GEORGE TOWN: A proper plan is needed to stop gentrification from turning the famed clan jetties into a ghost town at night.

Daniel Gooi (PH-Pengkalan Kota) said imposing reasonable rental terms and subsidising the maintenance cost are some of the measures that could stop the locals and living heritage from being driven away from the heritage site.

He said all the inhabitants of the rows of wooden stilt houses along Weld Quay are Temporary Occupancy Licence (TOL) holders.

“Rightfully, the next-of-kin of the existing TOL holders here should be allowed to ‘inherit’ the TOL and continue to stay on.

“But the problem is, the younger generation has already bought houses elsewhere, thus rendering them unable to fulfil the criteria of a TOL holder.

“When the TOL holder passes on, the status of the residential might be affected as the next-of-kin does not fulfil the requirements,” he added.

Gooi said such an issue has happened in certain places in Italy and Japan, adding that the Penang government should look into early planning to prevent a similar situation from happening in clan jetties.

In Sardinia, Italy, the government offered as much as €15,000 (about RM70,000) to attract new settlers there.

“In Japan, there is this ‘ghost village’ phenomenon known as akiya. We have also seen subsidy incentives being introduced to attract residents to live in these areas and villages,” Gooi said when debating the state’s 2023 budget at the Penang legislative assembly meeting here yesterday.

He added that the clan jetties area, which has attracted domestic and foreign tourists, has been restored to the vibrancy of its pre-pandemic times.

“However, the economic challenges have caused the cost of maintenance of facilities and infrastructure in the clan jetties to soar.

“The supply of wood, which is the main raw material for maintenance, is not only limited, but with the increase in price, it has made maintenance in the clan jetties area a big challenge,” he said.

Clan jetties in Penang are water villages with rows of wooden stilt houses located along Weld Quay or Sin Hai Kee (New Waterfront Street in Hokkien) in George Town.

The houses that line both sides of the planked walkways were dwelling places for the Chinese Hokkien immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Two out of the nine jetties were demolished to make way for new development in 2006.

The remaining ones are Ong, Lim, Chew, Tan, Lee, New (mixed clan or chap seh keo) and Yeoh.

In 2006, Peng Aun (Peaceful in Hokkien) Jetty, which was set up in the 1960s, was demolished to make way for a new high-rise housing development project.

The Koay Jetty, which began in the 1950s, was also pulled down together with Peng Aun Jetty that year.

The entire community dissipated as a result.