ISKANDAR PUTERI, Sept 3 — The Johor state government has proposed to reserve 30 per cent of properties in the Forest City project for Malaysians, amid concerns of mainland Chinese immigrating to the state.
However, Johor housing and rural development committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad stressed that the proposed quota by the state government was based on initial findings on the mega project and was not final.
“The local Malaysian quota for property ownership in Forest City is seen as a fair restriction as almost all other development projects in Johor are bound by the state government’s various quotas to safeguard land.
“We hope the proposal will be positively received by the special committee consisting of the Johor state government, the Housing and Local Government Ministry, the Finance Ministry and also Forest City developers Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd,” Dzulkefly told Malay Mail.
However, Dzulkefly said the committee, which will be tasked to look into the issue of foreign ownership related to the project, has yet to convene.
“I was told that a federal government representative from the Housing and Local Government Ministry will contact us tomorrow (Monday), but we have yet to receive any confirmation,” he said.
Dzulkefly lauded the establishment of the special committee as certain guidelines and rules concerning the Forest City project can be made clear to the public.
He explained that the present Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government did not view the Forest City project as having many issues as such foreign investment has benefited the state while creating job opportunities for locals.
Dzulkefly said the state government respected the federal government’s probe into the matter, but added there is also a need to correct various perceptions about the Forest City project, such as the purported influx of Chinese citizens and claims they will be given residency status.
He said Forest City developers told the state government that only five per cent of foreigners who purchased properties in the mega project have formally applied for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme.
“The figure was communicated by the Forest City developers following a fact-finding visit in June,” said the state executive councillor.
“The Johor state government had earlier taken the initiative to meet the developers to get a better understanding of the situation after PH had just formed the state government after the May 9 general election.
“This was in-line by the new administration to understand and look into the perceived issues that the mega development had caused.”
Dzulkefly, who is also the Kota Iskandar assemblyman, reminded all parties that matters related to Johor’s land, water and forest were within the purview of the state government.
“For normal development in the state, all developers will have to adhere to the quota ratio for properties located on international lots such as the Bumiputera quota and also the minimum RM1 million ceiling price quota for foreigners.
“However, projects such as Forest City were given special considerations by the previous Barisan Nasional-led administration,” he explained.
Forest City, the most ambitious project in Johor’s Iskandar economic zone, is still at an early stage of development and reclamation work is ongoing.
Four artificial islands will be created from the waters of the Johor Straits, covering a total surface of 14 square kilometres and bringing Malaysia’s shoreline closer to Singapore.
More than 700,000 foreign residents are expected by 2050.
The first island is near completion, with the upmarket Phoenix Hotel, apartments, a business strip with duty-free shops, retail, a lakeside park, and the Forest City sales gallery and show units open to the public.
Top American boarding school, Shattuck-St Mary’s School, was at the exit of the first island.
There were groups of Chinese tourists in the hotel lobby during the weekend, with several local Malaysians visiting Forest City because of the Merdeka holiday.
At the same time, the weekend saw the RM1.8 billion Forest City Golf Resort and Jack Nicklaus Designed Forest City Legacy Golf Course officially opening its doors to the public.
Checks showed that Forest City apartment units were priced from more than RM600,000 (for 500 sq ft unit) to RM7 million (for the penthouses).
The units were sold at an average RM1,200 per square feet, setting a new level for premium-range property prices in the state.
Last Monday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the PH government will not allow foreigners to buy residential units in the Forest City project.
However, the Prime Minister’s Office clarified in a statement the next day that the purchase of properties did not guarantee automatic residency in Malaysia, which was echoed by the Johor government a few days later.