Housing Vs. Habitat : Liveability in Social Housing

8 May 2014

Last March, we explored the topic of “Social Housing in Malaysia” for the 5th installment of the #BetterCities Talk Series. The talk featured two speakers, architect Lillian Tay and consultant with UNDP, Dr. Clarence Shubert.

( Lillian Tay, Dr. Clarence and Sze at our last talk. Photo Credit : Lia Tostes )

Ms. Lillian Tay shared two projects done in VERITAS Architects, the first a re-imagination of Pekeliling Flats and the refurbishment of Maju Jaya Flats in PJS2 (Kg Medan). The focus of her presentation was an analysis of the on-the-ground realities and problems affecting low-cost housing and how sensible design and physical planning solutions can help to mitigate these problems. Dr. Clarence Shubert spoke about the community organizing aspect of social housing including methods for promoting and assessing community participation and an introduction to cooperative housing.

(Photo credit : Lia Tostes)

Since then #BetterCities has visited several different PPR flats (Projek Perumahan Rakyat or People’s Housing Project) to get a better understanding of the issues they face. We were interested to know what some of the projects are that have been done in Malaysia that aims to improve liveability of communities in PPRs.

We managed to visit a PPR in Lembah Subang, Lembah Pantai and Kota Damansara with community figures who have direct links to these housing areas. The main differences between the three was the use of the ground floor of the flats. The ground floor of the Lembah Pantai and Kota Damansara PPR is left open giving the space a sense of openness and connectivity.

All three PPRs experienced the same problem of the lack of sense of ownership, the conditions of the PPR were not well maintained and a lot of the blocks we visited had vandalized walls, missing railings and metal gutters. Often the lifts of the building were in bad condition, making the daily trip up an 18-storey building challenging to say the least.

( Afternoon playground scene in PPR Kota Damansara )

From our research, one of the most interesting community engagement projects carried out in a PPR was done by an arts collective called Arts-Ed Penang. As an NGO that provides innovative non-formal arts and culture education for young people they were approached by the Penang State Government to facilitate a 3 year project in Sungai Pinang, Georgetown. The project, known as Sungai Pinang Kita, involves working with young residents living in the area to rethink the way that they look at waste management in fun and creatives ways.

( Movement workshop with recyclable material. Photo Credit : Sungai Pinang Kita )

Sungai Pinang Kita conducts building, movement, photography and video workshops and organises a recycling festival in the community where the children perform and present their work. The initial stage of the project focused on engaging with the young residents and slowly building their trust. Arts-Ed conducted a cultural mapping series to identify the theme of the 3 year project by exploring the area together with the residents and mapping out existing interesting and problematic issues.

( Cultural Mapping Workshop. Photo Credit  : Arts-Ed Penang )

Given the specific theme of waste management, the creative methods and tools used to engage with the residents and outcomes of the project has resulted in improving the liveability in the area by raising awareness and shifting perception of how the residents manage their rubbish. Sungai Pinang Kita has a target by 2014 of reaching and sustaining zero waste in the community.

( Building workshop. Photo Credit : Sungai Pinang Kita )

#BetterCities Talk Series 5 was recorded and is available for viewing on our YouTube Channel : http://www.youtube.com/user/bettercities

Arts-Ed Penang : http://www.artsed-penang.blogspot.com/