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High home prices, low income see many still living with parents

Many among the urban poor cannot afford to set up their own home, especially in major cities.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Office and residential buildings are seen along the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway in the Tasek Tambahan Ampang in Selangor.
Office and residential buildings are seen along the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway in the Tasek Tambahan Ampang in Selangor.

Hassan Basri has shared a flat in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, with his parents and an aunt since he finished school in 2005. 

The cramped unit has two bedrooms and one bathroom, and in the evening, it is dominated by the sound of children running and shouting in the corridor outside. 

At 34, he would like to move out and find a place of his own – but his financial situation is not encouraging. 

"I'm always on the lookout for even just a room to rent," Hassan, who earns less than RM2,000 a month as a factory bus driver, told MalaysiaNow. 

"But I can never find anything that I can afford." 

Instead, he sleeps in the living area of the small flat as the two bedrooms are occupied by his parents and his aunt, who has chronic diabetes. 

"No one believes me when I say that at this age, I'm still living with my parents," he said. 

"That's why I have remained single until today – I just don't have enough money to support a family."

According to him, this is nothing out of the ordinary in the neighbourhood where many young people like himself still live with their parents even though they have jobs and, in some cases, families.

Stories like Hassan's are becoming increasingly common among the urban poor who cannot afford to own homes in major cities, especially in the Klang Valley. 

Bank Negara Malaysia statistics from before the Covid-19 pandemic showed that the number of Malaysians who could not afford to buy a home based on the current price value was at a serious level, according to international standards. 

Some, like Hassan, also choose to continue living with their parents in order to care for them in their old age. 

But for many, affordability and financial constraints are the main factors at play. 

A housewife who introduced herself as Ika said she had chosen to stay with her parents at their house despite having a family and children of her own. 

She said she had never left home since she was a child, and had grown up accustomed to living under the care and supervision of her parents. 

"Maybe now I am the one taking care of them," she added. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Ika acknowledged the stigma of still living with her parents. 

"People ask why I don't want to be independent, and so on. But my husband is the only one earning a salary. We can't afford to buy a house right now.

"We need more time to save up and put our finances in order before we can think about that." 

Real estate company PropertyGuru, in its consumer sentiment survey for the second half of the year, said last week that 51% of Malaysians do not qualify for the government's affordable housing scheme and cannot afford to buy property without financial assistance. 

And with the recent hike in overnight policy rate (OPR), prospective home buyers are expected to continue struggling with affordability and concerns about inflation. 

Home loans

A sales agent at a real estate company in Damansara, Selangor, said there was no denying that the rate of inability to buy a first home was on the rise. 

Jason Tan, who has sold property throughout the Klang Valley for nearly two decades, said the trend first surfaced in 2016, when the OPR rate rose to 4.4% compared to 3.9% four years earlier. 

"House prices are no longer affordable as they are now multiple times the annual household income," he said. 

"But at the same time, debt or home loans are very important as they are the driving factors for the country's credit growth.

"This is why banks will make every effort to approve loans and support government assistance for people to purchase their first homes." 

Tan said there was a marked difference between his experience of selling homes today and 10 years ago. 

At that point, he said, many qualified for home loans but did not know how to buy a house. 

"Today, they are more knowledgeable and they know how to apply for loans thanks to all of the property gurus on social media.

"The problem now is, they can't afford it. So it's no surprise that many are sharing a house with their family or friends."