Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pulau Ubin kampung residents won't be evicted

But the 22 households who received HDB notices will have to start paying rent or relocate
By Poon Chian Hui And Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2013

KAMPUNG residents of Pulau Ubin who recently received notices from the Housing Board (HDB) that their homes were to be cleared will not be evicted, as they feared.

But the catch is, the 22 households, which are in different parts of the island, will have to start paying rent to continue living where they are.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday addressed rumours that some residents on the 1,020ha island are being forced to move out to make way for an adventure park.

Such a new facility is not on the cards, they said in a joint statement last night.

The current situation goes back to 1993 when plans were made to develop a "recreation park" on the island.

The Government said then that it would acquire 254ha of private land partly for this purpose.

From 1994 to 2005, cycling and hiking trails, campsites, shelters and toilets were built to cater to visitors. The Ketam Mountain Bike Park, which opened in 2008, was also part of this plan.

The acquisition exercise entitled legal property owners to resettlement benefits, whether or not they moved.

But as the affected residents were now living on state-owned land, they had to apply for a temporary occupation licence (TOL) to continue living in their homes, the authorities said in the statement.

A recent SLA review found the 22 households have done neither and thus were issued notices on March 12.

The HDB document said these homes are slated for "clearance", and that officers will visit the premises to conduct a "census survey" and determine their "eligibility of resettlement benefits".

Only those who have documents to prove that they own the house will be entitled to the money.

The survey, to end in June, will also ascertain if the households intend to relocate or stay.

Those who choose to stay will have to apply for a TOL and pay rent, which will be increased gradually so that residents pay the full market rate from the sixth year onwards.

Rents will depend on the site and gross floor areas and usage, to be determined from the survey.

Assistance will be given to those who require and qualify for it, said the SLA-MND statement.

Even so, Madam Kamariah Abdullah, 54, is worried that she cannot afford to pay the rent.

Her taxi driver husband has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and is undergoing treatment, she said.

She has been told by the authorities that she may receive $10,000 as resettlement benefits, which is "too little", she said.

Madam Kamariah does not know the size of her home, but said she had documents of ownership.

"I don't understand why they want to give us money, then take it back through rent," she said.

Former pig farmer Lim Chu Zi, 82, the son of the late village chief there who is the representative for the village, said many residents have never paid property tax.

His own home is not affected, but others have moved out ahead of this episode, he said. About 10 families are left in one affected area, known as Kampung Melayu, in the middle of the island.

About 100 people are estimated to live on Pulau Ubin.

When asked if she had ownership documents, one resident, Ms Jariah Garib, 76, would only say that her house had been handed down for generations. An officer had inspected her place, but it is unclear whether she qualifies for any benefits.

"I was born here and have lived here all my life. If I have to leave, I'll have to move in with my daughter in Singapore," she said.

She lives on the island with another daughter.

Ubin residents' rent will start from $6 to $35
SLA, Housing Board sorry for poorly worded notice that caused eviction worry
By Poon Chian Hui And Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2013

MONTHLY rents for the 22 Pulau Ubin households served notices last month are expected to start from between $6 and $35, if they choose to remain on the island.

The amount will eventually rise to between $31 and $205 a month after five years.

This was revealed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Housing Board yesterday. They also apologised for the poorly worded notice that led many to believe that the residents were facing eviction.

The confusion started with a March 12 notice from HDB telling the 22 households that their homes were slated for "clearance" for the development of an "adventure park".

But this actually referred to plans in 1993, that eventually evolved into a "recreation park". The park, which was completed in 2005, includes the cycling and hiking trails, campsites, shelters and toilets that can be found on the island today. The Outward Bound School training grounds and the National Police Cadet Corps' camping facilities were also expanded.

While other households claimed compensation and moved out, the 22 were allowed to stay because the land which their homes occupied was not needed for the development.

"We acknowledge that the notification could have been more carefully worded and the language updated to reflect the eventual development," said the SLA and HDB in a joint statement yesterday. They admitted the notice had "made reference to the past planning intent".

"We apologise for the anxiety caused to the residents involved."

There are also no plans for the time being to further develop the island, which is to be kept in a "rustic state for as long as possible", they added.

What the HDB is doing, however, is to conduct a census to determine how much rent the residents will have to pay to stay on Ubin, and if they are eligible for resettlement benefits.

Those who can show that they own and live in their Ubin homes will be entitled to a payout, as well as tenants who can show proof of residence through documents such as their NRIC cards.

This is regardless of whether they choose to move.

Residents who leave may also get priority when they apply for HDB flats. But those who want to stay on Ubin need to apply and pay for a temporary occupation licence (TOL), as they are now residing on state land.

Each licence is valid for a year.

The fees, which will kick in some time after the census is completed in June, are the equivalent of rent and will be determined by factors such as how much land each household occupies.

Some 90 per cent of the households are expected to pay less than $20 a month for the TOL in the first year. And from the sixth year onwards, most will still pay less than $120 a month, said the authorities.

But even that may be too much for some, such as Madam Kamariah Abdullah, 54, who was born on Ubin. She is worried that she may have to depend on donations in the future.

Her kampung house is open to tourists, or for cultural activities such as cooking classes. But it also costs her a few hundred dollars a month to maintain the premises.

She said she has to hire helpers to trim the garden, clean the house, collect water from the well and start the electricity generator.

"I don't know how long I can survive," she said, referring to the new arrangements.

"Hopefully someone can take over the place and convert it into a museum, that will be the best."

Environmentalists said they are glad the residents will not be evicted, but Ubin's future still needs to be addressed.

Nominated Member of Parliament Faizah Jamal suggested preserving the iconic kampung buildings there and working with the residents to plan the island's next phase of development.

"Residents there have a love of the land that you and I cannot imagine. We should work with them before it is too late."


- The Government acquires private land on Pulau Ubin to develop recreational facilities, including expanding the Outward Bound School's grounds.
- Affected households will be compensated, but must also apply for a temporary occupation licence and start paying rent if they want to remain on Ubin.
- Twenty-two households apply neither for compensation, nor for the licence.
- The facilities, which now also include cycling and hiking trails, and amenities such as campsites, shelters and toilets, are ready.
- The 22 households continue to stay on Ubin as the land they occupy is not needed for the development.
Before March 2013
- The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) discovers that the 22 households do not have the necessary licence.
March 12, 2013
- The Housing Board notifies the households about a census survey, but also refers to the original 1993 plan, in which the Government wanted to develop an adventure park.
- Residents get worried that they are set to be evicted.
April 17
- The SLA and HDB apologise for the census notice's poor wording, and reiterates that there are no plans to evict the 22 households.

SLA clarifies regularisation of Pulau Ubin
Channel NewsAsia, 20 Apr 2013

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has described an online article by writer Leong Sze Hian, on recent developments concerning residents on Pulau Ubin as "seriously inaccurate".

In the article published by The Online Citizen, the writer stated that authorities "forgot" to compensate residents for 20 years since development plans on the island began in 1993.

"This is false" pointed out the SLA, while making clear that all owners have been compensated.

It pointed out that some owners had in fact, been renting out their properties, and these tenants were not entitled to compensation from the government.

However, these tenant did get in 1993, government resettlement benefits on an ex-gratia basis, in the form of money as well as public housing priority, as a matter of goodwill.

The SLA said the government also allowed the tenants to stay on, as long as development plans did not require them to move out.

It was also pointed out by the SLA, that the online article's claim of a percentage increase of the rent is "highly misleading".

Since 1993, no rental has been charged to those living on Pulau Ubin and for 20 years, the tenants have been enjoying that.

Despite the recent decision to charge rent to those living on the island, the SLA said, "Even now the government has chosen to phase in the rentals over five years to mitigate the impact on the residents.

"Under this approach, the rent payable will increase over five years" said the land authority.

This means, that for the first year, most residents will pay less than S$20 a month, and after the fifth year, the rent paid will be less than S$120 per month.

The SLA noted that the Mr Leong believed it to be an unreasonable amount to charge and that his extrapolation that rent was one cent in 1993 is "factually, completely wrong (and) untrue".

It added, "It is regrettable that such statements are made".

A census is now being undertaken to determine the households which are eligible for the benefits offered in 1993.

As some of residents have been staying on properties since 1993 without a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL), the SLA says it needs to regularise this so as to provide a basis for their continued stay on State Land.

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