Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015


I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Phew, a much welcome soft landing!

September 28, 2015

Blog banner

With the Cabinet reshuffle, this will be my last blog post on “Housing Matters” 😦

I started this blog more than 4 years ago, with a post: “Trepidation and Expectation”. Housing was hot and I came to MND with great trepidation. But I also came with some expectation to be able to do some good.


Four years passed very quickly. Launched 100,000 new flats, built 120 km of park connectors, planted many trees, handed over many keys to new home owners! It had been a great journey. There were tense moments when I had to seek peace and wisdom at Sembawang Park!

But overall, I think I did not waste my 4 years at MND. Made many friends, got to know many dedicated staff and experts in URA, HDB, BCA, AVA, NParks, CEA, and learnt so much from them. Had healthy debates with developers, contractors, industry analysts, property agents. Hosted many Our Singapore Conversation on Housing and tested out many ideas on them. I thank them for their advice, suggestions and generous sharing of expertise.


I thank Singaporeans in particular for their patience and understanding: you know that policy changes and cooling measures need time to produce results. Particularly happy to be able to help many newlyweds get their home and start their family early. Very pleased to have helped many extended families live close together. Broke new ground with singles being able to buy new HDB flats. Shortened the queue waiting for HDB rental flat. The hot housing market is soft-landing nicely.

But there remains much to do. 2R Flexi is just starting. Fresh Start Housing Grant is a great idea which needs to be fleshed out. There are still a few thousand singles waiting for their new flats. I am sorry that I will not be able to finish up this business. But I am reassured that MND will be in good hands.

Goodbye, my friends for reading the posts on “housing matters”. Where I am going next will be another adventure for me, with even greater trepidation and expectation. I hope I do not have to camp overnight at Sembawang Park 🙂 I certainly hope to continue to have Singaporeans’ patience and understanding.

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Serving with Passion

September 26, 2015


Min Khaw giving awardsModern Singapore was built by many pioneers who had selflessly toiled in the background. Mr Tan Lian Ker, who turned 86 this year, is one. He is one of MND’s longest serving board members, having served as President of the Strata Titles Board (STB) for 22 years. He has asked to retire, and we cannot say no.

Until his retirement in 1984, Mr Tan served in various appointments including as the Head of the Legal Department of the SAF, and as a District Judge. Not content to just sit back and enjoy his retirement, he set up a law firm to continue helping others. When STB was set up in 1988 to handle strata-titled property disputes, Mr Tan volunteered to be on the Board, despite his busy schedule.

STB news articles1Under his leadership, STB resolved over 1,400 cases, of which 85 per cent were mediated without trial. His motto is to resolve disputes amicably whenever possible, so that residents can live in harmony.  Even if it meant going down personally to homes to review the evidence, he was ever ready. His landmark decision in 2005 to abandon the then practice of sharing costs between the upper and lower units involved in disputes on inter-floor leakage led to a legislative change and we now see speedier resolution of such disputes. Mr Tan was also involved in the major legislative changes to the Land Titles (Strata) Act relating to en bloc sales. Over the years, he has effectively determined some 200 en bloc sales.

Thank you Mr Tan for years of sterling service!

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An Upcoming Bumper Launch of 12,000 Flats

September 23, 2015

HDB flat launch

We have originally scheduled two BTO launches for the rest of this year, in September and November. As it turned out, we were able to finalise three major housing policies which would further enhance affordability and build flexibility into our housing options: a new 2R Flexi Scheme, an increase in the income ceiling, and enhancements to the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG). The new policies will benefit many Singaporeans, including families, singles, and seniors.

As implementation of any new policy does require some time, we therefore decided to delay the September BTO launch by a few weeks, so that these initiatives can benefit as many Singaporeans as possible starting from the very next BTO launch. Looking at the timing of the November BTO launch, we decided that a practical way is to merge the two launches into one mega launch in November.

This will mean a bumper crop of about 7,000 BTO flats in 6 HDB towns across the country: Bidadari, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Punggol Northshore and Sengkang. In addition, we are ready to market 5,000 balance flats in a concurrent Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise. This means a combined launch of 12,000 new flats in one go. I am sure home buyers will be able to find a flat that will suit their budget and needs.

Bidadari Punggol Northshore

Do visit HDB InfoWEB for more information on the BTO flats to be offered. And if you are around the HDB Hub area, do drop by at the My Nice Home Gallery which is open Mondays to Saturdays. The mock-up HDB flats can help you plan your new home.

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Park Connector Network Turns 25

September 20, 2015

park connector network

In 1992, then Minister for National Development Mr Dhanabalan planted a Tembusu tree at Kallang Park Connector.  The event marked the birth of our Park Connector Network (PCN).

The Kallang Park Connector became the first of a nation-wide network of over 70 Park Connectors linking up all our major parks, coastal areas and activity nodes. PCN allows us to discover our city – the lush greenery and diverse flora and fauna that exist among us – in a fun way.  We are “the wild city”, as Sir David Attenborough put it in a recent TV documentary.

Our park connectors have become well-loved green spaces. Volunteers have been organising guided rides and cycle-in movies to liven up the PCN. Cycling group LoveCycling SG has bicycle maintenance workshops and cycling sessions. PCN advocates like Mr Han Jok Kwang have provided many suggestions to improve the PCN, and initiated fund-raising activities to support these improvements.  He described his initiatives as good old kampung “gotong royong”.


It is heartening that the community has developed a strong sense of ownership towards the PCN!  Because the PCN is a great idea, successive MND Ministers have embraced and enhanced it.  In the past 4 years, we have extended the PCN by 120 km, from 180 km to 300 km! Just now, we launched and added the Central Urban Loop to the PCN. This loop of 36 km passes through charming Bishan, Kallang, Hougang and Punggol.

At 25, the PCN is still growing strong.  In the next three years, an additional 30km of Park Connectors will be completed in Ang Mo Kio, Lorong Halus, and Ulu Pandan. I cycle regularly and aim to cycle every km of it.  Happily, I see the goal post being shifted, as I am about to reach it. 🙂

Come enjoy our PCN and discover our beautiful City in a Garden.

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Restoring the Capitol

August 30, 2015

Restoring the Capitol

Many Singaporeans have fond memories of Capitol Theatre.  Some would remember their first date there, to catch a movie, most probably 007 or Bruce Lee. There is also the Capitol Building and Stamford Building. Who can forget the old Magnolia Snack Bar at Capitol Building?

That is why we decided to conserve and restore the three buildings, and have them re-invented into a mixed use integrated development. The site was sold on this basis, for re-development in 2010.

Five years later, the Capitol Theatre has re-opened its doors to the public! And what a wonderful transformation!

An exhibition was organised there by ZB, WB and Perennial Real Estate Holdings for the readers to showcase their collection of old photos and their recollection of the Capitol. It was a nostalgic journey for many.

We also enjoyed the “Seven Letters” by our local producers, their individual SG50 gifts to the nation.

The Capitol Theatre has fully regained its past neo-classical glory – the domed ceiling ringed with the zodiac signs; Capitol Theatre the stage flanked by handsome Pegasus sculptures; and the iconic neon theatre sign. Clearly, our conservation experts had put in a lot of hard work to preserve the past and ensure accuracy. And more: new technology has been tapped to make the theatre a flexible space for hosting movies, theatre performances and corporate events.

The restoration of the Capitol, tucked within the Civic District, is another lovely SG50 gift to Singaporeans. It will be enjoyed by generations of Singaporeans for a long, long time.

Do you know that the Capitol Theatre was built in 1929, for live shows? And that it used to be known as the Namazies Building? (The Namazies were businessmen and lawyers of Persian origin. During the War, the building was sold to the Shaw Organisation and the theatre converted to a cinema.) You can read more about the theatre and share your own memories of the place at URA’s Conservation Portal.

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Mixing Coffee and Tea

August 8, 2015


If the SA scheme and the 2R flat scheme were likened to coffee and tea, how do you combine the two schemes into one, and still retain the objectives of the two schemes? Extensive public consultations are underway to help us achieve this mix.

We want to be able to preserve the benefits of the old schemes, and at the same time offer new benefits under the new combined 2R Flexi scheme.

For example: first-timer families, second-timer families, and first-timer singles can currently buy a new 99-year 2R flat from HDB. They will continue to be able to do so, under the 2R Flexi scheme. At the same time, we will give elderly households aged 55 and above the additional benefit of being able to choose a shorter than 99-year lease, if they wish, based on their age and preference. Their lease options will range from 15 to 45 years, in 5-year increments, provided the chosen lease will be able to allow them and their spouse to live in the flat till age 95 or above.

How will 2R Flexi flats be priced? Pricing will take into account lease tenure and if buyers are first-timer or second-timer. Shorter lease flats will be cheaper than longer lease flats. Second-timer buyers will pay more than first-timers as the latter will get more subsidies. Through a combination of pro-rated grants for first-timers and pro-rated resale levy for second-timers, we will be able to price the 2R Flexi flats so that recent buyers of SA or 2R flats will find the 2R Flexi scheme to be fair. New buyers of 2R Flexi flats will also find the flats affordable.

Mixing coffee and tea requires balance, such that coffee lovers can still taste the coffee while tea drinkers can still enjoy the tea.  And on top of that, both must get an extra distinct flavour and kick. We have worked hard over the past few months to get this balance right, for the new 2R Flexi scheme. We will bring it to the menu very soon.


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