From The Jakarta Post

Apartment blues

Living in an apartment is new to many Indonesians, despite a number of apartment buildings that have sprung up in the capital's concrete jungle since the late 1980s.

The City administration introduced apartment buildings, in line with a campaign on living in vertical buildings, in anticipation of more intense competition for space in urban areas. The idea of building upwards became more attractive and efficient, just as other cities in Asia and elsewhere had already discovered.

City-owned developer PD Sarana Jaya, in cooperation with the Directorate General of Human Settlement (Cipta Karya) of the Ministry of Public Works, initiated the construction of low-cost apartment buildings in the 1980s.

Most of these apartments were for those in low-income brackets. The Tanah Abang apartment blocks in Central Jakarta could be cited as an example.

Many of these low-cost apartment blocks were built on former slum areas that had been destroyed by fire.

Living in apartment, however, was very different from living in a conventional neighborhood, and many occupants became increasingly aware of societal problems.

A comedy film titled Cintaku Di Rumah Susun (My Love in an Apartment) produced in the 1980s, portrayed this new social complexity.

Similar problems relating to people living in apartments also occurred in Singapore when apartments were introduced there about two decades ago. The abrupt change in culture was believed to have brought about serious social problems. In one extreme case a tenant was reported to have gone insane after months of living in an apartment, apparently due to a failure to adjust to the new environment.

Nowadays, apartments are becoming increasingly popular in Jakarta, especially luxurious apartments. Living in an apartment is a lifestyle.

However, many middle-class Jakartans have recently discovered that living in an apartment can be somewhat problematic.

Recently, 125 residents of the Bumimas Apartment in Cilandak Barat, South Jakarta, staged a protest rally over the establishment of a tenants' association. The protesters accused apartment managers of increasing service charges and of denying strata title owners equal treatment with serviced apartment tenants in the same compound.

Many apartment tenants in Jakarta are foreign nationals, while others are locals who use apartments as a place to work or to enjoy leisure time.

Indonesians especially living in apartments should be aware that apartment environments are completely different from ordinary neighborhoods, which are headed by a Ketua RT (neighborhood chief).

Luxurious apartment blocks often house hundreds of families. Which leads to the question of the Ketua RT, who in ordinary neighborhoods controls no more than 50 family heads.

While there was no violence in the Bumimas Apartment protest, it is apparent that problems exist in the social environment there, and that apartment managers generally must be more pro-active in anticipating these problems.

The tenants need a representation in the form of an independent tenant's association, and clearly the law covering the establishment of such association has not yet been properly enforced.

In the past, the reason the city administration built apartment blocks was to provide low-income people with housing. The administration of these apartments were the same as the social regulations governing conventional neighborhoods. Apartment tenants had their own neighborhood chiefs elected from among the tenants, effectively turning the apartments into new neighborhoods in their own right.

Nowadays, companies are developing luxurious apartments for foreign nationals and middle-class locals in order to make money.

There is nothing wrong with this profit orientation, however proper anticipation of social problems, including those that might be considered trivial, is critically important.

More people bring more problems. And the fact that tenants of luxurious apartments come from different economic, social, cultural and educational backgrounds should be taken into account by apartment managers.

Hopefully, the Bumimas Apartments case will serve as a warning to apartment developers to properly and seriously address the problems of apartment management and tenant associations.
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