Archive for February, 2011

DRN officially launched

Housing, a crucial component in town and country planning comes into the limelight today 10.2.2011. The National Housing Department’s baby “The National Housing Policy or Dasar Perumahan Negara (DRN)” was eventually launched by none other than the Hon. Deputy Prime Minister at the glamorous PICC in Putrajaya. The Hon. Housing Minister clarified earlier that it is not as if there were never housing policies before but that these policies are now consolidated under a formal report: the DRN! For those who may ask why it was not abbreviated “DPN” is because that was snapped earlier by JPBD’s National Urbanisation Policy or Dasar Perbandaran Negara (DPN). The bilingual DRN is 100 pages long, looks glamorous, has a silky smooth cover that is nice to touch but more importantly, highlights 6 thrusts: Provision of adequate housing based on the specific needs of target groups(1), Improving the quality and productivity of housing development(2), Increasing the effectiveness of implementation and ensuring compliance of the housing service delivery system(3), Improving the capability of the people to own and rent houses(4), Sustainability of the housing sector(5) and Enhancing the level of social amenities, basic services and livable environment (6). The report just came out of the oven so it is too early to comment but views are most welcomed. There is no doubt that if national policies get implemented, that would be great but on the other hand, if they do not or do so yet sluggishly, I always remember my form 5 teacher saying “Who guards the Guardian?”

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R&D shifts to Wisma UOA Damansara

Click to enlarge

JPBD Headquarters has limited office space and some divisions outgrow themselves.  Bahagian Penyelidikan dan Pembangunan or fondly known as R&D is an example and eventually shifted to Wisma UOA Damansara beginning Monday 7.2.2011. This is one of the commercial office blocks in the Damansara enclave, accessed from Jalan Dungun and close to JPBD headquarters. Anyone who regularly plys Jalan Semantan knows this is up-market area. I was informed that office space for R&D and building security is good but at this point of writing, there is no telephone and Internet line. Some years ago, I visited Wisma UOA Damansara to run an errant job and found it difficult to find a vacant parking lot in the building eventhough expensive. To make matters worse, it was also difficult to find a vacant parking lot in the paid parking zone beyond. Parking problem must be more serious now so it was not surprising to hear negative feedbacks on the relocation. To make ends meet, some of the lower income bracket pool their cars from JPBD headquarters until they find a suitable parking lot within their means are found, if ever. Other than that, getting public transport along Jalan Semantan is difficult. Buses and taxis do pass but tend to be congested or full. Even sometimes, empty taxis do not stop. Double, at times, triple parking among JPBD staff  also occurs at the basement car park. What will the future be? The Central Zone Project Office previously occupied Syed Kecil Building in Bangsar for just a year. Will R&D still be there in OUA Damansara in years to come ?

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Should gated neighbourhoods be allowed to exist?

Security vs freedom are two fundamental conflicting values because the better the security, the less freedom one enjoys and best illustrated by gated neighbourhood (as against gated community which is legally provide for). It affects not only the community within but also outside because there will be a loss of accessibility for “outsiders” who cross in and out of that neighbourhood before. While this is not really a town planning issue and more so a local authority administrative issue, JPBD came forth with the Planning Guideline on Gated Community and Gated Neighbourhood. Even so, that guideline explictly states gated neighbourhood are not provided or under any Act. Does that make gated neighbourhood illegal? Moderator Robertec of mentions that “Local government is not interested in your problem as it contravenes the Streets and Drainage Act. Local Council will look the other way until it receives a complaint, which there will be quite a few from those not paying, don’t be disheartened. The Local Council requires you to get approval of 75 to 90% approval of residents within the area, if you are going to put up barriers etc and this must be submitted to the MPSJ with the covering letters etc. This will still be illegal at the end of the day but “acceptable” and you most probably will not receive a reply from them, so ensure you have a duplicate copy stamped by them acknowledging receipt your letter and documents.” As the topic got hotter, the National Council on Local Government sat on 2.9.2010 and agreed to the implementation of the Planning Guidleline on Gated Communities and Gated Neighbourhood and left it to the State Authority to decide whether to adopt it or not but if it does, shall adopt in totality and be applied only to new schemes. It looks like until a State Authority approves that guideline, the question of legality over such schemes and all the incumbrance that go along with it lingers on. Gated Neighbourhoods in concept offers some level of security yet at the price of freedom. Each of that fundamental value has its pro and cons so should gated neighbourhoods be allowed to exist?

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The evolution of backlanes

Backlanes: what is provided under the Uniform Building Bylaw as a safety measure to offer fire officers easy and quick access to the rear of houses in the event of a fire and left untouched when a housing scheme was awarded a Certificate of Fitness, in many housing schemes, have now evolved as gated backlanes sometimes at both ends, other times only one end as  deterrent against theft and robbery.  With better quality in housing construction than before, fires at homes nowadays rarely happen so is there currently a compulsory need to provide for them?

A point in favour of backlanes is that they also provide better ventilation and sunlight but they unfortunately also serve as excellent access to houses from the rear because less attention and surveillance is placed there making them ideal point of entry for thieves and robbers. If backlanes gradually become gated by the residents, it defeats the original purpose they were designed for.  As land becomes expensive, the acerage for all backlanes could instead be contra in the form of a larger playground which neighbours could enjoy instead. On the other hand, a house with only one access through the front is extremely dangerous for the occupants in the event of a fire occurs in the front. Whatever it is, maybe it is time to re-look and question whether there is still a compulsory need to provide them in future.

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Helping others help us

Can knowledge-sharing be creatively tune to help us in the end? It can, if the relevant parties concerned capitalize on the knowledge gained to their advantage and reciprocate their by-products back to us. The energy of knowledge is never lost, merely transformed and boomerangs back waiting to be optimized. While government to government practice in general does not require any form of payment, when data sharing is only one way, hidden resentment in reality may exist. Therefore practising the typical Malaysian gesture of gratitude after receiving something will surely encourage a more closely knit relationship. To better collaborate and turn the one-way transaction into two, JPBD put on its thinking hat and came up with the idea that “repayment” could be form of kind by way of IT knowledge which a local authority could capitalize and also help address a limited budget. Not having the technical expertise did not stop creativity. An idea JPBD pioneered last year with an investment of RM50,000 crystalized in the form a Quantum GIS slope analysis module/plugin. Through the use of Open Source, a local authority or anyone for that matter who uses that plugin will not be burdened by any license or annual fee and is free to install it in any number of computer. A similar proprietary version would cost RM8,000 per installation meaning JPBD’s overhead break-evens after the 7th installation. Imagine the financial benefits of installing the module to others multiplies itself a factor of RM8,000. Since the plugin is driven by Quantum GIS (QGIS), when a local authority utlizes QGIS there is a further saving of RM10,000 per installation. QGIS is multi-platform and when the slope analysis module was awarded, both Windows and Ubuntu versions were developed but it is anticipated the Windows version will be more popular. If many local authorities accept the plugin and join the Open Source GIS band wagon,this intellectual gift in kind which JPBD wants to share, will help JPBD expedite the much needed landuse information while at the same time also predicts a huge saving to the government when that happens.

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