November 18, 2008 Tuesday

Cluster homes drawing flak from residents

Those living next to these developments say they have led to more traffic and noise

By Ang Yiying

WHEN Dr Francis Oen, 47, moved into his terrace house near Lower Delta Road a decade ago, the area was a mix of bungalows, semi-detached homes and terrace houses.

Now, Dr Oen's home faces 11 units of cluster homes, each five storeys high.

'It changes the characteristics of the neighbourhood and disrupts the look of the place,' the Bukit Teresa Close resident said last week.

Like Dr Oen, other home owners have taken issue with these high-density developments, which often take the form of row houses. They have become increasingly popular in recent years because they combine condo-style shared facilities - like pools and gyms - with the space of landed premises.

Since 2003, about 100 sites have been approved for such developments.

Neighbouring property owners say these high-density clusters have changed the character of landed estates, leading to more traffic and noise.

The Straits Times recently visited eight estates with cluster homes - including recently completed units and ongoing developments - and spoke to nearby landed residents.

Traffic was the top concern of those who took issue with cluster homes.

Mrs Anne Baillie, who lives near 100 or so cluster homes in Kew Crescent in the east, has to deal with heavy traffic and parked delivery trucks when driving her car out. The 46-year-old said: 'I have to be extra careful.'

Lorong Selangat, in the Braddell area, has one set of partially occupied cluster homes, with another set under way.

Resident Tan Tiong Yong, 47, said the noise level in his formerly 'very quiet' neighbourhood increases when children play around the swimming pool shared by the cluster homes.

Still, some residents concede that cluster homes are unavoidable. Dunsfold Drive resident Ted Teo, 63, who lives near an ongoing development of 18 cluster bungalows, said: 'I suppose land is scarce, so the Government has to relax (its rules).'

Introducing cluster homes was meant to offer home buyers more options, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Property agents said cluster homes are also usually 10 to 20 per cent cheaper than the typical landed property.

Because of complaints from residents and feedback from focus groups, the URA has decided to revive a 2001 guideline to cap the number of units allowed for cluster homes in each development.

The change, which was made known on Nov 3, will bring densities closer to those of the surrounding area.

Most landed residents said they were relieved by the decision. But with the rule taking effect on Feb 3 next year, it will not affect ongoing developments.

At Bukit Teresa Close, home to both an existing and an ongoing development, resident Simon Cheong, 60, is wary.

'I don't know how this is going to operate when everybody has moved in. I think there's going to be a lot of hassle.'

[email protected]