Sunday, 28 December 2014

HDB satisfaction levels down, but are still above 90%

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 27 Dec 2014

THE proportion of Housing Board (HDB) residents who are satisfied with their homes and neighbourhoods has dipped, though satisfaction levels are still above 90 per cent, according to an HDB survey conducted every five years.

In the Sample Household Survey of almost 8,000 households conducted last year, 91.6 per cent were satisfied with their flat, down from 96.4 per cent in 2008.

Those who were not were mainly concerned about the condition of their ageing flats.

Satisfaction with the neighbourhood slipped to 92 per cent, from 95.1 per cent. But this was mainly due to the people rather than the place, with inconsiderate neighbours cited as the main problem.

Satisfaction with estate facilities rose instead to 96.1 per cent, up from 94.4 per cent previously.

The survey results ring true for Madam Linda Leong, 59, who is unemployed. The Ang Mo Kio resident has thrice complained to her town council about her neighbours putting bicycles and wet laundry outside their flat. "They think they can put anything they like in the corridor," she said.

The issue has now largely been resolved, but Madam Leong still sees other inconsiderate behaviours, such as pigeon feeding.

Pigeon feeding, items placed in corridors and high-rise littering are among the common complaints that Nee Soon GRC MP Patrick Tay has received.

While voluntary mediation can help, some residents are less willing to cooperate, he noted.

"I'm looking forward to the Community Dispute Resolution Tribunal," he added. The tribunal, to be set up next year, will have enforcement powers.

But the HDB's survey was not all bad news. Despite the problem of inconsiderate neighbours, it found that more people are interacting with their neighbours.

Furthermore, 85.7 per cent of respondents said they interact with neighbours of different ethnic groups or nationalities, up from 77 per cent before.

Grassroots organisations have been making an effort to integrate new citizens, noted Mr Tay.

Social media can also help. Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa noted that residents of the Segar Meadows project have a Facebook group, where they will notify neighbours of upcoming noisy parties or events and ask for their understanding.

"It's really about communication," he said. "The Facebook group has become a platform for community bonding."

In a blog post, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the survey results will help the HDB understand residents' changing needs and expectations.

"They provide useful information for our policy reviews and subsequent improvements to town design," he added yesterday.

He highlighted, in particular, the finding that 81 per cent of elderly residents wanted to grow old in their current flat.

They thought their existing flat was comfortable, had an emotional attachment to it, or wanted their children to inherit it.

Only 4.2 per cent intended to move in the next five years, down from 7.3 per cent in 2008.

The HDB will work harder to cater to this wish to age in place, said Mr Khaw.

"We will also have to do more to familiarise them with the various monetisation options, such as the Lease Buyback Scheme and Silver Housing Bonus."

For six in 10 HDB owners, home is still their first flat
Khaw Boon Wan promises to make all HDB towns endearing estates
By Yeo Sam Jo And Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 1 Jan 2015

FOR more than 13 years, Mr Chan Chi Ki, 53, has lived in a three- room ground-floor Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh Lorong 3 - the only home he has owned.

In front of his flat is a little garden he tends with his wife, where they grow bonsai and hang out their laundry to dry.

Behind is an open grassy space where his 13-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter play daily.

"We love this neighbourhood, it's close to the MRT, town centre. It's very convenient," said Mr Chan, who works in a jewellery shop in Chinatown.

Nodding in agreement, his wife, Madam Ng Lai Kun, 42, said: "You walk out and whatever you want, it's there."

Like the family, a majority of Singaporeans are staying put in their first HDB homes. Six in 10 owners, or 61 per cent, still live in their first flats, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post yesterday.

"Our first HDB flat, which for most Singaporeans is often also our first home, occupies a special place in our heart.

"This is where we build our family, bring up our children and from where we build our network of neighbours and close friends," he wrote.

He added that unlike other cities where most people rent their homes and move often, HDB's Home Ownership for the People Scheme allows Singaporeans to stay put in one place.

The scheme was introduced in 1964 when the Housing Board began to sell flats. It aims to encourage home ownership among Singaporeans, and provide financial security and a sense of belonging.

"The stability allows us to build deep community ties and lasting friendship and memories," Mr Khaw wrote.

Among the 26 HDB towns and estates, the Tanjong Pagar-Chinatown-Bugis area had 77 per cent of its flat owners living in their first units.

Other "high-scorers" include Marine Parade with 74 per cent, Kallang-Whampoa with 68 per cent, Bukit Timah and Geylang with 67 per cent each, and Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Punggol and Serangoon with 66 per cent each.

Mr Khaw cited the central location and comprehensive facilities as some factors that contributed to residents staying put in mature estates.

"Knowing that the majority of Singaporeans will live in their first HDB flat for most, if not all, of their lives, we have to make sure that we put in our best to make all HDB towns an endearing town and all HDB flats a lovely home," he wrote. "This is our promise. This is our pledge."

Toa Payoh resident Raj Duraisamy, 44, has lived in his three-room flat for seven years and does not intend to move.

"It's old, but if you look at the inside, it's okay," the safety manager said of his unit, which is more than 40 years old.

"A flat so central nowadays is hard to find," said Mr Raj, who lives with his wife and sons Alan, 11, and Alvin, six.

Living in one of Singapore's earliest housing estates also bears a certain charm for him.

"There's a kampung feel here, there are many aged people so things are slower and neighbours here are more friendly."

But while the Chans also love their flat, they would prefer to move into a bigger unit if they could. "We want to live in Toa Payoh, but demand for flats here is too high and the flats are too expensive," said Mr Chan.

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