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The Seri Kota Flats
The Flat Seri Kota housing project in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur marks a period where Malaysia doubled down on providing decent quality of life for working class urban citizens. More than 30 years on, it still faces challenges in an ever-expanding city – but its community still clings to the promise of making it together.
When it began accepting tenants in 1985, the Seri Kota Flats near Bandar Tun Razak, Cheras were meant to exemplify Malaysia's ability to take care of its own.
Each standing 17 storeys tall, the six blocks provided 1,224 units of low-cost housing for Kuala Lumpur residents in an effort to tackle the issue of illegal squatter villages. In the 32 years since, Seri Kota has grown to be more reflective of the community making a home within its walls, with more well thought out infrastructure to boot.
While the flats were designed to be as community-friendly as possible from the outset, additional features were introduced over the years. Seri Kota now sports one of the city’s best communal children’s libraries and learning centres, three preschools, a health clinic and a grocery shop, with a multi-storey parking complex being built to accommodate the residents’ rising number of motor vehicles. The flats are also within walking distance from the Bandar Tun Razak LRT station, as well as a community centre offering access to more shops and public services.
“When I first moved into Seri Kota, we faced issues like intermittent blackouts and water shortages,” explains Noor Rimah Mohamad, the chair of Flat Seri Kota’s residents’ association.
Kak Noor Rimah, as she is affectionately known by the community, was a pioneer resident, having moved into her unit in 1985. “These days, we’re waiting for DBKL [Kuala Lumpur City Hall] to install canopied walkways to connect the blocks. The PDRM [Royal Malaysian Police] is in the process of renovating their beat station here.
“Things are not perfect in Seri Kota, but at least we’ve moved on from small challenges to more complex ones.”
Long-time resident Anuar Razalli stands in front of a mural listing the articles of Rukunegara. While not a member of Seri Kota's residents' association, Anuar volunteers from time to time with cleaning and maintaining the shared public spaces afforded to the local community.
Seri Kota’s location might have seemed relatively remote in the mid-’80s, but Kuala Lumpur itself has grown over the years to fully envelop the housing project within the modern urban landscape. The flats’ youth population has more ready access than ever to all the capital city has to offer, with public transportation and expressway systems allowing Seri Kota residents to reach places of work, education centres, and the greater Klang Valley.
The housing complex is also close to Bandar Tun Razak’s many public facilities, such as the Kuala Lumpur Football Association Stadium, the Bandar Tun Razak Swimming Complex, Taman Tasik Permaisuri, and the UKM Medical Centre.
The passage of time has not completely been beneficial to Seri Kota, however. Proximity to urban ills has taken its toll on the lives of residents, with the housing project emerging as one of Kuala Lumpur’s drug-related crime hotspots.
The Seri Kota Flats recently won the championship title (and RM5,000) at an inter-district futsal tournament. While local futsal events are organised occasionally by DBKL, the flats' athletic residents make it a point to keep in form through pick-up games in the evenings.
In a community with a rapidly growing senior population, Seri Kota’s youths are at risk of falling into substance addiction and being unable to support their elders. Steps to tackle the situation are already underway: the Seri Kota Flats have been fostered by the Sungai Besi contingent of the Royal Malaysian Police, and are now directly under a law enforcement commitment to provide support and rapid response.
As the housing project and its community of families, senior citizens, and ballooning youth demographic stare down 2018, Seri Kota seems set on tackling more challenges on the path to becoming a model Malaysian urban home.
Text and photos by Azwan Mahzan
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