Artist’s impression of the Greater Southern Waterfront. Source: URA
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the government is considering building public flats in prime areas, like the planned Greater Southern Waterfront, in order to make the city accessible to all, reported TODAYonline.
He made the statement at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Thursday, 11 August.
The said flats may have different requirements like varying lease periods, said Mr Wong, in response to a query from a student on how to make new economic icons and public buildings available to all Singaporeans. The student noted that while Marina Bay Sands, for instance, is an icon of Singapore, “it is not really a place for all Singaporeans because of the high cost of enjoying such a place”.
Citing green spaces and common areas in places like Marina Bay that Singaporeans can enjoy for free, Mr Wong said: “That has always been the basis of building our city, that it cannot be stratified, we don’t want a city that is exclusive. You cannot have a person living in a 3-room flat or an HDB flat saying: ‘This is not accessible to me, this is a city that’s only for the elites, and it’s not for me’.”
In planning the Greater Southern Waterfront extension or the new “central business district” in Jurong, he revealed that the government intends to be “very mindful and conscious of this — be it having a hawker centre there, having gardens and parks, or even having HDB flats there — so that you have HDB residential living right in the city”.
Notably, the idea of constructing more public housing within prime areas in order to increase interaction between the have-nots and the haves was floated at a Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) event last year. Then-Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing said such a move would not bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
Meanwhile, a paper published by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy earlier last year also raised the question of whether the development of less public housing in Singapore’s city centre may lead to “enclaves” of social and wealth stratification.
During the forum, Mr Wong acknowledged that the government is finding it hard to build public flats in prime areas. “People who successfully ballot for highly subsidised flats in the city area would have a ‘huge gain’”, he said, noting that equity had to be ensured for those who fail to get the flats.
And while the government does not have a good solution yet, different options are being looked into. But “the basic imperative to make sure our city is accessible by everyone, is something that we fully agree” with, he added.