Sometimes there are news which is both positive and yet negative at the same time. Positive because foreigners love the investment opportunities presented to them. Negative because the locals may not the beneficiaries of these opportunities. I read such an article in NST today. It interviewed a foreign landlord who shared how he and his friends who bought properties along several main lanes within the heritage zone a few years ago. They have seven properties today. They were able to rent it out easily, starting from RM1,800 and now raised to RM5,000. He also shared that they did not evict the tenants but treating this as an investment and a business. He said, “We are not here to destroy the heritage enclave, but to get a good return for our investment. “I believe local landlords also see it that way and had raised their rentals.”
Most of the time, locals may not be the first to realise the value of investing in the local properties. Locals may not be the first to buy; beware locals The main reason is because these foreigners who can either be from outside Malaysia or even from bigger cities would have seen how property prices tend to appreciate with more economic activities. These experienced investors would be the first batch of buyers. In fact sometimes, the locals may not realise until the prices have gone up a lot. That’s when some started to buy and many started to complain. The remedy is just to continue to read more about what’s happening the property market scene and not to know nothing, read nothing and buy nothing. In the end, foreigners may own a huge chunk while the locals own almost nothing.
There are also those with an existing heritage building passed down from their parents. Should they invest in the buildings and transform into an investment? If yes, what should they do and what could they do, within the boundaries of heritage conservation? In an earlier article not too long ago,my good friend Michael Geh said something very real that needs more attention. Representing the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce as their heritage and tourism spokesperson, Michael Geh said locals were not selling off their properties to the highest bidder, as widely felt. But conservation red tape with the authorities has forced them to do so. This is one of the main reasons heritage property owners give up their inheritance.” Many times, some of the owners would love to preserve it but without clear guidelines or even tough ones, it may not be feasible, especially when the owners may own just one unit for example. That’s the reason why when foreign buyers come, they do not buy one unit but they would prefer a few units or one whole row. It gives them the economies of scale. Visit shewalkstheworld.com for more photos.
According to the NST article, Penang Heritage Trust vice-president Khoo Salma Nasution, these foreign acquisitions is not a bad thing but it would be negative once it becomes rampant and there was bulk buying. She reminded everyone that “Penang heritage is touted as a living heritage. This status comes from the fact that Penang folks inhabit the cities. Foreign buyers are driving up property prices and rental rates. Many families are cannot afford the rentals and are forced to move out.” She asked, “Is it a living heritage city or a tourist city? A place owned and inhabited by locals or a place owned by foreigners and inhabited by whoever pays the most?” Property market is always ‘open for business’. There are certain limitations to foreigners buying the local properties but perhaps the issue would lie with how do we assist the locals to use what they have as well as to appeal to locals with deep pockets to do a bit more. It is their home. Yes, I like to walk around the heritage areas in Penang. Lots to see and appreciate.
written on 11 Feb 2017
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