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K u a l a L u m p u r, M a l a y s i a

DEALING WITH URBAN RESETTLEMENT: THE CASE OF KAMPUNG ABDULLAH HUKUM, KUALA LUMPUR BY MD NASIR BIN DAUD, ANIZA ABDUL AZIZ, AND PUAN SRI NILA INANGDA

INTRODUCTION Squatters are an urban phenomenon in cities of many developing countries. ey exist as an unfortunate by-product of urban growth and impinge on the overall quality of city citizenry. A particular challenge lies in nding suitable approaches to the problem’s resolution - the ones that will not only result in its elimination in the long-term but will also recognize the complex nature of the issues involved in dealing with such urban dwellers. Kuala Lumpur (KL) is no exception to the problems relating to urban squatters. Being the country’s largest city, KL’s population growth has been consistently rapid since the 1960s as this traditional capital city continues to receive the incessant in ows of rural as well as immigrant communities looking to improve their livelihood. With this in ux comes the tremendous demand for cheap housing. However, expensive and unaffordable housing has driven many to resort to informal settlements, invariably squatting on whatever private and state lands they can nd within the city. ere was a time when squatter families numbered no less than 30,000 within KL. A later (2003) statistic showed a reduced number

of 25,000 to suggest that some progress has since been made to keep the problem in check. is improvement is a product of dedicated government effort on squatter eradication through the now-familiar ‘Zero Squatters Policy’. e agenda for squatter eradication has presented KL with a difcult challenge: how to best reconcile the interests of all parties connected with the resettlement of these urban poor. Innovative solutions are called for, and the discovery of these solutions becomes not only rewarding but also crucial. In this context, KL’s experience with the resettlement of Kampong Abdullah Hukum – a village community of squatters – has been unique and warrants 1


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a special tribute for the way the outcome had turned out. What started as an experimentation with an untested approach to squatter clearance was later to emerge as a success story, and thus as a compelling reason for why we chose that experience as a case in point here. As we shall see later, the Kampong Abdullah Hukum case illuminates the distinguishing features that make it of particular interest to a city innovation study. is paper provides an overview of the issues and description of the innovative approaches adopted in addressing a particular case of urban squatter resettlement. Brief History of Kampong Abdullah Hukum Today, Kampung Abdullah Hukum exists as an urban village lying approximately two kilometres south from the city centre on the opposite side of a river from the signature Mid-Valley Shopping Megamall. It started out as one of KL’s early settlements for immigrants almost 200 years ago. e village derives its name from the founding father, Haji Abdullah Hukum, who arrived in 1850 from Indonesia. Despite their many generations of occupation on the land, a vast majority of the settlers never owned their plots legally. In fact, only two acres out of the entire 24-acre tract were with legal titles. is has created a situation whereby a prime piece of state land was allowed to continue 2

as a squatter-infested site while situated next to the premier Mid-Valley commercial development. Given this backdrop, the authorities in 2007 made an announcement to re-possess the tract of land and re-develop it into a major mixed development consistent with that of the MidValley. The Context of the Mid Valley development The Mid-Valley site formerly sat amongst, and formed part of, a squatter locality in KL. e development of Mid-Valley was approved in 1996 under an integrated development plan which aimed to provide local retailers with a platform to prepare towards internationalization of their products. e plan called for the development of a Mega Shopping Mall to become Asia’s largest retail, food and entertainment centre with 4 hotels, 6 office towers, 30 blocks of signature offices, an international convention centre as well as other commercial developments. e Mid Valley City was to be developed on 3.49 acres of land owned by City Hall Kuala Lumpur (CHKL) and on lease to the developer for 96 years. The development of the MidValley City was also to incorporate the provision of low cost housing to re-settle squatters it displaced as well as other squatters from surrounding areas. This materialised in the form of Putra Ria Apartments which

were constructed on a site just north of Kampong Abdullah Hukum under the public housing project (PPR) concept. A PPR is a public housing project which CHKL provides and owns. Units under PPR are low-cost by de nition and are offered as low-rent accommodations to the urban poor who can ill afford home ownership. us Putra Ria Apartments were the rst PPR scheme under the Mid-Valley City project. Built in 1996, they offered a total of 1,584 low-cost apartment units in 3 blocks of 22 storeys each. The development involved a partnership between CHKL and a reputable developer under an arrangement whereby CHKL was to provide the site while the developer undertook the construction and funding. e process of allocating low cost units was managed by CHKL through the


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Open Register System (ORS). Fieen years on, this scheme is now home to a dense concentration of the urban deprived and is physically fast degenerating into a squalid living environment and an urban eyesore.

to the construction in 2003 of Abdullah Hukum I, a 15-storey block containing 600 units of apartments and a block of multilevel car-park for 720 cars and 144 motorcycle parking lots at a density of 626 persons per acre.

Pathways to Resettlement When the issue of resettling the Kampong Abdullah Hukum community first came up for discussion, the plan was to adopt a PPR model similar to the one used on Putra Ria Apartments. The plan was resisted by the community on the basis that they deserved a better deal. e community put up a case for differentiating themselves from the Putra Ria dwellers arguing that, unlike the diversi ed backgrounds of the families of the former, they were a close-knit community of inter-related families with many descending directly from the original forefathers. Further, the community argued that the PPR housing model would only put them in the repeat situation of the Putra Ria Apartments – a situation they knew all too well and one that they wished to avoid.

The decision to offer medium cost apartments in the Kampong Abdullah Hukum case had no precedence while existing CHKL policies only provided for the provision based on the PPR model. Also, CHKL, departing from previous practice, acceded to the requests of the community for the provision of amenities such as kindergarten, premises for congregational prayers, community hall, sewage control room, children playground, convenience stall and parking. Nevertheless, from the point of view of CHKL, reaching a conclusion that satis es the community had represented a signi cant win because it removes the single largest obstruction to a plan to develop the area into a high end mixed development comprising highrise residences, offices, hotels and shopping mall.

e community engaged the authorities in further negotiations and this led to an alteration of the original plan to pave the way to a deal acceptable to the community. Under the new plan, each family was to receive a mediumcost apartment unit which would be sold (rather than rented out) at a concession. It paved the way

Analyzing the Innovations Negotiation constitutes collaborative planning. When negotiation was introduced in the Abdullah Hukum case, it presented itself as a new – untried before - and innovative approach. It demonstrated that the authorities’ engagement in collaborative planning had produced sig-

ni cant results in terms of their bene ts to all parties. Handled in a different way, the outcome would have been different or could have been even explosive given the emotional attachment the community had developed with the land that they had occupied for so long. e key to the success was apparently in the innovative strategies employed by the authorities. Accordingly, the Abdullah Hukum experience provides a useful object lesson for city planners to learn from. e study also demonstrates the importance of roles to be appropriately played by institutions. In fact, collaborative planning would not have worked if the institutions involved did not play their parts. In the subject case, the mutual respect and understanding and more importantly the mutual trust between the authorities as the executors and the community as the receivers had contributed to the success of the negotiation. It also shows that the authorities’ partnership with a private sector entity – a party whose predominant concern is about pro ts – has not prevented the granting of generous concessions to the other side. e foregoing makes it evident that the Kampong Abdullah Hukum case carries the hallmark of a city innovation. It was innovative in that the product was the community who felt that they were well treated by the authorities. e resulting larger apartments 3


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offered than would have been the case were also a product of another innovation that enabled cost-cutting and time-saving. is appeared in the form of the innovative tunnel form construction technique. With costs to be borne by the developer, the challenge was taken up in an innovative way through a smart and economical building design approach. As the developer struggled to lower the construction costs, it came up with the design for three bedroom units within 720 square feet where the master bedroom has an attached bathroom. e 15-storey apartment block was built with load bearing walls using tunnel construction to carry the load and also with split water tank with one water tank supplying domestic water for every 30 units. e number of storeys and the oor plan layout were determined to accommodate re protection requirement. is represented a new way of construction. In all the aspects of innovation analysed, we can see that they cut across the physical, information and cognitive dimensions. For example, the collaborative process would not have been successful if the parties did not have information at their disposal concerning their rights and rights of the opposing sides. e physical aspect arose when actual negotiations took place as conduit for the negotiations. Cognitively, this had resulted in favourable outcomes that everyone can learn from. 4

There is also every indication that the authorities had acted as a major enabler in the search for meaningful solutions towards home ownership among the low income groups in the City. e most recent initiative to facilitate ownership through ‘rent and buy’ arrangement provides further testimony to this. Under this arrangement, the government undertakes to offer PPR renters an opportunity to purchase their rented units with a monthly payment scheme extended over a period of 20 to 25 years. e monthly payment scheme would be one which can be entered into between the government and a husband and wife or inclusive of the children in case the parents pass away, while so loan is provided by the government. Evidence shows that many people take advantage of the so loan which, at up to 50% cheaper than bank loan interest rate, makes it much more affordable to them. ose taking part in the scheme can sit back secure in the knowledge that sooner or later the property they are putting their money on will belong to them or to their children. Policy Implications A number of important lessons can be gleaned from the case study on Kampong Abdullah Hukum as follows: The Importance of Supportive Leadership and Policy

The success of the Kampong Abdullah Hukum squatter resettlement programme could have

been in doubt had the leadership at the federal level not shown its commitment to the cause. It goes without saying that commitments at various levels down the line were secured much more easily owing from that. is is not to forget that the government has already in place the Zero Squatter Policy with set targets to achieve. The Accommodating Stance of the Authorities

In fact, it was this attitude that made the negotiations possible. e authorities were under no pressure to oblige since the situation of squatters did not place them in a position to win legally. Had the authorities adopted this stance, the outcome would have been a result akin to what is seen in the case of Putra Ria Apartments, if not worse, in terms of the physical fabric as well as in


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terms of community togetherness. Today the Abdullah Hukum I Apartments stand as a testimony to an organised and vibrant community far better than its neighbouring Putra Ria Apartments. The Importance of PublicPrivate Partnership

What also contributed to the success of the innovation was the partnership arrangement between CHKL and a reputable developer in a collaboration whereby the former contributed the site and the latter contributed to the costs of development. is partnership was important because it strengthened the nancial capacity of the authorities and enabled it to be more generous in negotiation with the squatter community. Without sound nancial backing for the partnership, the ability of CHKL to successfully reach agreement with the community would have been seriously undermined.

Profiting from innovations

Technology is created to enable, and this should never be lost sight of. In the case of Kampong Abdullah Hukum, the costcutting feature of the innovative construction technique had gone a long way in helping to reduce construction costs, giving the authorities a greater exibility and more space to work with in deciding on the concessions for the community. CONCLUSION e squatter phenomenon is an ubiquitous feature to city growth in developing countries. It does present a difficult challenge to urban authorities who have to contend with the intricacies of the socio-economic and political issues involved. Illegal and ‘unwanted’ as they may be, squatters are still an integral part of the city citizenry, with their sphere of inuence (particularly in terms of the political votes) oen extending far beyond what the extent

REFERENCES Abdul Ghani (2006), Residential Satisfaction in Low-cost Housing in Malaysia, Report of Research Funded by USM Short term Research Grant 2006 Azlinor, Nor Asiah (2009), Squatters and Affordable Houses in Urban Areas: Law and Policy in Malaysia, eoretical and Empirical Research in Urban Management, number 4(13)/ November 2009. Hanif, N.R. (2005), Negotiation in Land Development Process in Malaysia, unpublished PhD esis, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK

of their legal rights may suggest. us, from the authorities’ point of view, the central challenge becomes how to cra solutions that can create a win-win formula: nding the best possible ways out for the squatters in a manner that respects community interests and doing these at costs that are minimal to the society at large. is requires innovative approaches as demonstrated in the Kampong Abdullah Hukum case study. It revealed that there is no shortage of solutions. All that is needed is the political will guided by the correct sense of purpose to adopt a more compassionate approach to resolve issues. Once these are in order, other factors fall into place as enablers and facilitators: the enabling roles of the leaders, the permissive collaborative planning, the supporting technological innovation, and others. Together, they have contributed to the success of the Kampong Abdullah Hukum story.

Further Information For more information on this policy brief kindly contact the author as follows: Dr Md Nasir bin Daud Department of Estate Management Faculty of Built Environment University of Malaya Email: mdnasir@um.edu.my

Acknowledgements This brief report was prepared as part of the IDRC funded project on Asian City Innovation Systems Initiative. The author of this report would like to acknowledge with grateful thanks to IDRC and all those who have generously provided information for this study.

With support from

Dealing with Urban Resettlement: The Case of Kampung Abdullah Hukum, Kuala Lumpur  

Kuala Lumpur - Towards Innovative, Liveable and Prosperous Asian Megacities (CISASIA)

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