More in opinion


Monday, 19 June 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Amend the law to protect open spaces

OPEN spaces are of two distinct categories. One is created by the State from unalienated state land, for example the Taiping Lake Gardens, while the other is within landed residential areas and created by purchasers of such properties (pic).

It is virtually unknown among purchasers of landed residential properties (not the gated ones) that the open spaces they find in their housing schemes are paid for by them, and as such the open spaces are actually common property owned by them collectively.

Developers of landed housing schemes are required to set aside 326.7 square feet of land for each house they build in the scheme. If this requirement is not fulfilled, their development plans are not approved. The cost of this land is factored into the house prices just like the cost of building the roads and drains. Before vacant possession is given to the purchasers, the open space created in this way (which can total a few acres) must be surrendered by the developer to the local authority (LA).

Handing over to the LA is supposed to be for maintenance purposes only, the money for which comes from the yearly assessment fees or taxes (cukai pintu) paid to the LAs.

Open spaces in housing schemes which are the common property of the house-buyers have to be gazetted and herein lies a flaw in the law that does not recognise the difference between “public open spaces” like the Taiping Lake Gardens (which is unalienated government land) and “open spaces” made up of the 326.7 square feet of alienated land compulsorily bought from the developer by each purchaser of a landed property in a housing scheme.

The two distinct types of open spaces are gazetted under the same provision of law, Section 62 of the National Land Code (NLC) “Power of reservation of State land”.

Gazetting under this section is not permanent, as Section 63 allows for the leasing of such “reserved” land. Section 64 allows for revocation of the gazetting and Section 65 permits the giving of temporary occupation licences on “reserved” land.

Thus, gazetting of the open spaces in housing schemes under Section 62 only gives a perception of security. It actually turns the land, made up of 326.7 square feet compulsorily bought by each house-buyer from the developer, into government property over which the government has absolute right to do what it likes.

The law thus allows the open spaces in residential housing schemes to be taken by the government.

Why should the open spaces in landed property housing schemes, compulsorily bought by the house-buyers from the developer, and then compulsorily handed over to the LAs, become the absolute property of the government? This land is not state land.

The law should therefore be amended to state that the open spaces made up of 326.7 square feet per house and paid for by the house-buyers are handed over to the LAs on trust for maintenance purposes only and no provisions of the NLC or any other laws shall apply to empower the LAs or the government to allow such open spaces or any part of them to be used for any other purpose(s) whether temporarily or permanently.

These open spaces should remain open spaces for as long as the respective housing estates are in existence. Would any parliamentarian please take this matter up and push for the law to be duly amended?