BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The government is rethinking the possibility of building national housing schemes in Kampong Ayer after turning down a similar proposal in 2015.

Home Affairs Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong said the government is studying the viability of building new public housing in the centuries-old water village as part of the Kg Ayer revitalisation project.

Noting that the cost of building a house in Kg Ayer is higher than on land, he said the government would need to take into account whether Kg Ayer residents would be able to pay for the subsidised public housing.

A survey indicated that the majority of Kg Ayer residents earn less than $1,000 a month, the minister said, adding that 40 percent are self-employed and less than 20 percent are working in the civil service.

“Taking into account their monthly expenses, we need to see whether they would be able to pay for housing in the long run… We don’t want it to eventually become a burden to the government.

There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before we implement the [national housing] plan,” he added.

YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Abu Bakar Hj Apong made the remarks in response to LegCo member YB Naim Hj Kamis’s question on the development of Kg Ayer during a session of the Legislative Council on Friday.

In 2015, LegCo members had suggested the construction of more national housing schemes in the water village.

The plan was to build 157 houses, 47 in Phase 1 and 110 in Phase 2.

There are already two national housing schemes in Kg Ayer — Kg Bolkiah A and Kg Bolkiah B. 

With more residents migrating to the mainland, Kg Ayer’s population has dwindled from about 28,000 in the 1980s to just over 13,000 in 2015.

Gov’t plans to spend over $1 million on Kg Ayer maintenance

The minister said several development plans are in the pipeline as part of the Kg Ayer Revitalisation project.

Without providing details, he said a hotel and ‘mangrove spa’ were included in the plan but that not all development projects will be implemented.

The revitalisation project, which is part of the Bandar Seri Begawan Masterplan, will also repair and preserve houses in Kg Ayer as tourist attractions.

Earlier, LegCo member YB Iswandy Ahmad said $1.02 million has been allocated for the maintenance and management of Kg Ayer’s bridges and jetties in the 2021/22 financial year.

He suggested a specific budget to develop Kg Ayer and ensure its historical and cultural heritage are preserved.

The government has also set aside $2.8 million to improve Kg Ayer’s tourism products in the 2021/22 fiscal year.