All housing projects to be streamlined, abide by build-and-sell basis
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government will streamline all housing projects to ensure that they adhere to a build-and-sell concept. Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the move was to ensure the polemics of abandoned housing projects stretching for long periods to be thoroughly addressed. New projects would follow a build-and-sell concept, rather than have bookings made available to buyers when the project has not even reached 10% completion. Zuraida said other aspects to be revised were loan processes from banks to ensure that the people would be able to own a home. Side income, allowances from family members, and forecasted salaries should also be taken into consideration in the criteria for determining the approval of housing loans, she said. (NST Online)

KL-Singapore rail link could be RM50bil cheaper
Plans for a rail connection between Malaysia’s capital and Singapore can still proceed without Putrajaya paying a penalty for calling off the High Speed Rail (HSR) project. Consultants familiar with the project also said the alternative plan, to upgrade the existing rail network, would shave the cost by roughly RM50 billion. The consultants also noted that upgrading works should not cost more than RM20 billion. In contrast, the shelved HSR was estimated to cost between RM60 billion and RM70 billion, and that without including the potential cost from acquiring land for the rail lines. The upgrading of the existing railway tracks would involve minimal land acquisition, minimal disruption to existing system and complement the entire national railway network. (Malay Mail Online)

UEM Sunrise to expand RTO scheme
Property developer UEM Sunrise Bhd plans to expand its rent-to-own (RTO) scheme even as it partners with Maybank in the bank’s rental scheme. UEM Sunrise’s RTO scheme is described as a value-added solution for those planning to buy a house but were in the midst of building their careers. The scheme will enable young buyers to plan their finances and facilitate their borrowings, as well as mitigate developments being empty and untenanted. UEM Sunrise’s RTO scheme, EASY Own Plan, was launched in August last year. The two key projects under it include Verdi Eco-dominiums in Symphony Hills, Cyberjaya, and Residensi Ledang in East Ledang, Iskandar Puteri, both of which were completed in 2016. (The Star Online)

Easing home loan rules risky, say analysts
The new government’s apparent intention to ease lending rules for home purchases may introduce additional risks to banks, said analysts. Plans to facilitate home ownership among the youth, and M40 and B40 groups may result in banks being “forced” to lend to these groups. “As it is, banks are generally wary of lending to youth, given that the biggest number of bankruptcies comes from this group,” said an analyst. It is speculated that the government may relax the debt service ratio (DSR) from 60% currently, but this raises concerns over what happens in case of defaults and also the gearing levels of the borrowers. The DSR was introduced to prevent the lower-income group from borrowing too much. Meanwhile, another analyst said if many of the borrowers default, asset quality issues will arise for banks. (The Edge Markets)

Najib may face charges of money laundering, misappropriation of property
Malaysian authorities investigating scandal-hit state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) are considering charging former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with money laundering and misappropriation of property. Najib, who founded 1MDB in 2009, is the subject of a money laundering and corruption probe, after reports that millions of dollars made their way into his personal bank accounts from the fund and its former subsidiary, SRC International. Malaysia’s new Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas said on Tuesday his office was studying possible criminal and civil action, after receiving investigation papers on 1MDB from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). (Malay Mail Online)