Tempers flare as Singaporeans buy up Penang properties

Romesh Navaratnarajah5 Sep 2016

Shophouses in Penang resize

Penangites are calling for tighter measures to limit foreign buying of shophouses in the state. (Photo: Daniel Berthold, Wikimedia Commons)

Public anger is on the rise in Penang, following a Facebook post about Singaporeans buying up pre-war homes in the state.

News of the acquisitions has prompted NGOs and netizens to call for tighter measures in order to limit foreign buying.

However, Penang Citizens Chant Group legal adviser Yan Lee believes this would be useless as foreigners can sidestep such restrictions by establishing Malaysian shell companies with local directors as trustees or proxies, reported The Star.

“The corporate veil will shield them from these simple stop-gap measures. Instead, these measures end up keeping out individual foreigners who earnestly want to own property here because they just want to live in Penang,” he said.

“The Penang government is more concerned about collecting development charges. The more it allows development, the more money it collects.”

Yan Lee was referring to the cooling measures introduced in 2012, which prohibit foreigners from purchasing landed properties below RM2 million (S$660,000) on the island and RM1 million (S$333,108) on the mainland.

Foreigners are also prohibited from buying stratified properties below RM1 million both on the mainland and the island. The state has also imposed an approval fee of three percent over the purchase price.

State Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo explained that these measures helped reduce foreign buying of Penang property by around 50 percent since 2013.

George Town Heritage Action had revealed that Singapore developer World Class Land (WCL) purchased 236 pre-war homes located within and around the heritage zone totalling about 250,000 sq ft, the size of 26 football fields.

The annual report of Aspial Corporation Ltd, the parent company of WCL, showed that the properties are being held by six Malaysian companies: WCL (Magazine), WCL (George Town) Holdings, WCL (Noordin), WCL (Macallum), WCL (Bertam L) and WCL (Bertam R).

There are also company records of WCL (Penang) and WCL (Malaysia) in the online portal of the Companies Commission of Malaysia.


Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email romesh@propertyguru.com.sg


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