Saturday 5 November 2011

HDB block in Pasir Ris rejects lift upgrading

Before we get to the story, I would like to share this part of PM Lee's speech at the debate on the Presidents's address in Parliament on 20 Oct 2011;

"Singaporeans themselves play a critical role in making our democracy work. They have to be active citizens, working for causes which they believe in, but united by a larger common cause, which is to make Singapore grow and prosper. Interests will not always be aligned. It is not in the nature of human beings or human societies that we are all clones of one another and all have exactly the same ideas and interests. Therefore we need to work harder to build consensus, to compromise, to give and take for the common good. And I think as incomes go up, as people become more educated, this will take more work. 

Take for example the recent story, which many of you would have read, about the nursing home which needs to be built in Bukit Batok. The residents are concerned; they would prefer not to have a nursing home next to where they live. The concerns have some basis and their emotions are understandable. And yet if every neighbourhood in Singapore rejects having a nursing home nearby, then there will be no nursing home built in Singapore and I think we will all be worse off.

It is not just Singaporeans who have such a psychology. It happens in many countries. There is even a word for it, it is called NIMBY – Not In My Backyard. You have bought a house, the house is worth something, somebody puts a facility next to your house, property value may be affected, please put it elsewhere. Next block is all right – then it’s not too far for me to walk, but downstairs affects my amenities. And this will crop up repeatedly, especially in a crowded city like Singapore. 

To make every deal win-win-win, I think it is very hard. But on each deal, you win some, you lose some, overall, painting it over the big picture, we all win, I think that is possible. And if we have good faith, if we trust one another and we work together with one another, I think we can make that possible.

We cannot afford to let every local objection block important projects because otherwise, on healthcare, on transport, on housing, on many issues, we will be gridlocked, frozen. And we will be stuck like some developed countries are stuck, where they have no powers to do what is in the public interest.

So we need the spirit of compromise and it is this sort of spirit which has to be part of our maturing democracy. So when you say a democracy is maturing, it is not just the Government taking an attitude or your institutions being right; it is also how the people relate to one another, relate to the Government, relate to the community."

And on to the story......

HDB block in Pasir Ris rejects lift upgrading
Most of the households on top floor cite costs, poor value for money
By Shuli Sudderuddin, The Straits Times, 5 Nov 2011

One of six Housing Board blocks in Pasir Ris Street 21 eligible for a lift upgrading programme (LUP) has voted 'no' to it.

The nine households on the topmost 12th floor of Block 212 had to vote for the programme, which would have extended lift access to their floor. Six were against it, citing costs and poor value for money.

Currently, two lifts in each block service every floor except the 12th. Under the lift upgrading scheme, only one lift would be extended to the 12th floor, because of cost considerations.

According to the HDB, height constraints in the area, which is close to Changi Airport, prevented the provision of a lift landing on the 12th floor. If this had been done, a lift motor room would have to be built on top of that floor and this would surpass the height limit.

But technology now does away with the need for such a room.

At least 75 per cent of the 12th-floor households in each of the six blocks needed to agree before the LUP went through.

Voting took place last weekend and the support ranged from 33.3 per cent in Block 212, to 100 per cent in two other blocks.

Residents said they had been asked to pay between $1,650 and $2,200 for four- and five-room flats, respectively. The estimated cost of the LUP per flat is $22,000.

Block 212 resident Judy King, 42, voted no because only one of the block's two lifts would be upgraded.

'It's not the payment that bothers me, but the fact that for about $2,000, they are going to upgrade only one lift. The volume of people going up and down is quite large, and if only one lift comes to the top floor, we have to wait a long time for it anyway. It's just not fair,' said the housewife.

Another Block 212 resident, Madam Teo Ah Pong, in her 60s, said the stairs were inconvenient but she would rather use them than pay.

'I don't mind if both lifts are upgraded but why only one? Then, I have to stand there and wait a long time for it to come. I might as well climb the stairs,' she said.

Her neighbour, junior college student Joshua Kua, 18, said his parents objected because of the payment. 'For 12 years, we've had no lift coming up to this floor so it doesn't bother us. Anyway, it's just a few steps to walk up or down,' he said.

MP for the area, Mr Zainal Sapari, said a straw poll earlier this year indicated that the 12th-storey residents in four of the six blocks had issues with the LUP.

Accompanied by HDB staff, he had spoken to them. 'I managed to convince some that it's for their benefit. Some wanted both lifts to be upgraded, but that's not cost-effective, and they would have to pay much more,' he added.

Asked if he would be intervening after the latest turn of events, he said it was unlikely. 'Once polling is over, the decision is irreversible. There have been times in the past when residents appealed successfully after polling, but those were related to design issues, and they eventually accepted HDB's new designs,' he noted.

Fellow Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Teo Ser Luck said this case was unusual as typically, residents are open to negotiation. The residents under his care have all voted for the LUP.

'Sometimes, they need to be persuaded, to understand that they are doing it for the community. At the end of the day, it will bring up the value of their housing block,' he added.

While 12th-floor residents in the other five blocks supported the LUP, some had reservations too.

Executive officer Teo J.L., 45, voted for it but was unhappy about having to pay $2,200. 'They built it like this and then they expect us to fork out extra money to upgrade it? I'm not very happy but I'd rather pay and have a lift in the end,' said the Block 213 resident.

Ms Harni Shahri, 47, a secretary, felt the cost was justified. Said the Block 214 resident: 'I'm very happy about the upgrading. It's only over $1,000 and paid via CPF.'

Residents are believed to have moved into the six blocks in 1993.

Asked how prevalent such blocks are, Dennis Wee Group director Chris Koh said: 'It was a common sight in the old days that lifts did not reach the top floor. HDB was trying to maximise the height limit then so there's always a trade-off."

On harnessing technology to expand lift access to the 12th floor, SLP International's head of research Nicholas Mak said: 'It's definitely a good thing that they are using it to benefit residents, especially with the ageing population. It's best now to have a lift on every floor.'

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