China Solutions

Brighter Days Ahead for Johor’s Iskandar Region 

March 24, 2024

With posh condominiums overlooking idyllic waters and flanked by gleaming office towers, shops and amenities aplenty, Johor’s Iskandar region was envisioned as a game changer for Malaysia’s economic development strategy. 

An Exciting Development

The key southern development corridor in Johor, Iskandar covers four major districts – Johor Bahru, Iskandar Puteri, Pasir Gudang and Kulai. It was conceived in 2006 as a major metropolis in the league of global cities like Shenzhen and nearby neighbour Singapore. Upon its projected maturity in 2025, the special economic zone was targeted to garner cumulative committed investments worth RM383 billion (S$113 billion). 

A notable portion of the Iskandar region is dedicated to residential property, with many high-end condominiums dotting the coastline. The developers, many from overseas, anticipated an influx of foreign homebuyers. Buyers mainly from China and across the Causeway did bite, with many buying units as holiday homes or rental investments.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

From Glitz to Blitz   

Global border closures meant that property owners in Iskandar, many of whom are foreigners, were unable to make good use of their properties. This led to them viewing their properties as liabilities, and many sought to sell their units to cut losses. However, the pandemic also hit the property market hard, especially in Johor. The state had the highest number of unsold homes that made up 17 per cent of the national property overhang. 

As the pandemic dragged on, the Iskandar region soon emptied of life. Restaurants and establishments shuttered, and homes were left vacant and forsaken.

A Major Comeback   

But things are looking up for the region as the pandemic subsides and global travel resumes. Iskandar is coming alive again as shops and restaurants reopen while families throng the beach.  

Malaysia’s new administration, led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, is also looking at plans to boost investments across the Causeway, and is considering a ferry service between Singapore and the Puteri Harbour International Terminal, south-west of Iskandar. The plan is part of a broader move to position Malaysia as an alternative supply chain hub in Asia, and attract high-value investments into the state, especially in areas such as electrical and engineering and chemicals and chemical products, Tengku Zafrul Aziz, Malaysia’s newly-appointed Minister of International Trade and Industry told The Business Times.  

“With infrastructure, expertise, land and labour to offer, Iskandar remains an attractive region for developers”, said Winston Lee, Director of Special Projects at PropertyGuru.

“Despite recent challenges, I see a bright future for Iskandar. With the easing of restrictions and a government committed to economic development, the region is poised for investment and economic growth,” said Lee, noting Iskandar’s strengths in its strategic location, skilled workforce and robust infrastructure.  

“It's only a matter of time before Iskandar becomes a thriving economic hub in Southeast Asia,” he added.

And as Singapore and Malaysia keep up efforts to improve connectivity between the two countries – a longstanding pain point – Iskandar Malaysia could soon realise its potential as the next Shenzhen.

Seize the opportunity presented by the upcoming dual city event, the Asia Pacific Property Conference 2023, scheduled to take place in Shanghai (8-9 Sept 2023) and Chengdu (24-25 Nov 2023). This event offers a golden opportunity for Southeast Asia developers to directly engage with this emerging market and navigate its potential.  

Interested to broadcast your projects directly to property agents in China? Be part of our Asia Pacific Property Conference, get in touch to find out more.

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