DBKL’s incentive for developers needs to be implemented wisely

The recent announcement by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to give 50 percent discount on development charges to developers could spell good news and bad news for the consumers.

By Khalil Adis

Take a walk around Kuala Lumpur and you will notice the towering skyscrapers dotting the city’s skyline. From the Petronas Twin Towers to Menara Maxis, these buildings have become icons of Kuala Lumpur.

However, there is a cost for having such iconic buildings – the lack of green lungs in Kuala Lumpur and park connectors to connect the different land use.

Kuala Lumpur has been developing rapidly since Mahathir’s era in the 80s to the current Najib’s administration.

Some of the iconic developments that will soon tower over the city will include Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), KL Metropolis, Warisan Merdeka @ KL118, Bandar Malaysia, and the Pudu Jail Redevelopment near the Hang Tuah Monorail Station.

In TRX alone, 25 buildings will be developed ranging from offices to residences.

Delicate balancing act between development and sustainability

While the various mega developments will certainly be a confidence booster for the property market, it needs to be analysed from a bigger picture.

As someone who visits KL often, there are several things that I have noticed about the city which could be further improved – the notorious traffic jams, the lack of connectivity, and green lungs between the developments as well as the public transportation.

Look at the big picture

While I welcome DBKL’s incentive to boost the quiet property market, it needs to be implemented cautiously.

One thing I noticed about Kuala Lumpur is the fondness for overdevelopment with very little thought for its surroundings and its impact on the environment.

And when improvements are made, they seem to be more of an afterthought rather than a proper masterplan. For example, the sky bridges linking Pavilion to KLCC and the upgrading of train stations.

As such, the city’s potential is not fully achieved, especially when it aims to be a developed country by 2020.

One of the best example is Singapore. In Singapore, we have a central body called the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that oversees the entire masterplan of the city.

Therefore, when developers tender for a site, they must ensure that they adhere to the planning guidelines that make the entire city work and not just their development only.

As a result, you can walk from one building to another via park connectors, sky bridges or tunnels to the MRT stations. Each different part of the city complements each other to ensure the city works.

In Malaysia, the developers are only concerned about their own projects. As a result, there is a lack of integration between the different buildings and train stations.

Dilemma in building the city

I recall back in 2009 when I attended DBKL’s briefing on making Kuala Lumpur a green and sustainable city, as well as its way of tackling the traffic jams that Klang Valley experience on a daily basis.

According to DBKL, almost one million cars enter and exit the city every day, leading to traffics jams that KLites have gotten used to.

Since 2009, you can see lots of improvements to make the transfer within the different lines smooth.

For example, you now have Nu Sentral to connect the KL Sentral Monorail Station to the main KL Sentral. Meanwhile, at the Hang Tuah LRT Station, you do not have to tap in and out to change to the Hang Tuah Monorail Station. There’s also the park–and-ride scheme to encourage car owners to take the trains.

The city now has a population of 7 million with 2.5 million jobs created in 2010 and a further 4.2 million by 2020.

If you look at the current traffic situation, there are still traffic jam issues that plague the city.

Therefore, I feel a lot more things need to be considered when DBKL announced that it would give developers a 50 percent discount on development charges.

While I laud DBKL for implementing and improving the entire transport system since 2009, developers need to ensure that they adhere to a masterplan for the benefit of the rakyat.

The good and the bad

Despite the falling Ringgit, the property market in Kuala Lumpur is quiet. Foreign investors are few and far between, while locals feel they are priced out of the market.

The advantage of this incentive is that it will jump-start the quiet property market.

Developers may also pass on the cost-savings to the consumers, which might create a good time to look for bargain hunts in Kuala Lumpur – be it for locals or foreign investors.

For locals, this will definitely be favourable, especially for first-time homeowners and upgraders who cannot afford to purchase a house and have to find an alternative in the suburbs in Selangor.

The disadvantage includes an increase in traffic congestion with more developments coming in the Klang Valley vicinity.

What would work is to have integrated green developments with park connectors and bridges linking to the future MRT line to make Kuala Lumpur an even greener city.

The various Budget 2016 announcements to spur green and sustainable development could work well for Kuala Lumpur, if implemented correctly.

Budget 2016 has allocated a substantial amount for green technologies and sustainable developments. Green is also predicted to be the buzzword for next year.

Hopefully, the budget contributes for DBKL’s masterplan, to provide a more sustainable Kuala Lumpur. This would provide some sort of incentives for the developers to build green developments and make the city more pleasant for everyone.

I am certainly looking forward to see if DBKL will be announcing that its fund is part of Budget 2016.