Residents upset over YCDC crackdown

While constructing buildings without permits is a problem across Yangon, it has become especially prevalent in Thingangyun township.

Yangon City Development Committee has singled out the township in eastern Yangon, and has promised to tackle the problem by levying penalties on those skirting the law. Some 796 building owners in the township have received warnings from the committee threatening legal action, with many of them to be fined if found to be guilty.

Often, developers do not obtain the necessary permits before starting work on sites, while many others are not making the necessary legal contracts between land owners and developers. Still other developers do not obtain the Building Completion Certificates (BCC) necessary when a building is finished, to allow people to move in.

Before February 2014, the committee had been fining developers K2250 a square foot for excess storeys or buildings without permits. Fines have now been upped to K15,000 a square foot, with more serious punishments also possible, said U Khun Htun Aung, chief engineer of the eastern district of YCDC.

“My duty is for the eastern townships – North and South Okkalapa, Thingangyun and the new Dagon townships,” he said at a press conference YCDC held on the issue last week. “Among them, there are 957 issues of buildings going up without contracts, and Thingangyun township is the worst, because it is home to a lot of informal land contracts and unlicensed contractors.”

Many landowners lack proper funds to develop their plots, so they turn to construction companies to erect buildings. In return, the landowner and construction companies split the units in the newly built structure, allowing both to prosper.

This system is rife with potential abuse, according to U Khun Htun Aung. Because much of the land is not grant land, it should not contain buildings over three-and-a-half storeys. Many of the halted buildings were planning to go well above this limit.

He added that if the punishments are seen as serious enough, land owners and contractors will follow the rules.

Land owners are less impressed with the fines. Several land owners joined last week’s press conference, speaking up to say they had only been following customary practice and asking for the fines to be reduced.

“We aren’t trying to pay recent fines because they’re so high,” said U Mya Than, a land owner from Thingangyun township. “If they are reduced, we will pay them.”

Owners also said that the move coincided with a property market slowdown, and left the projects unviable.
U Win Thein, a contractor, said building within three storeys makes many of the projects unfeasible.

“Now the property market isn’t doing too well, so it’s difficult to sell units,” he said. “We have to pay fines that are too expensive. We will lose money after completing the buildings.”

It also takes a long time to change types of land to granted land, meaning most developers are confined to within the three-and-a-half storey limit.

“It takes seven months to change land types,” said U Win Thein. Even if land status is switched over, the headaches do not end. There must also be car parking spaces, the approval of which takes about nine months. Final building approval can also take up to a year, meaning it takes more than two years to get a proper builing permit.

Source: Myanmar Times

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