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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 of dedication.

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.


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National House Buyers Association (HBA)

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