FOREST CITY in southern Johor bordering Singapore is one of the most exciting projects in the world today and set to be a model for other cities, say international real estate experts.
“Forest City’s car-free green design, renewable energy infrastructure and smart technologies will make it a model city,” said Carrie Law, chief executive office of Juwai.com, the No. 1 Chinese international real estate website.
“Forest City is not just a condominium development, but also a full-fledged, mixed-use city where people will work in sectors like education, healthcare, and tourism.
“The project has twice won the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award from the Global Forum on Human Settlements,” Law told NST Property.
She said banning foreigners from buying properties in Forest City would not be good for the development and the country.
Law was responding to recent comments by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he would ban foreigners from buying properties in Forest City.
Dr Mahathir had said “the city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners” nor would the government issue visas for people to come and live there.
He said the objection was because Forest City was built for foreigners, and not for Malaysians.
Law said the market shouldn’t jump to conclusion based on one statement from Dr Mahathir about investments in Forest City or in Malaysia as a whole.
“It might not mean anything at all. It could just be a media report taken out of context. It could be a negotiating tactic. Remember, Country Garden (Holdings Co Ltd) plans to deliver the first 482 Forest City units in December. Right now, the main impact of this statement has caused a lot of head-scratching. As they say in England, we should keep calm and carry on until more information becomes available.
“If Forest City does include more affordable housing to enable locals to also live there, that will benefit anyone who has bought (properties) there. A development occupied by both foreign investors and locals tends to have higher returns and resale value,” she said.
The Prime Minister’s Office has issued an official statement to put to rest speculation about any foreign investment ban in Forest City.
It said any such purchases would not automatically grant buyers residency, but foreigners can apply through the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) government programme.
Law said Malaysia has one of the most welcoming foreign investment and residency programmes in the world.
“Foreigners can buy without obtaining residency, or they can apply via the MM2H programme to become long-term residents of the country.”
The US$100 billion (RM410 billion) Forest City project to build a city for 700,000 people has faced uncertainty since Dr Mahathir’s coalition won a shock victory at the 14th General Election in May.
Since becoming the prime minister, he has put the brakes on a few China-backed projects, such as the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link and a natural gas pipeline project in Sabah.
Plans to build a high speed rail (HSR) link from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore have also been suspended.
The HSR was expected to be a big boost to the Forest City project.
The New Straits Times Press (NSTP) was the first to report last year that Hong Kong-listed property developer Country Garden is courting the government to build a HSR station in Forest City. The station could potentially be the new transport hub for Johor Baru, similar to Kuala Lumpur Sentral in Brickfields for Kuala Lumpur.
The Forest City mega project is administered by Country Garden PacificView Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Country Garden, China’s third largest house builder, and Malaysia’s Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.