had anti-social elements including drug addicts and criminals lurking around here, so much so residents didn’t dare to hang out or play in the playground,” the father of five told Bernama.

Hussin, who was among the first batch of people to move to Rumah Pangsa Pandan Utama, said things changed after a joint management body committee (JMB) was set up in 2015, which opened the eyes of the residents to the importance of taking care of their residential area and creating a cleaner and more comfortable and harmonious environment for them to live in.

The impact was more obvious during the movement control order period when the residents went the extra mile to beautify the common areas in their housing scheme by repainting and adorning the previously graffiti-filled walls with beautiful paintings, floral decor and wallpaper; placing potted plants in the lift corridors; and adding more greenery to their playground and futsal court.
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Rumah Pangsa Pandan Utama is among the low-cost housing schemes developed under the People’s Housing Programme, better known as Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR), a government initiative to relocate squatters as well as meet the housing needs of the lower-income group. The programme, overseen by the National Housing Department under the Ministry of Local Government Development, comprises two categories - PPR Disewa (Rented) and PPR Dimiliki (Owned).

Hussin, who is Rumah Pangsa Pandan Utama JMB chairman, said: "When our housing area became cleaner, the residents felt better and become more enthusiastic. There was also a significant drop in the number of crimes committed here due to our close ties with the police and the local council. We feel safer now.”

According to him, the makeover was fully instituted by the flat dwellers who used their own money to spruce up their living environment in stages. Those who were initially not too keen eventually joined in the beautification efforts, obviously inspired by the changes in their surroundings.

To nab residents who commit offences such as disposing of rubbish indiscriminately, and to weed out unsavoury activities, six closed-circuit television cameras have been installed in strategic places such as the lift lobby and inside the lifts.

Looking spic and span, Ruman Pangsa Pandan Utama seems to exude an aura of an elite housing area as Bernama found out during a visit there recently.

The lift lobby on its ground floor and the lift corridor on each floor are like a breath of fresh air with their walls featuring a mix of eye-catching wallpaper and wainscoting, a type of decorative panelling. What is more, they also sport tiled floors and plaster ceilings and even have places for people to sit.

One of the flat dwellers Fazilah Jahalil, 58, a homemaker, said none of the residents were forced to participate in the beautification of the common areas on the floors where their units are located and that the cost of the remodelling was adjusted according to their budgets.

"The 10th floor where I live was one of the first to be beautified. There are 18 units on my floor and we chipped in whatever amount we could to lay new tiles and paint the walls and pay for the other décor in our corridors.

"Seeing our success, the residents of other floors expressed their wish to beautify their floors using their own creativity and they did a good job too,” she said, adding that the JMB deserved to be praised for transforming and maintaining their housing scheme.


The sense of well-being enjoyed by the residents of Ruman Pangsa Pandan Utama demonstrates that PPR scheme dwellers can also get to live in a clean and comfortable environment.

It is also clear proof that the problems besetting low-cost high-rise schemes such as indiscriminate dumping of garbage, drug abuse and poor neighbourhood etiquette are closely linked to the mentality and attitude of the residents themselves.

A case in point is the other PPR scheme, located in Petaling Jaya, that Bernama visited. Its common areas were mostly dark, dirty and badly maintained.

The third floor, for instance, reeked of urine while its corridor walls were covered with grime and scribblings including vulgar words. The fifth floor, in contrast, looked clean with the walls around the lift area adorned with wallpaper.

S. Chowdri, who runs a grocery store at the PPR concerned, admitted that maintaining cleanliness is the biggest challenge faced by anyone living in a high-density area.

"People living in such places throw trash wherever they want even though proper rubbish bins are provided ... it’s difficult to change their mentality,” she lamented.

To address problems plaguing PPR schemes, the Local Government Development Ministry has made it compulsory for prospective owners of PPR units to attend a civic engagement course to create awareness and understanding of community living and neighbourhood etiquette.

Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming said in March this year the course will include a briefing on the importance of paying maintenance fees, maintaining cleanliness and preventing vandalism.

"A solid civic consciousness will create a more environmentally- and resident-friendly community,” he said.

Honorary fellow of independent think tank Institut Masa Depan Malaysia Dr Madeline Berma, meanwhile, said while the civic engagement course for new buyers of PPR units is a good move, there are other aspects that need to be focused on in order to make PPR schemes more habitable.

"I agree with the course but this approach may not be that effective because it’s like we are blaming the residents for the problems occurring in their PPR. By right, addressing this issue involves various aspects including facilities provided (for the residents), maintenance and habitability of the PPR.

"Based on our studies, I’ve found that PPR schemes are unliveable. So educating the community by conducting a course is not enough. The residents’ association and JMB also play an important role. A once-a-month gotong royong session may have to be made compulsory to maintain the housing area,” she said - BERNAMA

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