Rebels with a cause
19/07/2003 NST-PROP By Andrew Wong
For all the new laws and government tribunals
set up to rein in our sometimes overzealous property industry, the only
effective enforcement agency around, capable of righting wrongs and locking
horns with errant bulls, is a group of professional volunteers called the
National House Buyers Association.
The HBA, which only insist troubled housebuyers be “nice and humble” and
also be “willing to help themselves” before offering assistance, was originally
seen as rebel-rousers - thorns at the sides of developers; whingers whose
complaints would not be constructive.
That was then. A mere three years after its inception, the HBA is now seen
as a property police squad of sorts - vigilantes comprising working professionals
driven by a passion to do what is right. That the group has stuck around
for so long when it could have disbanded, allowing its members to free up
time to pursue their own lives instead of helping others, shows its level
Ask me, and I’ll have to say its presence has done a lot of good - simply,
it is helping to weed out the distracting, errant elements from the market,
so that what remains will be developers serious about building good quality,
credible projects. Even the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association,
or Rehda, has seen the HBA in positive light, and considers its views as
“what the voices on the other side of the fence say about us, which helps
us to improve our game”.
Once upon a time, criticism, no matter how constructive or valuable, was
always shunned because it hit where it hurt most - our fragile prides. Today,
we’re becoming like the Japanese, the few people in the world who say “thank
you” after being scolded.
Put it down to maturity; to evolution; to simply the growing of thicker
skins. But the move towards creating hard-hitting dialogue about our built
environment isn’t a passing phase - it can only gain strength.
That the powers-that-be haven’t considered the need for an effective, official
enforcement division to bring delinquent builders to book before the Housing
Tribunal or the Courts, although our Housing Minister has the power to make
it happen, suggests that the HBA has a valid role to play for some time
yet. After all, it possesses the drive, determination and yes, I’ll say
it one more time, passion, to ensure it’s objectives are realised, unlike
“others” who might see it only as a chore.
From the HBA’s body language, it seems that after it completes its mission
of dealing with strata title problems (see page 10 of today’s issue), it’s
going to propose the drafting of a property act covering non-housing stock,
such as serviced apartments and commercial units.
All this from a volunteer group. We should feel belittled. Why aren’t we
also participating, be it physically, spiritually, or financially? Is it
because “these aren’t our problems”; because errant developers haven’t knocked
on our doors yet? If we’re lucky, maybe they won’t, but unless we increase
the strength of enforcement, somewhere down the line - be it our children,
niece, nephews or grandchildren - somebody’s eventually going to get stung.
I’ve convinced myself. To get the ball rolling, HBA, if your peepers are
on this column, let me personally offer some financial assistance to advance
your cause. There’s a cheque waiting for you to pick up.
Maybe developers which also see the HBA’s efforts as a way of getting rid
of the rotten apples that are stinking up the barrel might also want to
contribute; so too might those which value the amount of work the squad
has done so far to clean up the industry. It would certainly make a difference.