Let everyone own a ‘castle.’

If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters daydreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.

– Gaston Bachelard, French philosopher

What does having a home mean to you?

For those of us who are blessed to own our homes, it would be a place that gives us a warm feeling of comfort, especially when we return to our family.

It is also a place that provides you and your family a sense of security, shelter and where we feel safe and accepted. A home could also be said to be a place that helps create an emotional connection and sense of belonging.

If you are renting a house or any premises, a person would have shelter and some sense of security but perhaps not up to the same level as a person who owns their dwelling.

I am sure the desire for home ownership would be our utmost priority.

However, this is not possible for some due to poverty or low income. When the cost of land and houses increases, even the middle-income base might face problems purchasing a home.

Therefore government intervention is needed to help its citizens become homeowners.

It is common to hear that Sarawak is the largest region in Malaysia. Therefore with so much land, indeed, all its people should have the opportunity to be homeowners.

The Sarawak government has been helping Sarawakians toward home ownership.

One way this is done is via the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). It has a tagline of ‘Quality Affordable Housing’ and, through HDC provides a whole range of options that facilitates home ownership in Sarawak.

Details of the following schemes, PPR-Program Perumahan Rakyat, PPRP-Program Pinjaman Rumah Panjang, Rumah Spektra Permata (RSP) and Program Sri Pertiwi are available on their website https://hdc.sarawak.gov.my/

These schemes are mainly focused on the B40 group, with some in M40 also eligible.

The government, through its Housing Deposit Assistance Scheme, offers Sarawakians a RM10,000 deposit to eligible first-time house buyers.

Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg recently allocated RM40 million towards the Housing Deposit Assistance Scheme. Many first-time buyers have already received their RM10,000 deposit.

It will benefit up to 4,000 home buyers, and I am sure more funds will be allocated in the future.

The government also provides RM200 assistance under the Sarawak Rental Assistance Scheme (SRAS). This is a significant initiative to help the urban poor rent houses.

Recently, the government also allocated RM33 million to build 101 units of single-storey terraced houses in Miri City.

The government agency, Mutiara Mortgage and Finance, also offers low-interest loans to B40 house buyers. A total of 1,328 house applications amounting to RM78 million under the Mutiara Home Financing Scheme have been approved. These are buyers who would otherwise not have been able to become homeowners.

However, we have to admit there are some gaps in the system. One such gap is homelessness. It has gradually become a social issue in parts of Sarawak and is especially noticeable in the town areas.

For example, in Miri City, the latest issue is a group of five or six homeless who are permanently camped out at what is known as Old Man Street in the city centre.

This is a well-known open-air gathering centre for senior citizens. Lately, some senior citizens have become wary of going there due to the presence of these homeless people. There have been cases of occasional disturbance by the homeless.

Some shopkeepers and coffee shops have complained about these homeless openly urinating and defecating in these public spaces.

The presence of the homeless has also led to comments by business owners that their business is being affected.

Of course, the problems of the homeless are complex. It includes drug and alcohol dependency. Mental health issues also compound the problem. However, efforts are being made to alleviate the issues partly.

Minister for Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah announced that there will be temporary transit centres built for the homeless in Sarawak.

She stated this was already implemented in Sibu and more centres will be coming up in stages in Kuching, Bintulu and Miri.

She said, “The Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government always strives to ensure that all measures that have been planned and implemented will benefit the deserving target group.”

I would agree that the proactive intervention and assistance given by the Sarawak government have been able to reduce and prevent many from being homeless.

The government’s effort to increase homeownership is commendable.

As the saying goes, there is no place like home. A person’s home is their castle, and all Sarawakians should have their own castle.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

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