Sparse starting point for first New City

Driving northeast from East Dagon township along Number 2 Main Road, the city of Yangon fades away and is replaced by rice fields and idle land. The area is dotted with a few small villages, but given the distance between the area and downtown Yangon, it is thinly populated and underdeveloped.

Other than this low-cost housing project, there is little development – but quality infrastructure – in the future home of the “East North New City”. The Myanmar TimesOther than this low-cost housing project, there is little development – but quality infrastructure – in the future home of the “East North New City”.

This is all slated to change, however. The area around East Dagon’s Ywar Thar Gyi quarter is marked to become the first of seven new city projects in Yangon, called “East North New City”. The new city projects are part of the Strategic Urban Development Plan of Greater Yangon 2040, which has been drafted by Yangon City Development Committee and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The new cities are essentially a series of satellite towns ringing Yangon, planned to contain extensive industrial, commercial and residential spaces.

Developed in response to Yangon’s bursting population, the Yangon 2040 plan for the seven new cities has been discussed in Yangon Region parliament. The site of the first New City, “East North”, was publicly revealed on June 19.

The unveiling generated a wave of interested buyers over the weekend.

Speculators often rush into areas when they are first designated for high-profile projects, hoping they will be able to snap up land on the cheap and sell it when the project developers begin purchasing land. The same rush of speculation happened with a previous new city project aimed for the outskirts of southwest Yangon last year, as well others such as the planned Hanthawaddy airport in Bago Region.

Yet while the new city in East Dagon, called “East North New City”, is in a thinly inhabited area, it will not be built in a vacuum. Residents already occupy the area, including two main villages, Talanpan and Thayetpin Chaung. Speaking to The Myanmar Times before the June 19 announcement, many villagers said they were not aware of plans for their area to become the East North New City. Instead they pointed to a few local small-scale projects as the only government-backed development in the region.

There is a low-cost housing project called December Bawga Thiri housing under way in the area, separate from East North. Villagers say the developers of the low-cost housing project are the regional government and local private companies, but they don’t know the names with certainty. It has also been a long time coming. U Thein Win, a resident of Thayetpin Chaung village, said the housing has been under way, stopping and starting, for 18 years – but is still not completed.

“We don’t know exactly who the developers are, but we heard it is being developed by government and a private company,” he said, adding some of the buildings are nearly completed.

Development in the East North area is extremely limited, beyond the two main existing villages and the start of the low-cost housing project. Yet local infrastructure is comparatively developed, boasting hard-top roads, electricity and quality communications.

There has been interest in the local property market since 2013. The area is not short on open spaces, though many lots have recently changed hands and are not for sale again, according to U Than Lwin, a local real estate agent at Thayetpin Chaung village.

Speaking before the public unveiling of the area as the first New City, he said property in the East Dagon area sells for K5 million (US$4500) an acre, when it is available, while 10,000 square foot lots in the villages sell for K30 million.

“Prices have been rising from last year. Industrial land in particular is more expensive than paddy land and residential areas,” he said. “In the area there are four industrial zones.”

U Than Lwin said a 40,000-square-foot plot of industrial land may cost about K150 million, though it varies considerably depending on location.

Over the weekend, though, the area has seen a rush of speculators enter, and prices are beginning to rise. Yet prices have not shot up as they have in previous rushes, as maximum prices for expropriated land have been laid out in planning documents and are relatively modest.

U Than Lwin said market has slowed since last year. Those who made purchases are not looking to flip land immediately, but appear to be waiting, he said.

“A little over a year ago, people came and bought lands. At the time, the price was cheap and buyers received good parcels,” said a retired land surveyor and resident of Thayetpin Chaung village. “Of the buyers, most are personal staff officers for the ministers, Shan-China businesspeople and also former colonels.”

Much of the northeast area of East Dagon township is underdeveloped and located far from downtown Yangon.Much of the northeast area of East Dagon township is underdeveloped and located far from downtown Yangon.

Yangon Region independent member of parliament Daw Nyo Nyo Thin said land owners will likely not want to give up possession of their land if compensation is only 5 or 10 million an acre.

During speculation rushes, land owners can sell land to businesspeople and brokers, though they often then end up with ownership rights.

“Some people may have known about the seven new city projects included in the Yangon plan, so they could have paid for land in advance,” she said. “People who know about these projects first then try to make illegal profits by using this information. “

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin added that authorities can take action against those contravening anti-money laundering laws, so officials need to be careful about participating in the rush.

The total area for the East Dagon New City is 17,375 acres, and it is slated to eventually include 900,000 people. The government has planned to provide about K10 million an acre for land it expropriates.

The plan states that the government will be able to keep costs low. They estimate land prices will rise significantly as the project progresses, possibly up to K280 million an acre.

The entire project of the East North new city is estimated at K491 billion, with Yangon Region government hopeful on implementing it before 2040.

Source: Myanmar Times

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