to ensure quality
Shoddy workmanship, poor finishing and structural defects
are some of the headaches many hapless house buyers have had to endure over
the years. The shortcomings in the quality of the newly-built houses were
a phenomenon that first appeared, widely, in the late 1970s and early 1980s
when developers went on a construction binge.
The demand was there and the builders, some with only an
eye focused on sales, not pride in their work, hastily provided the supply.
Owners, after moving in, had the thankless task of chasing
down developers to undertake remedial work. The lament then was: They don't
build houses like they used to.
The same litany continues to be voiced these days, especially
by buyers of low-cost houses. The problems, though not as widespread as in
the past, are still manifest today. Otherwise the Minister of Housing and
Local Government Datuk Dr Ting Chew Peh pronounced that all housing projects,
especially low-cost dwellings, will be strictly monitored hereafter to ensure
that they are built to professional standards. Ting is reported to have said
that his Ministry will direct all State Governments and local authorities
to ensure housing projects are undertaken to meet the standards spelled out
by the guidelines stipulated in the Country and Town Planning Act and Minimum
Building Requirements of the Uniform by-laws.
Ministerial pronouncements are fine. But the crux of the
issue is whether this sermon from the pulpit would be effectively carried
out. Ting appears to look at the big picture of building houses. And so he
says that his Ministry would ask the Housing Developers' Association to co-operate
to ensure all housing projects are monitored to prevent shoddy workmanship
and structural defects. Engineers and architects of each project will be asked
to monitor work to ensure the built-up houses are of good quality.
It appears that the Minister seems to be unaware of three
salient facts that place possible limitations on the quality of finished housing.
One, the professionalism of craftsmen and artisans that contractors can call
upon. The skilled among these workers command premium wages. The question
is whether many of them are still around in construction sites. Filling their
jobs are huge numbers of foreign workers, most illegal and whose construction
skills are best questionable.
Two, asking consultant engineers and architects engaged
by property development managements to monitor building standards is tantamount
to fitting the boot on the wrong foot. Despite the ethics of their professions
they are, ultimately, beholden to their paymasters. not the house-buyers.
Three, the final arbitrators of the quality of the completed
housing are the engineers and architects employed by the local authorities.
They attest the stamp of approval whether houses are fit to be occupied. But
the question is whether these professionals can possibly or do inspect every
unit of every project under their jurisdiction.
Clearly then, the only solution that might possibly ensure
solid houses, free of defects of any kind, is to have developers build first
then and then sell houses. True, the concept might entail more in costs and
higher prices. But buyers would pay for quality housing.