On 20th January, YB Haniza Mohamed Talha, Selangor’s Housing and Urban Living Exco announced that the Selangor government will monitor the upgrading project of houses in four main areas in Selangor.
The project will upgrade flat houses with two bedrooms and one bathroom into three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The four areas that will undergo this upgrading will be at Ampang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Klang and Shah Alam.
This move must be applauded as it will not only provide a more convenient living area for our people but most importantly, it will have a very big impact on the social status and upbringing of our society.
Asean societies are very well known for its family oriented culture. Malaysia is not excluded from this with a total fertility rate of 2.5 in the year 2017. Malaysians, in general, are not career-oriented individuals who aims to start a family after the age of 35 where one’s career are expected to be more stable; in fact they are actually the opposite with the majority aiming to start a family at a relatively young age.
However, the current design of low cost houses seems to have neglected this important culture, which has indirectly contributed to various social issues.
A relatively large portion of Malaysia’s population lives in low-cost houses which usually bears only two bedrooms and one bathroom. In a nucleus family, it would typically consist of the parents, the son(s) and the daughter(s). When the kids are still kids, it is just right that the parents have their own bedroom, while the other bedroom is for the children. However, as the children grow older, it is crucial that the son(s) and daughter(s) be separated into different rooms and given their privacy. Not to forget; parents should also have their own private space that are free from the “intrusions” of their children.
However, as commented by one of the residents, with only two bedrooms in the house, the parents end up sleeping in the living room. Now, while it may seem like a norm to many, and acknowledging the fact that many has survived living like this- it is to be noted that this way of living is not and should not be the standard.
Today, we are startled – almost on a daily basis – on the alarming rise of unacceptable sexual acts among children as young as kindergarten and primary school age. Where do they learn to do such thing when they are still at such a naive age?
While there are many factors to it, we should acknowledge that one contributing factor is due to lack of privacy within a household. When parents no longer have their private space and the “public” living area becomes their intimate space, this is where children at such a young age get exposed to sexual acts. Parents may assume that their kids have long fallen asleep, but we never just now who is peeping behind closed doors.
Failure to separate son(s) and daughter(s) into separate rooms as they grow older (10 years and beyond) also contributes to such behaviours as bedrooms are where we change our clothes, rest and go to sleep – and just who knows what are exposed of us when we sleep! In many other cases, an over-crowded house “forces” our young generations into the streets and corridors, where they would have more ‘freedom’ and ‘space’ compared to their own home.
Thus, while we are a nation that upholds family institutions and values as a main pillar to the wellbeing of our society, we should also, in parallel ensure that the basic needs that we provide to our society be met. Low-cost houses are built so that the low-income family can afford a house. But the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms must be standardized and aligned with our culture while still within the low-cost houses pricing.
Undeniably, there are many other factors contributing to the social problems we face today. One can easily argue that a family can have more than three bedrooms in the house but if the parents remain uneducated and ignorant on how to raise children, this will also not solve the social problem as a whole. True enough, but the solutions to our social problem today begins with small steps that are within our control. That is why the initiative to upgrade the flats is highly commended, and should be made as a minimum guideline that must be met by developers in upcoming housing projects.
While the initiative is a good move, to address the fear of the residents affected by the upgrade, the project must remain in the interest of the residents and not the developers. The Selangor’s government must ensure that there are no underlying political tactics, additional charges nor sly tricks to remove the residents from their homes.
Hanan binti Othman
The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ)