Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Home Owning Democracy for the Urban Poor: A Case Study of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Home Owning Democracy for the Urban Poor: A Case Study of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Article excerpt


Home ownership for the urban poor poses a major challenge to metropolitan management and urban governance. The key aim of this study is to determine the role of the state in providing the opportunity for the urban poor to become home owners. Secondly, it also seeks to examine the level of sustainable owner-occupation amongst the urban poor given the opportunity to enter into homeownership. Drawing upon a case study of low-income housing in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur the study establishes that for many decades the governance of Kuala Lumpur has played an active role in designing and implementing a wide range of housing policies to house the low-income groups. The study argued that the establishment of strong institutional capacity is vital towards successful implementation of urban poor housing programs. Further insights into the level of sustainable owner-occupation amongst the households of low-income housing project confirm that the state has been successful in providing decent and affordable housing to its urban poor.

Keywords: Urban poor, Home ownership, Affordable housing, Low-income housing, Housing policies

1. Introduction

It has been widely argued that home ownership is an essential component in social class formation in both developed and developing countries (Malpass, 1990; Saunders, 1990). A home-owning society is no doubt liable to be one where people are indistinctly pleased of their achievement and intensely defensive of their right and privileges. Home ownership in general, is often characterized as providing important benefits for individuals, governments and economies (Grange & Pretorius, 2000). It has even been presented as an agent of social transformation, intrinsically associated with democracy itself (Malpass, 1990; Hays, 1994; Low, 2003). Thus, many governments pursue a political agenda that promotes home ownership (Kemeny, 1992; Phang, 2009).

In the context of Western countries, the promotion of home ownership is considered as one of the most controversial issues in housing studies (Chan, 2000). For instance, Saunders (1990) argued that home ownership is a form of 'ontological security' which denotes wealth accumulation that cuts across class boundaries. In contrast, in the context of East Asia region, Forrest and Lee (2003) observed that home ownership has been an important ingredient in social class formation for a variety of reasons. In the context of Malaysia, providing housing for the low income people, particularly the urban poor has always been a fundamental part of the state's housing policy to maintain the stability and prosperity of the country. The commitment by the Malaysian government to provide adequate and affordable shelter for its nation was evidently reflected in the government's annual budget and the nation Five Yearly Development plans.

The role of the state as the key housing provider for the low income people is significant (Asian Development Bank, 2009). The state believed that housing provision should be a vehicle for achieving viable and sustainable units of human settlements that not only address the physical needs for shelter but also the particular national need for social, cultural and ethnic integration (Mahathir, 1999; Zainal Abidin, 2010). Nevertheless, questions arise as to what extent has the state provides the opportunity to the urban poor in particular, to enter home ownership. Are the housing policies introduced by the state more focus on the state as the main provider? Or does the private sector also play an equal role in meeting the housing needs of the urban poor? Most importantly, are those urban poor assisted to enter home ownership feel satisfied in becoming the home owners and able to sustain the owner -occupation as intended by the state. These are the main objectives of this paper.

In addressing these questions, the paper then examine Kuala Lumpur city, the capital city of Malaysia as the case study. …

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