GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Landed properties valued at more than RM500 million (S$157 million ) are rotting in space-scarce Penang island, where residential and commercial buildings fetch lucrative prices.
Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillor Wong Yuee Harng said that while more than RM300 million worth of heritage and pre-war buildings (commercial and residential) were left unoccupied, several buildings put up later were in a similar predicament due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The abandoned post-war buildings in the city were valued at some RM200 million, according to a property valuation consultant.
These post-war buildings are all over the island with many having turned into a breeding ground for mosquitoes and snakes, and turning into dumpsites.
Mr Wong said MBPP was able to get some of these property owners to clean and maintain their buildings.
It is easier to monitor buildings within the heritage area, which are pre-war residential or commercial buildings. The council's building department has the right to hoard up the buildings or even charge the owners while the Health Department can move in to clean the area and bill the owners," Mr Wong said in an interview.
Since The Star reported in 2017 that there were RM20 million worth of post-war properties in Jalan Masjid Negeri and Lebuh Bukit Jambul, more have cropped up.
Mr Wong said there were 97 such properties in 2019 (excluding 70 pre-war properties) and the council managed to locate several of the owners to restore the buildings.
"The biggest issue we are facing is to locate the owners or next of kin who may have migrated, or they could have passed away.
"Some of them have legal firms to handle matters such as quit rent but there are others from large families whom we are unable to locate," he said.
Under the Local Government Act, owners could be fined RM1,000 or jailed not more than six months or both, plus fined not more than RM100 a day, if the offence "continues after conviction".
Sections 127 and 128 of the National Land Code allow alienated land to be forfeited by the state.
According to another property consultant, a property in George Town was worth RM750 to RM1,100 per sq ft (land only) and RM400 per sq ft in Tanjung Bungah and Bayan Lepas (land only).
"As such, with the high price of landed property, about 30 to 40 abandoned or unoccupied properties...