Conference on public housing kick-starts cross-collaborative interventions


THE first public housing liveability conference hosted by Rights to the City (R2C), an initiative by Think City in partnership with Citi Foundation, was held on June 16, 2022, in Kuala Lumpur. 

The conference titled “Together for Better Lives and Livelihoods in Public Housing” featured representation from government, senior policymakers, foundations, think tanks, academics, professionals, civil society and most importantly, representatives from the public housing communities. 

The discussions focused on targeted approaches to better public housing management and recommendations to overcome the challenges faced by the residents. Public housing was viewed in totality as a multifaceted issue that evoked the difficulties of a disempowered community struggling to achieve liveability, dignity and a sense of belonging. 

While we have successfully housed the nation and avoid the pitfalls of rapid urbanisation in relation to shelter, it also highlighted the need to evolve the current model of public housing in line with the changing needs and learnings from the current system. 

The conference affirmed the need to look at public housing liveability from a systems perspective and require a movement to better liveability at public housing through advocacy, cross-sector collaboration, research and dynamic policymaking with the public housing communities. 

Improving lives and livelihoods in public housing sustainably goes beyond improving the physical environment. We need to build more resilient communities with strong participation within the public housing ecosystem. 

Creating community leadership and formalised participation in public housing management is one key component towards achieving sustainable public housing.

The community took a hands-on approach at the conference, empowered to participate in panel discussions. 

The two women representatives — Noor Hayati Ismail, secretary of Perwacom Prihatin of PPR Kampung Baru Hicom, and Noorimah Mohamad, president of Resident Association PA Seri Kota — called on NGOs to continue the provisions of support, especially in terms of education for the children who had fallen back due to learning gaps experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The powerful, emotionally charged session allowed the participants key insights into the real-life challenges and plight of the people at public housing. The women articulated their experiences rallying the community together during the pandemic and expressed their desire for a better future — for themselves in their older age and for the future of their children.  

PPRs (people’s housing projects) need to progress in view of the changing environment. This requires a whole nation approach to transition PPRs from poverty to prosperity, and to a place of hope and inspiration. 

Possibilities of this approach may be explored in the Public Housing Partnership, an advocacy platform within R2C that aims to create meaningful discourse, collaboration and knowledge exchange to solve pressing public housing liveability issues and use these resources to solve pressing public housing liveability issues.

Through the conference, we learned that meaningful changes must also come from a top-down approach to support bottom-up initiatives as well. 

With Budget 2023 within our horizon, we need to formulate strategic and impact funding and policies to kick-start meaningful interventions as we begin to unveil more challenges these communities will face including climate change, monetary inflation, education and real estate affordability. 

We also gained insights on how the private sector’s role within the PPR landscape should transition for just purely CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives into an ESG (environmental, social and governance) responsibility that extends beyond stop-gap measures to address the community needs. 

As significant stakeholders in their lives, the private sector has the power to also create significant changes for the community, while benefitting their business.

To learn more about furthering the public housing liveability agenda, visit

  • Hamdan Abdul Majeed is the MD of Think City, and is actively involved in shaping urban policy and plans in Malaysia. In 2021, Hamdan received the Creative Bureaucracy Festival Award for change-makers and innovators in government who have contributed to making the lives of citizens better.