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All eyes on impact of Johor housing board bill

With the dust beginning to settle over the controversial passing of a Bill to set up a housing board in Malaysia's southern state of Johor, all eyes are on its impact on the area's rapidly growing property sector.

KUALA LUMPUR: With the dust beginning to settle over the controversial passing of a Bill to set up a housing board in Malaysia's southern state of Johor, all eyes are on its impact on the area's rapidly growing property sector.

The Housing and Property Board Bill might have been passed with amendments to remove or limit the powers of the state's royal ruler in the management of the new housing board in Johor.

But some are questioning if it'll make a difference.

That's because when it comes to matters of land ownership, the royal family is believed to have vested interests.

The board was set up to promote and undertake the development of housing and real estate property in one of Malaysia's most rapidly developing states.

But the initial distributed version of the Bill gives Johor's Sultan the power to appoint board members, oversee its accounts and dissolve the board.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian Prime Minister, said: "I am afraid that the MB of Johor is not going to advise Sultan, (instead) he is going to be advised by the Sultan."

The Menteri Besar or Chief Minister of Johor, Khaled Nordin, was appointed by the Sultan of Johor.

Developers in Malaysia's southern state are unclear how the new housing board tasked to promote property development is going to affect them.

President & CEO of Eco World, Chang Khim Wah, said: "We actually do not understand what the scope of the lembaga, of the housing board, at the moment. So it's pretty difficult for us to comment at the moment."

Eco World is one of the largest developers in Johor, managing over 2,800 acres of land in the southern region.

It has been on a launch blitz lately.

Two townships launched recently saw a take-up rate of over 85% in the first two weeks.

And it is on course to hit its sales target of 2 billion ringgit this year.

While many believe that the units are priced beyond the pockets of most locals, Eco World's CEO said that idea is a myth.

Mr Chang said: "It's a wide variety of buyers. We have Singaporeans as well, perhaps less than 20%.

"But by and large we still have a lot of local buyers. The cost is still attractive to them, infrastructure is seamless, so we see (there is) still very good potential."

That's why many developers like Eco World are still looking to acquire more land in Johor which neighbours Singapore.

No wonder the new Housing and Property Board has generated so much interest, and further placed Johor's lucrative land sector under the national spotlight.

Sultan Ibrahim of Johor has since given his assurance that he will not interfere in state matters including issues on housing and land.

In an interview, he said: "The people of Johor have and will always be his priority."

He has also asked Johor's Menteri Besar and other state officials to go on a roadshow to explain to his subjects the purpose of the enactment. 

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