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A Roof Over Every Head

Singapore’s Housing Policy between State Monopoly and Privatisation

Singapore's Housing Policy between State Monopoly and PrivatisationWong Tai-Chee and Xavier Guillot
IRASEC-Sampark, Calcutta, 2004, 256 p.
ISBN : 81-7768-009-9
English Language English text

Among the newly independent nations in Southeast Asia in the post-war era, Singapore’s housing development expérience has been unique. Since the 1960s. its land space has been radically transformed into a modem cityscape comparable to any advanced western city. Modem urban public and private housing has ’revolutionised1 and replaced the central City slums, and outlying rural areas with a comprehensive provision of infrastructure and services. Initially. public housing was introduced to tackle severe housing shortage as a political response to universal ’right to housing’, and in support of the export-led industrialisation. It has thus served both as a key mechanism of ’nation- building’, and as a social stabiliser attracting international and local capital investment that has generated high rates of économie growth. More than 80 percent of Singaporeans are now owners of HDB high-rise apartments distributed extensively in self-contained new towns.

This book analyses the évolution of public housing design and services from the 1960s to the 1990s, a period that saw the transition from quantitative to qualitative emphasis. Concomitantly, the corporate management approach of the HDB has made public housing a contributor to the national growth. and a provider for jobs. With the middle class rising in numbers and greater affluence, the mass-produced public housing has become less appealing to consumers who perceive private housing a représentation of greater comfort. status, and better quality of life. Private housing hence has turned itself into a central mechanism of a social upgrading process that the developmental government has used to meet demand of expatriâtes and as an incentive in exchange for political support. In the 1990s, following the various measures taken by the government to facilitate access to private housing, the heated pursuit had however led to spectacular price surge that made access more difficult to many.

This book is a detailed study of the history of the growth of public housing and the recent trends in public policy in Singapore where private has been prédominant over the public. It sees official response to the issue as it has been in the recent years and also tries to see how the future may unfold in Singapore’s quest for better housing for greatest numbers. Wong Tai-Chee is Associate Professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Singapore. He teaches urban studies and other human geography modules. His main research interests are in urbanisation, urban land-use change and globalisation issues of East and Southeast Asia. He has published three books and many articles in international refereed journals.

Xavier Guillot received his D.P.L.G. Degree in Architecture from the School of Architecture of La Villette in Paris and his PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Paris VIII. He is currently teaching at the School of Architecture of Saint Etienne and is a research associate at the CNRS laboratory Thé ories des Mutations Urbaines at the French Institute for Urbanism (University of Paris VIII). His main research interests are in urbanisation, the study of globalisation processes and cultural changes in relation to local identifies and héritage. He has published writing on urban issues in Japan. South- East Asia and the Middle East.


List of Tables
List of Figures
List of Plates


Chapter 1 - Public Housing : From Quantitative To Qualitative Production

1.1 In search of an islandwide strategy : Early housing design and planning policies (1920-1970)
1.2 Elaborating and implementing a post-colonial planning and housing strategy
1.3 Revising the Concept Plan from 1990 onwards : Public housing in the âge of globalisation
1.4 Home ownership democracy and HDB community development

Chapter 2 - Private Housing Development

2.1 The rising aspirations for and commodification of private housing
2.2 Political response to aspirations
2.3 Restricted access to private housing

Chapter 3 - Towards A Merger Of Public And Private Housing Provision ?

3.1 Logic of greater privatized housing development in Singapore
3.2 Global cities in compétition for quality services
3.3 Quality housing in a global city : Singapore
3.4 Merger of public and private housing ?

A continuing debate