FARHANA Fuad is often asked why she and her husband are renting an apartment in Kuala Lumpur rather than buying their own property.
With a joint income of less than RM7,000, coupled with repayment of their PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund) study loans, the 27-year-old said owning their own place will likely remain a pipe dream for a long time.
“Right now, I’m just renting a place with my husband. Many have asked me ‘why not just buy?’.
“It is impossible, what with my salary remaining as it is and at the same time, the cost of living keeps going up. Unless I work two or three jobs,” she told The Malaysian Insight.
Last month, chairman of UDA Holdings Bhd Dr Mohd Shafei Abdullah said Bumiputeras today, especially the youth, must stop the culture of procrastination when it comes to owning property.
Shafei said young Malays are keener to spend and take loans for items that are not as important as property, such as cars, motorcycles and so on.
Bank Negara Malaysia estimates that the price of affordable housing in this country should not exceed RM282,000 a unit, based on the housing cost-burden approach.
However, according to its quarterly report released last month, the median price of homes was at RM313,000 in 2016, which meant it far exceeded the means of most households with an average household income of only RM5,228.
The central bank reiterated that the lack of affordable housing will continue to be a problem.
Cars come first
But for many, owning a home still comes second to buying a vehicle as a means to travel.
Mohamad Elliya Rohiman, 31, said while he still has a roof over the head from renting a two-storey home in Ipoh at RM500 a month, he could not eke out a living if he did not own a car.
“My wife is a doctor who is on-call or works late every night. She needs a car,” he said, adding that for those living in smaller towns, owning vehicles is a necessity and not a matter of choice.
Farhana agreed, saying that the financial commitment for a car was also much less than a home.
“A car makes it easier for us to move around, and it takes a maximum of nine years to repay the loan, compared to a house, especially as prices keep going up, making them unaffordable to most people.
“I hope that before I reach 35, I will be able to own a house, at least an apartment.
“To do this, I may have to move to another country to find work with higher pay,” said the web content writer who said her joint income with her husband is less than RM7,000.
Economist Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajuddin said high prices and long-term commitment of owning real estate are driving people away from the idea of owning their own homes.
The problem of rising cost of living and stagnating salaries is also to be blamed for the situation, he said, adding that it is unfair to blame the younger generation or to label them as procrastinators.
“Buying a property is the biggest consideration for many people, because it’s a big-ticket item with a high value and needs enough funds.
“So it’s not surprising that a growing number, especially the younger generation, are taking this ‘wait-and-see’ approach as they are reluctant to be tied down with a large debt for a long period of time.
“Another reason could also be that they fail to fulfil the loan or financing conditions,” Azrul told The Malaysian Insight.
The problem of acute unaffordable housing in Malaysia is forcing some working youngsters to buy or invest in short-term assets with depreciating values, such as motorised vehicles, he said.
It is normal for people to feel they need to enjoy the fruits of their labour, and if homes are beyond their reach, they would naturally buy things they can afford, he said.
“The fact is, many are not financially able or have other commitments which are more pressing.
“Add this to their need to repay their education loans or help support other family members.
“So, unless there is assistance, or support from a third party like parents and family, it’s very difficult for youngsters who are not from rich families or who have privileges, to buy their own homes,” Azrul said.