Yangon has long struggled to provide affordable housing options to its lowest income citizens, due to a lack of financing options and high land prices. Real estate agents believe that new developments in Dagon Seikkan township may be the first step towards a solution.
Housing demand in Yangon is high – rising to around 30,000 units in 2015, according to figures published in state-owned media on July 25. As a result of this need, ambitious plans are underway to develop several townships on the outskirts of the city into hubs for low-cost housing.
Of these, Daw Thuzar May, director of Thitsar Real Estate Agency says that her money is on Dagon Seikkan becoming the centre of low-cost housing projects in Yangon. This is likely for several reasons, she said.
“In the other new townships, the market for buying land and standalone houses is also good, but in Dagon Seikkan the only market is for units in three to five floor apartments, and buyers in this township are limited to people who want to live in the apartments,” she said.
In the past, low-cost housing projects have suffered, as speculators bought up units, forcing up prices for those who genuinely needed an affordable place to live. “Manipulators have not had the chance to buy government low-cost housing in this township, so prices have not risen by much,” said Daw Thuzar May.
Ko Hein Zan, real estate agent at Sai Khon Naung, agreed that speculators and investors are simply not interested. “But the market is running with buyers who want to be residents,” he said.
Real estate consultant U Aung Min agrees that Dagon Seikkan township is the one to watch. “In the past, North Dagon was the most prosperous of the four Dagon townships.
“But there are many new housing projects in Dagon Seikkan and the government will build even more this year, which will make this a really prosperous area,” he said. The four Dagon townships are North, South, East and Dagon Seikkan.
This year, 10,080 new low-cost units will be built in Dagon Seikkan township, 2592 units will be built in Mingalardon township, 1440 in Thanlyin township, 384 units in South Dagon township and 240 in Thingangyun township, an official from the Department of Urban and Housing Development told The Myanmar Times earlier this year.
As the government completes more low-cost or affordable housing projects in Dagon Seikkan, the township is becoming more populated and is starting to thrive, said Daw Mya Mya Win, who moved there four years ago.
“Before we moved, Dagon Seikkan township was like an isolated small town. But after 2011, it became more and more prosperous and people have moved here from all social strata, including officers, retirees and rich people,” she said.
She added that last year there were not many houses in the township, which was largely made up of fields, but now most of the space is filled with construction sites.
At the moment, the road network linking Dagon Seikkan township with downtown Yangon is underdeveloped, but is frequently served by public buses, said Daw Thuzar May.
“It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to reach downtown Yangon from Dagon Seikkan by bus, depending on the traffic,” she said. The township is located on the northern bank of the Bago River, to the east of South Dagon and Thaketa townships.
In many cities, specific areas are set aside for building affordable housing units and in Yangon this will likely be Dagon Seikkan township, said Gidgetelena Ong, senior vice president at Surbana International Consultants.
The Singaporean company is providing master planning and architectural consultancy services to the Myanmar government for a 220-acre residential development within the township.
“We are working with the Ministry of Construction and consulting on most aspects of affordable housing development,” she said. However, she pointed out that the ministry has not asked Surbana to consult on public spaces surrounding the low cost housing project.
“In Singapore, in our experience, every development project must include public spaces such as a playground or a park,” she said.