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GEORGE TOWN: A drastic increase in rentals has forced 34 tenants to move out of the 55 pre-war properties along Penang Road, Kimberley Steet and Lim Chwee Leong Road.
The rentals have increased dramatically by 100% to 700% since Jan 1 when the new rates took effect.
Some of the monthly rentals have gone up to RM14,000 from RM2,000 (up by 700%), while others have increased to RM2,000 from RM700 (up by 285%).
“As a result, many of them have closed their businesses and moved out, leaving only 21 of the pre-war properties still occupied.
“About 50% of the tenants are involved in old trades that are responsible for the city getting listed as a Unesco World Heritage site,” George Town Heritage Action co-founder Mark Lay said in an interview yesterday.
Lay said over the past two years, the rentals in the heart of George Town have increased significantly, forcing those who could not afford them to relocate to the suburbs.
“The state government should intervene in the matter as maintaining the status of old trades in the heritage zone is the criteria for getting the Unesco World Heritage site status,” he added.
Meanwhile, Teong Hum Yem, 65, said he was considering moving out of the heritage zone as the new rental was a burden.
“I have already paid for January’s rent, which is RM4,000, an increase of 292% from RM1,368. But the coming months will be tough for me,” he said.
Teong said his grandparents had been doing business in Penang Road since the 1920s.
“I believe the properties here are owned by investors from Hong Kong, who bought them up in 1960s for a shopping mall project.
But for some reason, the project never took off.
“Six months before Jan 1, we were given letters indicating that there will be a rental increase beginning this year. Some moved out before the deadline while others, only recently,” he said.
Sharon Saw said the family had been doing business selling apparels in Penang Road since the 1960s.
She said her rental was now RM2,000, compared with RM700 before the increase.
“We want to do business here, but we can’t afford the high rent.
“Business here has been bad as tourists prefer to go for the local food rather than shop with us.
This is why we can’t afford high rent. We can hardly go anywhere as the rent in the malls are also high.
“We appeal to the state government to intervene,” she said.