GEORGE TOWN - Public anger in the state is on the rise as Singaporeans continue to buy up pre-war houses here by the blocks.
NGOs and netizens are reacting negatively following The Star Online's Facebook posting of the news yesterday.
Many are calling for stricter measures to limit foreign buying, but Penang Citizens Chant Group legal adviser Yan Lee warned that it would be useless as foreigners could sidestep such restrictions by simply forming Malaysian shell companies with local directors who are proxies or trustees.
"The corporate veil will shield them from these simple stop-gap measures. Instead, these measures end up keeping out individual foreigners who earnestly want to own property here because they just want to live in Penang.
"The Penang government is more concerned about collecting development charges. The more it allows development, the more money it collects," he lamented.
Yan Lee was commenting on cooling measures here since 2012 that prevent foreigners from buying landed property of less than RM2mil (S$660,000) on the island and RM1mil on the mainland.
For stratified property, the cap is not less than RM1mil both on the island and the mainland.
There is also a state approval fee of 3 per cent over the purchase price.
State Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said in a statement yesterday that statistics had shown that these measures had reduced foreign buying of Penang property by about 50 per cent since 2013.
George Town Heritage Action held a press conference on Thursday to reveal that Singapore developer World Class Land (WCL) had acquired 236 pre-war houses in and around the heritage zone totalling about 250,000sq ft, equal to 26 football fields.
According to the annual report of WCL's parent company, Aspial Corporation Ltd, the properties are held by six Malaysian companies - WCL (George Town) Holdings, WCL (Magazine), WCL (Macallum), WCL (Noordin), WCL (Bertam R) and WCL (Bertam L).
In the Companies Commission of Malaysia's online portal, there are also company records of WCL (Malaysia) and WCL (Penang).