KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 ― A Barisan Nasional (BN) communications official demanded today the Penang government explain the swift approval given to a luxury condominium developer in comparison to projects for affordable housing.
Datuk Eric See-To Choong, deputy director of BN's strategic communications team, accused the Penang administration of favouring rich developers over public interests, pointing out that the developer for two blocks of luxury condominiums on the island was greenlighted in just eight days, compared to the 223 days it took the Penang City Council (MBBP) to approve an affordable housing project.
The luxury project, comprising two blocks of 40 storey buildings totaling 572 condo units where each unit was said to be priced at RM1,200psf and above, is located on a plot of seaside state land valued at RM135 million where the the new Penang Tunnel linking the island to Seberang Prai is to be built.
“Questions are now raised if the Penang Tunnel SPV company had been given special treatment in the super-fast approval of the luxury condo project ― especially when compared to affordable housing projects,” See-To Choong said in a statement.
See-To Choong also noted that the approval given had raised the development density to 156 units per acre from the 30 units per acre limit that had previously been in effect in that area several years ago.
This, he suggested, meant that the state government may have increased its profit from the land sale due to the increase in development density.
“Did the Penang Government increase the value of the land to the Tunnel SPV company by increasing the development density by almost 5 fold?” he asked
The condo project is now facing some delays as more than a 100 residents in the area had complained that the MBPP is wrong in approving such a high density project in that residential area.
After initiating a suit, the residents had managed to get a stay order from the Penang State Appeals Board who had ruled in their favour.
But See-To Choong claimed the MBPP then appealed on behalf of the developers against their own Penang State Appeals board. The MBPP subsequently lost the appeal in April 2016 and had to pay costs to the appeals board and the residents.
He described the incident as an embarrassment for an administration that supposedly prides itself as being pro-people.
“It was an embarrassing situation where the state government via the MBPP had appealed on behalf of a developer against the state government's own appeal board and lost.
“Hence the state government had to pay the state government for costs,” he said.