The federal government is not able to stop foreigners from buying homes in Johor’s Forest City project, Datuk Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah Raja Ahmad said today.
The Pakatan Harapan senator who is also deputy housing and local government minister told the Dewan Rakyat during Question Time that the land the projects sit on has been designated an “international zone”, even as he acknowledged unease among Malaysians over large numbers of foreigners owning property in what is considered prime real estate area.
“No restrictions can be imposed on foreigners buying those properties. This is beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government.
“We realise an exclusive zone would create resentment among the locals. But since it is under the state government and in an international zone we cannot set any limits for foreign purchases.
“This is beyond our powers. But we have spoken to the developers to minimise and address the social problem of resentment among the locals,” he said in response to a question by Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin.
Raja Kamarul added that more than 93 per cent of Forest City homes have been sold to foreigners to date.
He also said his ministry had made several initiatives to encourage locals to buy property in the area.
The Forest City project has faced uncertainty since Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the May 9 polls, as developer Country Garden Holdings Co looks to revive faltering demand for a city planned to be home to 700,000 people.
Malaysians living in Johor have complained of large numbers of foreigners, especially from China, snapping up properties in Forest City. They also voiced concerns over environmental damage, a glut in the property market, and the impact of land reclamation on fisheries.
On Aug 27, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would not allow foreigners to buy residential units in the project.
However, Country Garden subsequently said there was no such ban under Malaysian laws.