Schools in 3 states and KL closed due to worsening haze
The Education Ministry has ordered the closure of schools in Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur, along with districts of Sri Aman and Kota Samarahan in Sarawak, to be closed today as the air quality has worsened to unhealthy API levels in these areas due to the haze. The haze reading in Shah Alam reached a very unhealthy level with API of 281 yesterday, while Port Klang recorded API of 252. (Malay Mail Online)

Bank Negara urged to ease lending rules for first time home buyers
There are growing calls for Bank Negara to look into easing the lending policy, especially for first-time home buyers, in an effort to reduce the number of unsold properties in the country. National House Buyers Association (HBA) honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said that the central bank could allow a directive for bank to provide 100% financing for first-time house buyers, with strict conditions such as only affordable properties, no selling for first 10 years, and self occupation home purchase. However, applicants must meet the bank’s credit requirements. Chang suggested that the current measures imposed by Bank Negara should be maintained as it would help combat speculation and weed out “bogus” buyers. (Malaysia Chronicle)

Penang launches ‘Trash2Treasure’ recycling app
A recycling app developed by the Penang Green Council now allows Penangites to trade their rubbish for cash. The ‘Trash2Treasure’ application for smartphones would guide users to the nearest recyclable waste collection centre, and allow users to find new owners or buyers for their used items through a core function ‘Trade In Your Ex’ within the mobile app. The move is in line with Penang’s goal to be a “zero rubbish” state and create a Zero Waste Economy which will contribute to the financial and environmental sustainability of the sector. Since banning the use of polystyrene food packaging and plastic bags at shopping malls, the state’s recycling rate reached 32% in 2014. (Bernama)

Penang launches the 'Trash2Treasure' app (Photo from The Malaysian Insider)

Penang launches the ‘Trash2Treasure’ app (Photo from The Malaysian Insider)

Industrial properties still selling in Johor
At a time when most developers are avoiding new purchases in Iskandar Malaysia, MMC Corp Bhd last month announced its sale of three parcels of land in Senai, Johor for RM370 million. It seems like there is an exception in the industrial property space in Johor. Players involved in industrial development noted that sales have moderated but prices are holding on well. In fact, the number of industrial transactions in Johor jumped 51.8% year-on-year, and was up 16.1% quarter-on-quarter. Johor remains the country’s top investment destination for manufacturing, attracting RM27 billion for the first half of 2015. (The Star Online)

LTAT may be eyeing Bandar Malaysia
Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) may be keen to take part in 1MDB’s multi-billion ringgit Bandar Malaysia development, according to sources. No decision has been made yet regarding those shortlisted for the development, but LTAT will be involved, without details of what role the Armed Forces Fund would play in the development, which is located on the former Sungai Besi airbase. It is said that a Chinese-based company is among the four shortlisted bidders for the mega development, which will be home to the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail terminal. (The Edge Markets)

No room for house ownership
An astounding 80% of middle- and lower-income earners in Malaysia are likely to need social housing if interventions are not made urgently. According to Khazanah Research Institute’s (KRI) “Making Housing Affordable” report last month, Malaysia has a “seriously unaffordable” housing market, emphasizing the need for the housing sector to be seen as a key economic sector instead of a welfare issue. There is growing concern among middle-income households’ capacity to purchase houses, as they are ineligible to buy public low-cost housing yet unable to afford private developer houses. The mismatch between supply and demand for affordable housing indicates the need for immediate housing reforms, especially in home financing. (New Straits Times Online)