THE government should introduce stimulus to revitalise the property market, says Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents immediate past-president Siva Shanker.
“I think our property market has been in a negative territory for so many years now. The thing to do is to introduce stimulus, not restrictions, even at Forest City. When you have too much speculation, then you can introduce restrictions. But the days of introducing restrictions are gone.
“Overall, although I don’t have statistics to back me up, I do not think foreign participation in the Malaysian property market is so high that it warrants concerns. However, we need to look at this holistically. We cannot take the whole country and use it as a ratio. Perhaps, there are concerns that there are too many foreigners in Forest City and that it will become a foreign city,” he said.
Siva said Johor may have higher foreign participation than any other states and this is because Singaporeans are buying there and also due to mega projects that have attracted foreigners.
He said while it may not be right to offer visas to foreigners who buy properties in Malaysia, in terms of pure market play, foreign property participation in the market is good for the industry.
“There are many parts of the world where very high-end properties attract the rich and famous from all over the world and of which the locals can’t (afford to) buy. We have to accept that fact of life... If there are too many foreigners buying, then there is a bit of concern and perhaps (there is a need to) impose some restrictions on the number or percentage of units that can be sold to them.
“By and large, I do not think such a problem exist. Perhaps it exists in Johor, but if you take the whole of Malaysia and average it out, i don’t think there is a problem,” he said.
Siva said he can’t agree with the comments made by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Forest City and believes the situation should not have warranted such drastic decisions, such as an outright ban on foreigners from buying properties in Forest City.
He said instead of a blanket ban to stop foreign buying, may be measures to slow down building in Forest City temporarily while market conditions improve, could be introduced.
But, he pointed out this also means there will be government intervention. “The government should not interfere. Let the developer build. If they build and can’t sell, let them suffer. But I believe CGPV (Country Garden PacificView Sdn Bhd) knows what they are doing.
“Let the market take care of itself. On the unaffordability of the properties in Forest City to locals, I don’t think CGPV (purposely) made them unaffordable to locals just to attract foreigners. I think they just priced them at what they are worth. The price is also determined by market force. If it’s too expensive, just don’t buy and let the developers learn that they need to reduce it. Let market forces dictate.”
Country Garden PacificView Sdn Bhd is the developer of Forest City.
Siva said if CGPV had launched and sold 17,000 apartments since 2016, then it would warrant concerns in the local property market. “That is immediately an over supply situation. The whole of Mont’ Kiara took slightly over 20 years to mature and it has 20,000 to 30,000 condominiums today. In Forest City, 17,000 apartments were sold in two years. Unless a bulk of them are going to move to Forest City when they get their keys, then there is really nothing to worry about.
“But I’m also sure many of them bought on speculation and they will just try to make some money when the units are completed. Looking at the massive developments in Forest City, property prices will definitely be on uptrend as the years go by. Overall, Forest City is an impressive development which has captured the attention of investors and developers in Malaysia and worldwide.”
AN INTERNATIONAL PROJECT
Touted as the “eco-smart city of the future”, Forest City was envisioned by Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, as “a balanced development where the people of Johor will benefit”.
The project, upon full completion, will have apartment blocks, bungalows, townhouses, offices, hotels, malls and leisure activities on four man-made islands.
It is basically a new “live-work-play” destination for Malaysians, especially Johoreans, and for the international market. CGPV seeks to attract diverse multinationals from the retail and hospitality sectors, including investors and property companies for the development of eight key industries in Forest City.
The eight industries are education, e-commerce, foreign investment, tourism, Mice (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions), entrepreneurship, financial services and retirement destination and they will add to the population in Forest City.
CGPV has set up show galleries in major international cities to attract global investors and house buyers to work and live in the development.
In 2016/2017, the company sold 17,000 apartments, whereby 20 per cent were bought by Malaysians and the rest by buyers from 22 other countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.
China buyers accounted for about two-thirds of the owners of Forest City units sold so far. They bought for different reasons, such as to relocate to Forest City, as a place to retire and as a long-term investment.
CGPV, in a statement issued following Dr Mahathir’s comments, said it had complied with all laws and regulations regarding the necessary approvals to sell its commercial and residential units to foreigners.
Pursuant to Section 433B of the National Land Code, a foreign citizen or a foreign company may acquire land in Malaysia subject to the prior approval of a State Authority.
CGPV also said it did not issue any Permanent Residency (PR) to foreign buyers of Forest City. Its executive director Datuk Md Othman Yusof told NSTP during a visit to the project site last year that Forest City was an international development.
Launched in 2014, Forest City is targeting a working population of more than 200,000 by the end of the development. More than 90 per cent of the working population will be Malaysians.
Othman also said Forest City would have an integrated public transportation system which might incorporate light rail transit, electric vehicles and water taxis, and have links to the high-speed rail network that can provide seamless travel for residents and visitors, while protecting the environment.