BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Housing Development Department has reported arrears of over $64 million due to housing loan and rent defaults, the development minister said on Monday.

Speaking during a session of the Legislative Council, Dato Hj Muhd Juanda Hj Abdul Rashid said that 6,098 people had defaulted on housing loans, while 184 had defaulted on rent payments.

In response, the department has taken a whole-of-government approach to tackle the issue, setting up a dedicated Debt Recovery Unit to investigate arrears on a case-by-case basis.

The department has also provided homeowners with multiple repayment options to make the process more affordable, the minister said, such as reviewing the monthly installment payments, deducting payment from the defaulter’s retirement savings, and transferring ownership to a family member who is willing to pay the debt.

Dato Juanda said the department aims to reach a negotiated settlement with defaulters, and will only resort to legal action as a last resort against those who “refuse to make payments despite having the means to do so”.

When asked about using the public-private partnership (PPP) model to fund public housing projects, the minister said while government is studying the possibility, it has yet to come up with viable alternatives.

He explained that providing housing using the PPP model requires pricing homes at a level that is feasible for private sector involvement, but emphasised that building affordable homes is the government’s priority.

“Developing an economically viable and acceptable formula for the private sector will take time. The Housing Development Department is currently exploring several other concepts for further study,” he added.