Public Spaces Should Be Fun

July 25, 2014

We have been enhancing the public spaces in the heart of our city.  We are discovering that little things make great impact!

At Kampong Glam,  we placed some benches and garden swings at the Sultan Gate open space.  This ‘Picnic in the Park – Under the Gelam Trees’ became an instant success.

This being the month of Ramadan, many families gathered at the benches to break fast after their prayers at the Sultan Mosque. Each night, the space comes alive with colourful lights hanging from the Gelam trees.  This is a gem!

At the Asian Civilisations Museum Green and Marina Bay, IKEA kindly provided 60 moveable chairs for people to rest their feet and enjoy the surroundings.  This ‘Chairs in Squares’ was also a great hit. Different chair arrangements were observed!

The simple addition of chairs and benches can magically transform our public spaces. This was in fact a suggestion from participants at a recent focus group discussion at MND on “Vibrant Spaces for the Community”.

I look forward to more interesting public space projects under URA’s ongoing PubliCity programme.

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Smoothening The Resale Transaction

July 22, 2014

Flat owners who have sold their flats are required to move out as soon as they complete the resale transaction. This is because flat buyers are required under the lease to immediately occupy their homes.

But this may put some sellers in a difficult situation. Some do not have their next homes to move into, as they may not yet be ready, e.g.renovation is in progress. Others may first need the funds from the sale of their current flat, before they can complete the purchase of their next home.

As a result, they often need to frantically look for some short interim rental arrangement, resulting in some disruption to their daily life.

This is a problem which has cropped up occasionally during MPS. I have to appeal to HDB, on behalf of the residents, to allow the sellers more time to move out of their sold flats.

To resolve this problem, HDB will tweak the policy, and will henceforth allow sellers to extend their stay in their sold flats temporarily, for a period of up to three months. But the arrangement should be privately negotiated and agreed upon between the buyer and seller, and be submitted together with the resale application.

In other words, if the buyer agrees with the request by the seller for such a temporary arrangement, HDB will have no objection.

We settled on a three-month period as we think it should be sufficient time for flat sellers to complete the purchase of their next home, or make the necessary arrangements to shift into their next home.

HDB estimates that some 15% of total resale transactions, or about 2,700 households a year, will stand to benefit from this policy tweak. I commend the HDB for this move.

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Green Roof is a lot of Science

July 18, 2014

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We are greening up a lot of HDB rooftops. It is pleasing to the eyes, besides lowering the ambient temperature.

But having green roofs aren’t just about adding plants to rooftops. It takes a lot of science and experimentation to get it right, in a smart, sustainable way.

One example is the Prefabricated Extensive Green (PEG) Roof System developed by HDB. We see them at the rooftops of older HDB blocks or top decks of multi-storey car parks. Different plant species are grown in these modular lightweight trays. But not any plant species, they have to be hardy to flourish at rooftop.

One such plant species is the Cyanotis Cristata. Under strong sun and drought conditions, its leaves turn from green to reddish, as though they are ushering in the autumn season. Another is the Zephyranthes Rosea. It usually blooms with beautiful flowers after a rainfall.

HDB had selected them and put them through stress tests, to ensure they thrive well in our climate. With the PEG’s built-in compartment to contain rainwater, they can survive dry spells of up to 21 days!

They were tested recently when we experienced Singapore’s longest dry spell in February. Not only did they survive, they were able to regenerate after the drought.

HDB’s rigorous research efforts into plants have paid off.

These plants were also selected because they require minimal maintenance, typically twice a year.

Beyond rooftops, our greening efforts can also be found in water. Some examples are the mangroves and floating wetlands at MyWaterway@Punggol.

HDB has introduced 22 freshwater-tolerant mangroves species, and various floating wetlands plants at MyWaterway@Punggol.

This has brought greenery to the door-step of our Punggol residents.

As we admire the greenery, let’s appreciate the efforts of our colleagues at the HDB Building Research Institute, who are constantly looking for better ideas to improve our living environment.

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Living Close By Is Cool

July 16, 2014

Would children prefer to live with or near their parents after their marriage?

I think it a no-brainer as the practical benefits of living close by and the wonders of family life would combine to make such an arrangement the ideal choice. But we cannot be sure. So besides organising many focus group discussions, MND has also commissioned a professional firm to conduct a door-to-door survey with a representative sample of some 2,000 Singaporeans. The sample included both unmarried and married adult children and elderly parents.

The results are heart-warming. Vast majority of young unmarried Singaporeans, 84% of them, plan to live together with their parents (55%), or close by within the same town (29%), after their marriage.

In practice, not all were able to fulfil their wishes. Still, majority of young married Singaporeans, 53% of them, actually live with their parents (35%), or close by within the same town (18%).

Corroborating with these figures, the survey found that 68% of parents with adult married children are either living with their children (47%) or close by within the same town (21%).

The reasons offered for the arrangement are good ones: children are close to their parents and wish to look after them in their old age; parents are close to their children and could also help look after their grandchildren.

The survey confirmed that family ties and interactions are important to Singaporeans. Regardless where they stay,

a. 96% of unmarried children plan to see their parents at least once a week after marriage;

b. 72% of married children currently do so; and

c. 83% of elderly parents see their married children at least once a week.

The door-to-door survey results show that the state of family bonding in Singapore is healthy and strong. They affirm that Singaporean families value mutual care and support and want to live near to one another.

They also show that there is room for us to do more to help extended families live nearer. MND will study the survey findings in greater detail, and together with the feedback we have received from our housing conversations, to see how best we can help fulfil Singaporeans’ aspirations to live near their extended families for better mutual care and support.

If you are interested, more details on the survey findings can be accessed here.

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An OIE Recognition of Excellence

July 1, 2014

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has endorsed VPHC as Southeast Asia’s first OIE Collaborating Centre for Food Safety, serving the Asia and Oceania region.

Picture1bVPHC (Veterinary Public Health Centre) is the cornerstone of AVA’s integrated food safety programme. VPHC laboratories conduct stringent food safety tests on food products, and comprise a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and scientists who provide a comprehensive range of analytical services.

From its humble beginnings in the 1970s as a basic meat testing laboratory, VPHC has over the years grown to be a state-of-the-art facility in Lim Chu Kang. The OIE recognition is an important milestone.

Food safety is of paramount importance to our people. With food imports coming in from countries all over the world, cross-border checks are critical to ensuring that our food supply is safe. AVA and VPHC play a crucial role.

With the support of VPHC as an OIE Collaborating Centre, AVA will be in a better position to keep abreast of emerging challenges in food safety, and new developments in international standards and regulations. AVA will also have the opportunity to extend its technical expertise, comprehensive laboratory testing services and training programmes to the region. This will enhance the overall food safety in the region, a source of many of our food imports.

The OIE recognition comes in time of VPHC’s 10th anniversary in Lim Chu Kang this year.

Congratulations, AVA and VPHC!

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Helping Our Despatch/Delivery Riders

June 30, 2014

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A few months ago, MP Er Lee Bee Wah told me that our despatch/delivery riders need our help with their motorcycle parking fees. As delivery riders, they have to make frequent trips to multiple places in a single day, and may have to park in a few HDB and URA car parks in one day.

We have helped these riders by capping their parking fees at $0.65 per entry into each HDB or URA car park. But because they mayPer minute parking cover several car parks, they can still chalk up considerable parking charges. And apparently, they bear these charges themselves, and not their employers.

I am happy to announce that HDB and URA will be implementing per-minute parking for motorcycles parking at their Electronic Parking System (EPS) car parks from tomorrow. Motorcyclists will be charged a new EPS parking rate of $0.20 per hour, or $0.00333 per minute, and the total parking charges at each car park will remain capped at $0.65 per day or night parking session. This will particularly benefit the delivery riders. They will pay less than before, much less.

Of course, the existing grace period of 10 minutes will remain unchanged.

Mr Ahmad Indra Bin Sabtu is one motorcyclist who will benefit from the new parking rate. He is a delivery rider who visits some 25 car parks for a typical shift and used to spend up to $5 on parking charges daily. Now, Mr Ahmad Indra can pay as he parks, with the charges capped at $0.65 per session (or $1.30 for the whole day and night) at each car park.

This change will benefit the despatch and delivery riders personally. But their employers may also want to play a part too, by taking on some of the parking charges incurred by their employees?

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Dawson Rejuvenated

June 27, 2014

Dawson Rejuvenated

At the 2007 National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) initiative Dawson_1to transform the Dawson estate at Queenstown.  Queenstown is HDB’s first satellite town with many flats at around 50 years of age.  With every new HDB town becoming more modern and better designed, there is a need to ensure that the older towns do not end up too far behind. Hence the ROH initiative has since been rolled out in Yishun, Punggol, Jurong Lake, East Coast and Hougang.

With meticulous planning and design, Dawson is fast becoming the next iconic housing estate. Two Build-To-Order (BTO) projects, SkyVille@Dawson and SkyTerrace@Dawson, featuring concepts like sky gardens and landscape terraces, will be completed next year.  Buyers of these new flats are looking forward to moving into their new homes at Dawson.

Dawson 2Today, we announce HDB’s plan to build another five new public housing projects at Dawson, under the popular SERS programme.  These new flats will provide new homes for Tanglin Halt residents, many of whom have been living there for more than 50 years. They will get a new modern flat with a fresh 99-year lease, with greenery at their doorstep, and panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas.  I am sure they will find this attractive and exciting.

Amidst the green surroundings, there will be many community spaces for residents to mingle and interact, such as playgrounds and fitness corners for residents of all ages to come together. Residents will also enjoy greater convenience, with their new homes located near shopping amenities and an MRT station. HDB will also be building a new hawker centre.

Rejuvenation is not only about creating new hardware. Shared memories will pull people closer together. Members of the public have contributed heritage items which HDB will showcase at a heritage wall and space within the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market.

Dawson’s vision is to provide “Housing-in-a-Park” for the lucky residents. When completed by 2020, Dawson will be an endearing home for many families.

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