PETALING JAYA: Plans by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to introduce low-cost micro homes for single people from the Bottom 40 (B40) community have been met with scepticism by working adults from the target group.

DBKL intends to launch its first project at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, where 200 rooms will be rented out to single people at RM100 each per month.

However, junior marketing executive Azim Mohammad said the hygiene at such facilities could prove a problem as Malaysians are not known for cleaning up after themselves.

“The scenario of unkempt premises is familiar,” the 25-year-old told FMT. “Because the apartment is not owned by the tenants, they are less inclined to keep it clean.”

Azim, who rents a room at a low-cost flat in Gombak, said even if a roster is drawn up to ensure that chores are done in turns, it is rarely followed.

He also questioned the type of people with whom tenants of the micro homes initiative would be sharing their accommodations.

“You will get all kinds of characters living under one roof. What will happen then?”

Referring to the People’s Housing Project, also known as PPR, Azim said the flats at these areas are often vandalised and badly maintained.

“The garbage disposal area is a breeding ground for diseases. Some say PPR flats are unfit for human habitation due to the problems with hygiene and cleanliness. This sounds like it could end up the same way,” he said.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan recently said the proposal for the micro homes initiative, also known as the capsule hotel concept, would be discussed with the minister and DBKL’s board of advisers. Meanwhile, he said, a building had been identified for the purpose and would be modified with an approximate allocation of RM5 million to RM10 million.

Faiz Mohd Hassan, 28, recently moved out of his PPR flat. He told FMT that while the capsule hotel concept was aimed at helping young adults from the B40 group save on rental fees, it should not be treated as a housing solution.

“Capsule hotels are marketed for short stays, not long-term accommodation as suggested by this project,” he said.

In Japan, he said the concept was introduced due to the scarcity of space for accommodation. They offered cheaper alternatives for tourists who did not wish to spend too much on room and board while travelling.

“As the idea became more popular, it turned into a convenient resting place for those who worked late in the city and were too exhausted to travel back to their homes outside the city centre.

“It is definitely not an option for accommodation on a monthly basis.”

Faiz, who works in the city centre, said DBKL’s micro home initiative only came with facilities for sleeping and bathing, not for cooking.

He said this was important as many people were opting to cook at home instead of eating out, which costs a lot of money.

“What about washing facilities? Launderettes may seem like a matter of convenience, but laundry is still an expenditure.

“Is there a common area? It’s not like how you mingle with travellers at a hostel. We are talking about 200 tenants in a building, trying to adapt to each other’s way of doing things. It sounds like a disaster if you ask me,” he said.

Lim Chung Ern, 27, agreed that DBKL’s plan would not solve the lack of affordable housing in Kuala Lumpur.

“Even if we stay at this capsule hotel while we save up for a permanent place, house prices will not stay fixed.

“It boils down to the government needing to find a solution, to make more affordable housing available and stop approving luxury home projects.”

Calling the project a “classic government move” of treating the symptoms and not the cause of a problem, she also asked how DBKL would determine who was allowed to stay at the capsule hotel.

“DBKL said when you get married, you have to move out. How are they going to track that? If no one gets married, does this mean that no one else will benefit other than the 200 who initially got in?”

Aside from concerns over maintenance, she said, there was also the question of security.

“Is it safe for female tenants?” she asked. “How will the rooms be separated between the genders?”

Tang Chee Him, however, said he would not mind staying at the capsule hotel homes as it would help him save on the cost of travelling in and out of the city centre.

The 26-year-old graphic artist said accommodation costs for a young adult with an average salary of RM1,200 could take up a third of his or her take-home wages.

“It is unlikely to find room rental of even RM400 in the city centre,” he told FMT. “These are usually low-cost flats, so the rooms aren’t great.”

On the lack of cooking facilities at the micro home initiative, he said not many unmarried young adults made their own meals, although this would differ from one individual to the next.

However, he expressed reservations over the extent to which the initiative would benefit the B40 young working adults.

He, too, gave the example of PPR flats, saying these were meant to help low-income earners but were often rented out to migrant workers as well.

“Will the same happen with the capsule hotel homes?”

The National House Buyers Association (HBA) voiced support for the micro home initiative as well, saying it would ease the pressure on lower income groups in urban areas.

HBA secretary-general Chang Kim Loong cited a survey by Khazanah Research Institute which revealed that the average monthly savings of those in the B40 group minus monthly expenses was only RM76 a month.

“The B40 income group certainly does not have sufficient monthly savings to weather unforeseen emergencies. They are in urgent need of cheaper housing to reduce the burden of the rising cost of living,” he said.

However, he cautioned that the safety, hygiene and suitability of such buildings must be given top consideration.

Occupants must also be honest enough to declare when they are able to move on from these accommodations, he said.

“But not all occupants may be able to improve their social status and move out,” he added. “The government must also consider more long-term or permanent social housing programmes for the B40 group.” – FMT