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Thread: 'No right to make demands on HDB'

  1. #1
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    Default 'No right to make demands on HDB'

    http://www.straitstimes.com/News/Hom...ry_490396.html

    Feb 14, 2010

    special report: rental flat neighbors

    'No right to make demands on HDB'

    No link between presence of rental flats and crime rate, say MPs, experts

    By Irene Tham and Shuli Sudderuddin


    On another plot of land. Eight storeys instead of 14. Build a condominium instead.

    Some Singaporeans are dishing out such orders to the HDB about how and where rental flats ought to be built and their common refrain is, as far from my flat as possible.

    While they may be customers of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), do these HDB home owners have the right to make such demands? And at whose expense should their demands be met?

    Political observers say residents do not have such rights.

    'Their rights are limited to their own units and do not extend to common property,' said former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong, a corporate counsel.

    MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah echoes that view. 'It is HDB's call,' she said.

    But the recent clamour in Tampines and Pasir Ris is the result of the Government getting what it is asking for, said Mr Siew. That is, to make Singaporeans 'stakeholders' in society.

    'Naturally, they would want to have a say in matters that could potentially impact them and their immediate environment - this is not a bad development,' he added.

    Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Manpower, said 'it is not an issue of rights, but consultation'.

    'There is a need to inform and consult, and assure residents that potential problems can be managed,' he said.

    Even then, said some, allowing the majority of Singaporeans to feel a sense of ownership cannot come at the expense of the low-income group.

    'They need a roof over their heads,' said Jurong GRC MP Halimah Yacob.

    Ms Indranee concurs. 'It is wrong to say 'not in my backyard'. Where are we going to house the poor who cannot afford to buy an HDB flat?'

    She also questioned the safety issues raised by home owners, and said this suggests that those living in rental homes are 'lesser-value human beings'.

    'What is the correlation between rental flat stayers and safety?' Ms Indranee asked.

    Sociologists say there is no evidence that disproportionately more crimes are committed by those living in rental flats.

    The prejudices that people may have against the poor are 'almost always exaggerated', said Professor Chua Beng Huat of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) department of sociology.

    'Saying that crime will increase because there are rental flats in the neighbourhood is a prejudice of those who have a vested interest in property values rather than social security,' he added.

    Most fears spring from prejudices towards and stereotypes of the poor rather than actual negative encounters, said Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of NUS' department of sociology.

    As for whether rental flats lower the prices of property in the surrounding area, most of the housing agents The Sunday Times spoke to said this was not the case.

    'Most people buy a property for access to amenities and parents. Closeness to rental flats has not been a deterrent,' said Mr Alex Foo, an ERA housing agent.

    Popular property districts include Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Bedok and Bukit Merah, and these areas have a large number of rental flats, agents said.

    Some one-room-one-hall rental flats have such good locations that even they are being snapped up in the resale market, he said.

    There are units going for $200,000, even higher than prices of some three-room flats.

    Launched in 2000, the HDB's Special Housing Assistance Programme allows existing tenants to buy over their rental flats that have been upgraded at a $15,000 discount.

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  2. #2
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    http://www.straitstimes.com/News/Hom...ry_490390.html

    Feb 14, 2010

    Blocked view is residents' main gripe

    By Shuli Sudderuddin and Debby Kwong


    It is a room with a view, but not for long, fears housewife Ho Sock Lian, 60.

    Not when a block of rental flats comes up on a vacant plot of land across from her block, obscuring her view of the sky and trees.

    HDB announced last month it was building blocks of rental flats in Tampines and Pasir Ris. This is part of a move to build 8,000 more rental flats in the next three years.

    'I'm very unhappy because the view will be blocked if the rental block is so high and I think this

    will affect the price,' said Madam Ho of the ninth-floor, four-room flat for which she was once offered $400,000.

    Madam Ho's views echo most of the gripes of residents spread across the Tampines block and those in blocks 475 and 476 in Pasir Ris Drive 6.

    Residents in the three blocks found out recently that rental flats were being built near their homes and met Members of Parliament and HDB officials with complaints about privacy and safety.

    Many were also upset that they had not been consulted or informed earlier.

    However, most of the more than 30 residents who spoke to The Sunday Times said their main objection was over the loss of an unblocked view and breeze, not their fear of possible social problems their new neighbours may bring.

    Said a 50-year-old self-employed Tampines resident who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee: 'It's unfair to say we are kicking up a fuss that the people in rental flats will cause problems. We're not discriminating against them, we're not very well off either. The main issue is that the new flats will block my view.'

    The rental block in Tampines is slated to be 14 storeys high. HDB has not said how high the Pasir Ris rental flats will go.

    Residents were also worried about congestion, saying it was already hard to find parking and new blocks would create overcrowding.

    Many were concerned about losing the value of their flats too.

    Residents in both Tampines and Pasir Ris said their three- and four-room flats were currently worth about $330,000 or more. They expect the value to drop below $300,000.

    But a few residents admitted they are afraid their rental flat neighbours will make the area unsafe and even seedy.

    Said machine operator Rosman Sairi, 44, who lives in Pasir Ris Block 476: 'It's been very peaceful in the nine years I've been living here and I don't know what kind of people will be living in the rental block. What if they commit crimes?'

    Property agents said the residents' fears about their flats' value taking a nosedive were unfounded.

    Mr Mohamed Ismail, chief executive of estate agency PropNex, said there has been no trend of falling property prices near rental flat areas, nor are buyers more reluctant to buy them.

    'For buyers, it's more important that the flats are near amenities and facilities. As for blocked views, any empty plot of land won't stay vacant for long. Buyers have to be prepared for that,' he said.

    He cited the case of The Bayshore condominium in East Coast, where buyers shelled out big bucks for the sea view, only to be blocked by Costa Del Sol condominium, nine years later.

    Mr Chris Koh, director of Dennis Wee Properties, said the stigma surrounding rental block residents is unfair.

    'Many are young people and young families who are just starting out. If they are aiming to buy the rental flats later on, they would be more likely to look after the flat and the neighbourhood,' he said.

    Only a handful of residents interviewed did not mind the rental flats coming up.

    Said housewife Noraffnah Hanapi, 33: 'I'm not intending to sell this place, so its value doesn't affect me. I'm not worried about my safety either.'

    But many were still riled.

    Said Mr Swee Huat Beng, 31, unemployed: 'I just moved in two months ago. If I knew that my view was going to be blocked, I wouldn't have bought this place.'

  3. #3
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    http://www.straitstimes.com/Lifestyl...ry_490246.html

    Feb 14, 2010

    Rental flats here to stay

    By Lee Siew Hua


    I remember my Chinese New Year visits to my grandma, who lived for some years in a one-room rental flat in Chinatown.

    She chose to live on her own till she was nearly 90, holding back the day when she could not care for herself any longer.

    It was her pristine little flat that I'm sure gave her that extra independence she so prized. We cherish self-determination and so do the elderly.

    This diminutive woman from our pioneer days had survived tuberculosis, a world war and widowhood with such a sweet spirit.

    I thought of the way she lived her later years with dignity, when some Pasir Ris and Tampines residents expressed great shock that rental flats will soon rise in their midst.

    The Housing Board will begin to build blocks of one- and two-room rental flats on the green field between two Pasir Ris blocks.

    In Tampines, a new 14-storey block of rental flats will go up.

    There was a strong current of fear and anger in the comments of 20 residents reported by The Straits Times:

    The new neighbours will look into our living rooms and bedrooms.

    Foreign workers will sublet the flats. Smokers and drinkers will loiter in the void decks and lead the young astray.

    Our view will be blocked and we will miss the breeze.

    Property prices will dive.

    The fears should not be laughed off. But we can start to confront them as more rental flats will be spread across the island.

    Singapore has 42,000 rental flats now. Another 8,000 will be ready for the needy by 2012.

    There has been a cry for affordable flats for the needy. There are also the divorcees and ever-rising silver population. To its credit, the HDB is delivering new rental flats in a hurry. It is housing the nation, not just young couples.

    It simply has to use all its ingenuity and technology to create liveable places.

    Build beautifully within budget, put in lush greenery or sky gardens, let community bonds spring up, even create an illusion of space. Also communicate with savvy and sincerity so there's less surprise.

    But when does some of that cross from smart strategy to endless pandering?

    Because we're a hyper-dense city, we're running into what may be the world's biggest Nimby syndrome - Not In My Backyard.

    In principle, we care for the needy, but please let them live somewhere else.

    What about me? What's in my backyard? I've lived in HDB flats and now live in cluster housing on the East Coast.

    There are no needy dwellers close by. But while a condo was being built across the road, foreign workers were housed on site. We could hear them showering - yes, they work in hot, dusty conditions - when we walked out. They congregated in our pocket park and on pavements at night.

    We lived with explosive populations of mosquitoes for a couple of years as well.

    I can tell you our place is very dense, and neighbours can look into each other's homes. I have some view of sky and gorgeous greenery, but not a whole lot. In fact, private developers squeeze much into little, and I feel a greater sense of open space when I pop into HDB estates.

    Where I live, there is also a temple along the boundary of our little estate. I hear chants sometimes, and navigate around the cars of temple visitors.

    But on my walks, I may also pass a friendly free-range rabbit in a neighbour's garden. I spy wild flowers, a forgotten toy in the sandpit and colourful songbirds. The best breeze and unblocked view is actually from a hillock next to a HDB estate.

    Sometimes it's a question of perception, what I choose to see. I know I have to do this a lot, because Singapore is such a high-density speck and getting more so.

    Maybe we can turn the Nimby syndrome: What if it was me - or grandma?

    One day, if we ever need a smaller apartment, will our new neighbours despise our presence?

    Surely I don't want to live in the future Underground Singapore?

    I do not like the thought at all of the elderly retreating prematurely into nursing homes when they can age in a place with dignity and inner strength intact, possibly in a rental flat.

    My dad remembers that my grandma had neighbours of steady character. They were not the voyeurs and desperados and child corrupters that we imagine will be housed in new rental flats.

    I did not really see much of my grandma. But she was still the epitome of an affectionate grandparent who looked on me with love, and travelled independently on buses to see us, often bearing tiny toys that I wish I'd kept.

    She died in her mid-90s after living a full life, some of it in her no-frills flat, before she had dementia and entered a nursing home.

    As we celebrate family life this Chinese New Year, I hope Singapore will always have room in our hearts and estates for people like her.

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