Housing Places of Worship

December 11, 2014

Providing land to house places of worship is an essential part of urban planning.  New HDB precincts are built with land set aside for places of worship.  This has enabled temples, mosques and churches to be situated near housing areas so that they are accessible to worshippers.

With rising demand for worship spaces, we have released sites under the Government Land Sales programme.  We have also allowed some places of worship to redevelop and intensify, if the site context allows, and allowed some limited and non-exclusive use of commercial and industrial premises for religious worship.

But places of worship come in different sizes.  There are many small temples and churches which find the Government Land Sales sites too big for their needs, and hence unaffordable.  Some of the church and temple leaders have asked us for alternative solutions.  Helpfully, they indicated that they were prepared to co-share facilities and to go high-rise.

After extensive consultations with the religious organisations, we are now exploring a new concept – a Multi-User Place of Worship Facility that co-locates multiple places of worship of the same religion in a multi-storey development. Under this arrangement, spaces can be leased or rented by small religious groups which will share common facilities like car parks, prayer halls and classrooms.

To move the concept forward, MND is calling a Request for Information (RFI) to seek ideas on how this concept might work for religious organisations interested in developing such a facility. The RFI will be open to Chinese temples and churches, as they have indicated the need for such a development. We look forward to receiving practical proposals from them, so that we can realise this new idea.

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HDB Shops Play Important Social Role

December 5, 2014

One great advantage of HDB living is the convenient access to shops within each precinct.  Beyond convenience, one must not underestimate the importance of the close-knit relationships many HDB shopkeepers have built with the residents over the years.  This social glue is hard to measure but we all know it to be important.  A smile and a greeting as you leave for your office early in the morning can brighten your day.  An acknowledgement and an expression of concern when you return home from a busy day can blow away any office blues.

That is why we continue to build HDB precincts with a good range of HDB shops, in order to complete an endearing HDB home experience.  We also conduct annual surveys on HDB shopkeepers as their perceptions and feedback can help us in our planning and management of HDB towns.

The 2013 survey is now ready.  The results of the survey continue to be encouraging.  61% of shopkeepers expressed satisfaction with their current businesses.  This was comparable to 2012 and higher than the years before.

Not surprisingly, established businesses and those located in high human traffic precincts were most satisfied.  These included restaurants, fast food operators, medical and dental clinics, and childcare/education centres.

What was also encouraging was that 35% of shopkeepers expected their businesses to improve within the next six months.  This figure is the highest since HDB began the survey in 2002.

The proportion of shopkeepers who intend to continue with their present business in the next five years also rose 10 percentage points to 84%, the highest level since 2007.

A satisfied HDB shopkeeper often means a satisfied customer base, in an endearing precinct.  HDB will do its best to help ensure that this social glue remains intact and effective.

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An Endearing, Green, Walkable and Connected Civic District

December 4, 2014

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Our Civic District is full of history, memories, monuments and beauties. Over the years, huge assets have been assembled there, but their full potential is not being realised.

After much consultation and reflection, we now have a clear plan to stitch the assets together, in one synergistic whole, to create an integrated arts, culture and lifestyle precinct around the Padang. It will provide a green, safe and walkable park environment.

Works have started, and the bulk of it will be completed next year, as our SG50 gift to Singaporeans.

It will enhance considerably the visitors’ experience to the Asian Civilisations Museum, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, the National Gallery, the Padang and the Esplanade Park. It will also create new spaces for more community activities.

Empress Place

Empress Place will be paved over to give priority to pedestrians and to integrate the Asian Civilisations Museum and the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall into a seamless park, with opportunities for a variety of outdoor events, such as concerts.

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St Andrew’s Road and Connaught Drive

A spacious walkway will be introduced along St. Andrew’s Road, in front of the National Gallery while one side of Anderson Bridge will be converted to a pedestrian footpath. Connaught Drive will be converted to a two-way street, and the existing car and coach parking lots removed.

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Stepped Plazas

Stepped plazas will be created at Queen Elizabeth Walk and in front of the Asian Civilisations Museum. They will allow visitors to sit and enjoy the waterfront views and river activities.

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These and many more Civic District enhancements were first unveiled during the Draft Master Plan 2013 exhibition. They received very good response from the public.

We will now put ideas into reality and further elevate our Civic District as a premier arts and cultural hub, for all Singaporeans to enjoy.

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Revising the Resale Price Index

December 3, 2014

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In Singapore, property price movements are closely watched and commented upon. With more than 90% of Singaporeans being home owners, the state of the property market, especially the housing market, is of strong interest to all. This is particularly so in the HDB resale market. When resale prices shoot up continuously, buyers or potential buyers are anxious. When resale prices continue to moderate, the table is turned and sellers or potential sellers become nervous.

At one NTUC Dialogue, Secretary -General Lim Swee Say, in jest, asked me if I could create two housing markets in Singapore, a market for buyers where prices continue to fall, and a separate market for sellers where prices continue to rise. The audience had a good laugh!

Managing the property market is therefore both an art and a science: projecting and ensuring a good matching of supply and demand, while correctly sensing the mood takes some skills and good luck.

The science part of the skills requires a good property price index. For the HDB resale market, we currently have the Resale Price Index (RPI) which HDB publishes every quarter. The index gives a general sense of resale price movements and serves as a useful reference point for home buyers and sellers in their decision-making.picture2

To construct the RPI, HDB takes the average resale flat prices for a representative basket, by flat types, flat models and region, based on actual resale flat transactions. The average resale flat prices for each segment are then aggregated to derive the index.

To be effective and representative, RPI must reflect the prevailing resale market. In recent years, the HDB resale market has actually evolved considerably. First, we now see a wider range of flats, differing in designs and attributes. For example, newer flat models, including taller blocks, are increasingly being transacted in the resale market. We have also reintroduced 3-room flats since 2004, after the current RPI was last revised.

Second, there are now a lot more resale transactions for flats in newer towns, such as Punggol, Sengkang and Sembawang, but these towns are not included in the representative basket currently. In other words, the current RPI does not capture movements in resale flat prices in these towns.

Third, unlike the past, there is now greater variance in the age profile of flats being transacted in the resale market. Such variance must be taken into account in making price comparisons.

With these significant changes in the HDB resale market, the current RPI may not adequately reflect the resale market. It is therefore timely to review the RPI methodology to better capture price changes over time, and control for the variations in attributes of the resale flats transacted. This will allow the index to continue serving its purpose of providing timely and reliable information on the resale market movements.

Indeed, HDB has been working with a consultant from the NUS Department of Real Estate to review the RPI computation methodology. The review has recently been completed. HDB will be sharing more details soon.

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Close Family Ties Make A Happy Life

December 1, 2014

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The Nov BTO exercise will close shortly tonight. In this final BTO exercise for 2014, we did a few firsts:

First, we launched the first housing project in Tampines North. The project, with about 1,500 units, is our largest offering in a mature estate in a long time.  Children growing up with their parents in Tampines can now hope to buy new flats near them.

Second, we offered 56 units of 3Gen flats, the first time 3Gen flats are offered in a mature estate (Tampines).

Third, we introduced quotas to make it easier, and offered even greater priority, for married children and their parents to apply to live together or close by, through the enhanced Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS).

These initiatives were in response to public feedback received through Our Housing Conversations earlier this year.Picture2

Not surprisingly, the response to these initiatives was very positive. 1 in 3 (or 5,941) family applicants applied to live with or close to their parents or married children through the enhanced MCPS. 123 multi-generation families applied for the 56 units of 3Gen flats at Tampines GreenRidges. The supply at Tampines North was oversubscribed by more than 1.3 times.

Our housing policies will continue to support strong family formation. Next year, as we celebrate SG50, MND will do even more to help extended families live close by. We will launch another 360 3Gen flats, including 150 units in Tampines. We will launch another 1,200 new flats in Tampines North, again giving priority to those whose parents or married children are already living in Tampines. We will also launch our first BTO project in Bidadari, with over 2,200 units. Parents or married children currently living in Toa Payoh will get special priority under the MCPS for the Bidadari project.

Our family is what makes us happy, and that which gives meaning to our life. As 2014 draws to a close, let us be reminded again, to always make time to spend with our family and loved ones, and enjoy life to its fullest.

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Mutual Respect Makes Gracious Living

November 18, 2014

Mutual Respect Makes Gracious Living

Ms Ho Lin Lee of Tampines wrote to the Straits Times in September to thank the HDB and Town Council officers forImage 1 their prompt action in attending to a leaking pipe in her flat.  She wrote, “I flagged the issue to the HDB on Sunday night, and even though it was not the HDB’s problem, it provided the necessary help so that by noon on Tuesday, my bathroom was ready to be used again.”

I thank Ms Ho for her affirmation which goes a long way in encouraging our frontline colleagues to serve with excellence.

Frontline officers have a challenging job. Many of them work tirelessly at the counters, with admirable dedication and determination to provide good service.

But sometimes, there are instances where our public officers have been put in a difficult situation, or even subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
One such incident took place in August at an HDB Service Centre at Buona Vista.  A resident had refused to accept the officers’ explanation on a mortgage loan matter, and turned aggressive – shouting and throwing objects at one officer. Although badly shaken, thankfully, our officers were not hurt. A Police report was made and the offender charged in court. He pleaded guilty and was fined.

Image 2Fortunately, such extreme events are not common. Public officers do their best to attend to the needs of Singaporeans. They take their job seriously and act professionally.  Let us continue to accord them the respect and dignity they deserve, and together, build a kind and gracious society. Mutual respect is the way to go.

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More Help for Newlyweds

October 31, 2014

Helping young couples set up their first home so that they can start their family early is our top priority in MND.  We started the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) last year to provide such couples with affordable temporary housing while waiting for their BTO flat which is being built.  This is a good scheme which has been well received.

Mr and Mrs Heng Wang Xing are amongst the early beneficiaries.  Early this year, they moved into a PPHS flat in Bedok, near Mr Heng’s parents.  The best news is: they had a baby boy in August!  Congratulations!

In fact, 110 babies have been born in PPHS flats so far.  Not bad at all.

Let us do more.

First, we are increasing the supply of PPHS flats.  To the current supply of 1,150 PPHS flats, we will add another 800 flats, mainly 3-room flats, including in Bukit Merah and Queenstown.  HDB is retrofitting them and will roll them out from early next year.

Second, we will let couples co-rent and co-pay for the PPHS flat to reduce their rental expense.  This will be useful for those who feel that they do not need a whole flat, especially if it is 4- or 5-room.  The few vacant PPHS flats are of this type.  New applicants and existing tenants can opt for this from tomorrow.

I am glad to see that our housing policies are delivering results, and babies :)

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