CityNet and Think City urge cities to make public housing more liveable

Public housing projects are the picture of urban decline due to their physical deterioration and lack of community ownership. CityNet and Think City held an Urban Resilience Master Class on Low Income Housing on 4 and 10 December 2021 to shed light on how to prevent the further deterioration of public housing. Around 15 city experts participated in the two day event. Think City is one of CityNet’s associate members and a leading Malaysia-based policy think tank.

Participants learned on the many issues on low-income public housing and how they affect their sustainability. They exchanged best practices on how they can improve their housing policies and programs.

The participants also learned about the successful implementation of Malaysia’s low income housing programs in Malaysia. However, they underscored their challenges.

For Dr. Siti Mohd Zain, professor at the Universiti Malaya, public housing needs to avoid the ‘sick building syndrome’. In their studies of Malaysia’s public housing program, residents are twice as likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and depression. Moreover, the building’s design and its environment most likely impact the wellbeing of its residents. She cited a case of a playground that was designed and built beside the garbage collection center. Children can become more vulnerable to diseases.

Successful low income housing depends on different factors and one factor is community engagement. Khairiah Mokhtaruddin, the Urban Resilience Manager of Think City, said community engagement builds trust, better connections, and will likely improve housing conditions since residents will be given a voice and will likely be part of the solutions to their challenges. “An external entity will never be part of the community. For any program to be introduced into the community, it requires active involvement from its members,” she added.

At the end of the workshop, participants agreed that programmes for low income housing need to integrate health aspects. One participant, Rowena Manlapid from Balanga City, Philippines said she will propose to include the health department as a member in the local housing board. Joseph Esplana, Legazpi City Planning Chief, Philippines, said a good waste management policy needs to be integrated to any public housing program. Cities and tenants both have shared responsibilities to make public housing a more healthy and liveable place.


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