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Thread: For semi-Ds, breaking up is hard to do

  1. #1
    mr funny is offline Any complaints please PM me
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default For semi-Ds, breaking up is hard to do

    July 12, 2009 Sunday

    For semi-Ds, breaking up is hard to do

    Redeveloping one unit into a bungalow will leave the remaining unit looking lopsided

    By Jamie Ee Wen Wei

    After Ms Phyllis Tan's Changi Park neighbourhoods decide to convert their semi-detached house into a bungalow in 2002, she had to live with "half-a- house" A chiku tree now conceals the wall that used to connect her house to her neighbour's. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

    The next-door neighbour of a couple, whose bid to divorce their semi-detached house from his failed, was surprised to see his home address make the news last week.

    The man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chow, did not know that his neighbours, Madam Borissik Svetlana and her husband Low Eng Pah, went as far as the High Court to get approval to turn their semi-detached house into a bungalow.

    The application was rejected by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), then a subsequent appeal was thrown out when Mr Low and Madam Svetlana took it to the courts.

    'We felt sorry for them for losing the case. We are indifferent actually. We wouldn't have minded if they wanted to convert their house into a bungalow,' said Mr Chow, who has been living in his two-storey house in Upper Thomson with his wife and two children for about two years now.

    Current regulations require that adjoining houses each stand on at least 400 sq m of land - the minimum plot size for a detached house - before the redevelopment of semi-detached houses is allowed. The plots must also have a width of at least 10m.

    Mr Low and Madam Svetlana's semi-detached house at 2, Jalan Chengam sits on 419 sq m of land but Mr Chow's house at 1A, Jalan Chengam has a plot size of only 244.5sq m.

    The couple, who do not live in the single-storey house, had planned to convert it into a two-storey bungalow with a basement, attic and swimming pool. They declined to be interviewed.

    The case has put the spotlight on a building guideline that was introduced in 1996 and revised in 2002.

    The guideline allowed for existing semi-detached houses to be converted into bungalows if the minimum plot size is met. But it did not specify that a neighbouring unit had to adhere to a minimum size.

    In 2002, however, URA issued a circular to professional institutes stating it had received much feedback on such conversions.

    The key concern was that the redevelopment has caused the remaining half of an original pair of semi-detached units to be lopsided in appearance, the circular said.

    To ensure that the adjoining semi-detached house is large enough to be redeveloped into bungalows, URA requires that its minimum plot be at least 400 sq m.

    URA said it does not compile data on such applications.

    A check with property consultants and construction firms showed that such breakaways, while not uncommon, are also not popular.

    Mr Dennis Ng, director of DMX Construction, said he has handled only four such cases over the past 10 years.

    He said neighbours are often upset by the conversion as they would have to put up with noisy construction and a 'weird-looking' house.

    'You seldom find both sides agreeing to redevelop at the same time,' he said.

    But Mr Dennis Wee, chairman of the realty company Dennis Wee Group, said the property value for both houses should go up as they would be classified as bungalows after the breakaway.

    Still, in a soft market, it may be difficult to market 'half a house', he said.

    'The plot could be just over 400 sq m. That's a bit small for a bungalow as people usually go for at least 600 sq m. It's also not a very good sight as there will be a blank wall on one side of the house,' he said.

    Some affected home owners feel that the authorities should make it mandatory for affected neighbours to be consulted first before owners can go ahead with the redevelopment.

    Under the current guidelines, applicants are 'urged' to keep their immediate neighbours informed of the approved plans.

    Ms Phyllis Tan, who declined to reveal her age, was hurt when she found out that her neighbour, who has been her friend for 30 years, got approval to detach his single-storey semi-detached house from hers without informing her first.

    She rallied 25 residents in Changi Park estate to sign a petition to the authorities.

    'I had a horrifying image of what the estate would look like in the future with several sliced-off semi-detached houses standing lopsided on their own,' said the semi-retired lawyer, who has been living in her single-storey house for over 30 years.

    Her neighbour went ahead with the conversion as the law had not been revised at that time. It was changed soon after Ms Tan's feedback.

    Today, Ms Tan said she has learnt to live with her 'half-a-house', even though it is dwarfed by two houses on both sides. The wall that used to connect her house with her neighbour's, which is now a 21/2-storey bungalow, is concealed by a tall chiku tree.

    While she remains friends with her neighbour, she is troubled that the law does not give affected home owners any defined rights over the approval of such upgradings.

    'The neighbour is affected by the breakaway and deserves to be consulted. It's just common courtesy.'

    But others feel home owners have the right to do what they please with their own house.

    Mrs Chow from 1A, Jalan Chengam said: 'It is private property after all. If the neighbours don't like it, it will pile pressure on the owners. Not everyone is indifferent like us.'

    [email protected]

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2008

    Default Nothing for nothing

    Moral of the story is that there's nothing for nothing. If you own a semi-d then you own a semi-d. You cannot just increase the status to bungalow so easily. That is why you see a price premium for bungalows over semi-ds of comparable size.

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