Budget 2018 Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong: Building our Future City and Home Together

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Mr Chairman, I thank Members for their comments and interest in MND matters.

MND’s mission is to plan and build our city and home. It is a major undertaking and responsibility that spans not just one or two years, but multiple years and even decades.

The Singapore we have today is the result of hard work by those who came before us. They master-planned our whole city, revamped our city centre and developed our housing estates. Now, it’s our turn to take Singapore forward.

We must build a better Singapore for our children and future generations. We must plant the trees for them so that they can enjoy more shade. We have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us to do this.

In this Budget speech, Minister Heng Swee Keat shared the vision for Singapore to be a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise. There was broad support in this House for this vision. Mr Low himself affirmed this in his speech during the Budget debate. We have to work hard now to make this vision a reality.

There are many aspects to this work, but a major part of it is to build the infrastructure for our future Singapore. That’s why we have a major pipeline of projects over the coming decade. Sir, with your permission, may I display some slides on the LED screens.

We have projects all over Singapore – Changi Airport T5 in the East, Tuas Mega Port in the West, Jurong Lake District and the High Speed Rail, Woodlands’ Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link to Johor, and the Punggol Digital District. All of these projects will be coming on-stream over the coming decade. They will help to strengthen our air, sea and land links. They will also help to strengthen our digital connections so that Singapore can be a more connected hub for the region, and our city can be more vibrant and attractive to investments and talent. More importantly, they will make Singapore a better home for our children and our future generations.

Home Ownership as Priority

To achieve these goals, our first priority is home ownership for Singaporeans. Because when you own a home, you have a stronger stake in the nation and a greater sense of belonging. This is why home ownership remains a key pillar of our nation building efforts, as Mr Alex Yam highlighted. The Government remains firmly committed to providing affordable and quality homes for Singaporeans.

Members will recall how we had ramped up HDB flat supply in 2011. We launched almost 25,000 BTO flats per year and cleared the backlog at that time. Since then, we have been tapering the supply of new HDB flats. But we have tapered in a gentle way to ensure that there is sufficient supply. We offered over 17,000 BTO flats last year, and we will continue to maintain a steady supply this year.

At the same time, we are watching the numbers carefully to ensure a balance in demand and supply for the longer term, to maintain a stable and sustainable property market. Besides ensuring adequate supply, we remain committed to keeping prices affordable by pricing new flats below the market rate, and having a generous subsidy in them.

One couple who has benefited is Mr Muhammad Fadli Bin Nordin, and his wife Mdm Siti Diyana. They applied for a 4-room BTO flat in Woodlands and received $15,000 in grants, on top of the subsidised price. And the monthly instalments are fully paid using CPF – so there is no out of pocket cash. Everything is paid for in CPF. While waiting for their flat to be completed, they moved into a Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) flat. They benefitted from the reduced PPHS rents last year, paying $900 instead of $1,100 per month. They gave birth to a baby girl while in the PPHS flat and moved into their first home in July last year, their new flat, and we are very happy that they have just welcomed their second daughter last week!

We want to do more to help young couples like them with their first home. This is why we launched BTO flats with a shorter waiting time – not by compressing the construction but by bringing it forward. We build ahead, therefore the waiting time for the couples is shorter. HDB will launch the first batch of 1,100 such flats in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun this year. I am happy to announce that we will double the number of such flats in 2019 – another 2,000 flats. The waiting time for these flats is around 2-3 years, as opposed to the normal waiting time of around 3-4 years.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh has suggested to further reduce the waiting time. We will do our best to study how to do this. But please understand that it’s not possible to do this for all flats, as some of the sites are just not ready for us to bring forward the construction. It is physically not possible for HDB to produce instant flats to meet all of the demand, so one way for those with urgent needs is to buy from the resale market.

That is why we have taken steps to enhance the grants for resale flats. We enhanced the CPF housing grants for resale flats last year. We introduced the Proximity Housing Grant in 2015 to help families live closer together, and this year, we enhanced the Proximity Housing Grant. Taken together with all the different grants, first-timer families can now receive up to $120,000 in grants when buying a resale flat – a 50 per cent increase compared to three years ago. That’s why, we are seeing more first-timer families purchasing from the resale market, and I expect this to continue.

There are also some young couples who decide to settle down early. Sometimes when they are still completing their studies, perhaps when the males are still performing their National Service. Take the example of Mr Gerald Sim and Ms Stefanie Mok. Stefanie has just graduated, and Gerald is still studying because he had to do his National Service. They are a young couple and have decided to settle down and get married. In fact, they had been planning to apply for a BTO flat since last year, but because Stefanie only started working in August 2017, she didn’t have sufficient period of employment to apply for grants. Young couples like them may find themselves delaying their flat application for one to two years, and then waiting another 4 years for the flat to be ready. I think that’s a bit too long a wait.

Buying a flat is a serious commitment. But for young couples who have considered it carefully, I think we can exercise some flexibility to support them in their marriage and parenthood journey. So we will now allow such couples to apply for the flat first, and defer the assessment of income for housing loans and grants till just before key collection.

For example, if a young couple wants to settle down early, and are confident they can finance the purchase of the flat, they can apply for the flat first. They only need to pay half of the downpayment. This is already possible today. The remaining half is paid at key collection.

The flat will typically take 3 to 4 years to build. During the period, the couple can have time to build up their finances, and just before key collection, we will assess their income for purposes of determining the loan quantum and housing grants they are eligible for. This deferred assessment of income will apply to eligible couples from the May 2018 BTO/SBF exercise.

We are also studying how we can further streamline processes to make buying an HDB flat much quicker and easier, as per the comments that Er Dr Lee Bee Wah has made. In fact, we have made several moves on this front. HDB has revamped the resale portal. All the eligibility checks are now done on one single platform. We have cut down the number of appointments from two to one. As a result, the application time has been reduced from 16 weeks to eight weeks.

We’ve also made changes to our sales process and we started with the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) last year. Under ROF, all the unselected balance flats are pooled together in a common pool. They are not sorted by flat types or by towns. Applicants are put on a single queue and based on their queue number, they can choose any ROF unit that is available. By doing so, we are able to shorten the flat selection process. A typical SBF exercise, as Er Dr. Lee Bee Wah has mentioned, takes about 8 months. It sounds very long, but please understand that in a typical SBF exercise, there are more than 100 flat type and estate combinations, with more than 100 queues to manage. With the ROF exercise, we have one single queue because all the balance flats are pooled together. Because of that, we are able to shorten the flat selection process from eight months to six months. 

Our inaugural ROF exercise in August last year was a success, with more than 90% of the flats on offer being taken up. Just six months after the launch, about 400 families have already collected the keys to their new homes. We will continue to learn from this experience to see how we can improve.

Another area that we’re looking at is the balloting process for BTO flats. This used to be much simpler and faster in the past. Applicants would attend a balloting ceremony. There were two bowls in front, and the MP would draw out two pieces of paper – one with the applicant’s sales registration number, and the other with a house number. They were matched up and that was it. After they have got a house, they sometimes swapped behind the scenes if they did not like it. This was a simple process that used to happen in the past. This is Mr Phua Bah Lee doing it. This was how we used to do it – simple, and it was possible because the number of flats and applicants were much smaller.

Today, HDB serves more than 50,000 flat applicants annually. It has to manage across different priority schemes and has ethnic quotas to administer. As a result, it takes about six weeks to work through the entire balloting process – HDB has to check applicants’ eligibility, sort out the requirements of the various schemes and quotas, and ultimately ensure that the ballot is fair.

Still, I think the time taken can be reduced. I’ve challenged the HDB team to see if we can halve the balloting time from six weeks to three weeks. HDB has taken on this challenge and it is working through processes, and I hope it will be able to announce some good news before too long. 

Encouraging Mutual Care and Support

We are also very mindful that children and parents would like to live near one another to provide mutual care and support – that’s something we want to encourage. HDB offers various priority schemes, e.g. the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS), the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS) and the Senior Priority Scheme (SPS).  These all help give priority to families to live closer together. Mr Gan Thiam Poh also suggested building larger flats so families with more children can stay together. That is indeed why we introduced 3Gen flats in 2013, and they have been well-received by homebuyers.

Mr Gan and Mr Chong Kee Hiong suggested increasing the supply of 3Gen flats. So far, there is sufficient supply to meet demand. We are monitoring the application rates closely and if need be, we are prepared to build more.

There is also the PHG, which I mentioned earlier, to help families stay together and live near one another. Besides enhancing the grant quantum this year, we have also simplified the proximity condition as well, to a distance-based one within 4km. This will apply to both the PHG for resale flats as well as the proximity-based schemes for new flats like the MCPS and SPS that I mentioned earlier from the May sales exercise. This will give home-buyers more choices of flats in neighbouring towns.

I am very glad to see strong support from our Members for our efforts to encourage families to live closer together, and through all the schemes we have, we look forward to seeing more families buy flats to live together or near one another for mutual support.

Meeting the Needs of All Home-Buyers

While we help couples and families to settle down, we are also mindful that there is a diverse range of home-buyers. There are second timers, elderly looking to right-size, singles, divorcees, and single unmarried parents – the groups that various members have talked about.

Second-timers – some face difficulties paying the resale levy. For those with difficulties, we are prepared to incorporate the levy into the flat price. Many of them are also looking to get a flat urgently. In fact, for them, the better option is to consider the resale market. The PHG can help in this aspect because it is available to second-timers too. So even if you are a second-timer and you buy from the resale market, first of all, there is no resale levy to pay, and secondly, you can get a grant to purchase the resale flat. For those in rental, we have put in place a new Fresh Start scheme to support them in their home ownership journey.

For the elderly, I have touched on in last year’s COS, where I announced many schemes to help them. We have built 2-Room Flexi flats for them – again, they are priced with a significant subsidy so that they are affordable. For first-timers, they are eligible for a grant which will make the 2-Room Flexi flats very affordable to them. For second-timers, there is a levy that you have to pay, but we have capped the levy and adjusted it for the shorter lease. The maximum levy that will be paid for a 2-Room Flexi flat with a 45-year lease is $18,000, much lower than what a normal resale levy will be. We also made several enhancements last year, including deferring the downpayment until key collection for the elderly when they right-size, providing a temporary loan, one-to-one counselling and an elderly priority queue at the HDB Hub. All these measures have helped, and we will continue to see what more we can do to support our elderly.

For the singles, that’s a group that many other Members talked about – Er Dr Lee Bee Wah, Gan Thiam Poh, and Mr Alex Yam. So far, more than 12,000 singles have bought new 2-room flats. The application rates are still high, I recognise that, and we are doing our best to build more 2-room Flexi flats to clear the backlog. Singles can also consider resale flats. Over the last five years, 27,000 have bought resale flats, more than the ones that have bought new flats. And again, enhancements to the PHG will make this a more attractive option, because with the changes to the PHG as Members have recognised, we are giving a higher grant of $15,000 for singles who buy a resale flat to live with their parents. They are now also eligible for a $10,000 grant to buy a resale flat near their parents. I hope that this provides more options to singles in the resale market. Taken together with other housing grants, singles may now receive up to $60,000 in grants to buy a resale flat.

Mr Alex Yam asked about the minimum age of 35 for singles to buy HDB flats. He mentioned that Singaporeans are marrying later. But marriage rates are still high among singles under the age of 35, so I would say that the age of 35 is still valid today. In any case, as I mentioned earlier, we still have a backlog to clear and I think we should focus on that and make sure that those who are on the queue are able to get the 2-Room Flexi flats first.

Another group that members who talked about is divorcees – several asked whether we can help them make a smoother housing transition, especially for the benefit of their children. Mr Chairman, we recognise that divorce can be a stressful and emotional period, and a complex process with many decisions to be made. HDB provides advice to families on their post-divorce housing options, to make their housing transition smoother. We help them purchase a BTO flat through the Assistance Scheme for Second-Timers (ASSIST), where they get priority when applying for a 2- or 3-room BTO flat in the non-mature estates. In the interim, before their flat is ready, they can rent a subsidised flat from HDB under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS). HDB also offers rental housing to those in need, including those who may need help to tide over a protracted or acrimonious divorce.

One issue that divorcees may face is the time bar for the purchase of subsidised flats – I think Mr Louis Ng mentioned this just now. This is a rule put in place since 1997, whereby during the time bar, a divorced couple can only own one subsidised flat between them. Both sides have to agree on who should be allowed to buy the subsidised flat. This is what we call the “mutual consent requirement”. The time bar was set at five years initially, and we have reduced it to three years. Since 2012, we have waived the mutual consent requirement for the parent with sole care and control of young children to buy a subsidised flat, in order to prioritise their housing needs. This has helped the majority of divorced couples with children.

But there are still others subject to the time bar. So we have reviewed the matter, and have decided to remove the time bar completely. We hope that this will help divorced persons provide a more conducive living environment for their children and go some way to help families through an already difficult period of transition.

We will continue to do our best to help these and other groups, including single unmarried parents with children. We already exercise considerable flexibility for such appeals as I have already elaborated upon in previous sessions, and we will continue to do so. We look at each case carefully and consider what’s in the best interest of the child and if necessary, we will assist the parent and child in purchasing a flat. SMS Koh Poh Koon will elaborate on how else MND is helping families in transition and various vulnerable groups.

Key Shifts in How We Build for the Future 

Besides upholding home ownership, we must continuously look at ways to improve the way we build our future Singapore. Poorly-designed cities can easily become a high-rise concrete jungle. You get all the problems associated with rapid urbanisation: crowding and social fragmentation. The city becomes a stressful and alienating place to live and work in.

But at their best, modern cities with well-designed buildings and neighbourhoods can connect people and improve our well-being. We must innovate and explore new ways of building to achieve even better results.

One important shift is to push for higher-quality and higher productivity in construction. This is especially crucial, given the major pipeline of projects that are coming up in the decade. We’ve embarked on many programmes to do this and have rolled out an Industry Transformation Map (ITM) – 2M Desmond Lee will share about this in his speech later. For my part, I would like to touch on two important areas.

Building for a More Inclusive Singapore

First, how can we build a more inclusive Singapore? Earlier at the Budget Debate, several Members talked about the importance of addressing inequality, bridging social divides and enhancing social integration. Everyone here recognises that this is a complex issue that involves multiple strategies on both the economic and social front. Our urban and living environment also has a part to play, to bring residents of diverse backgrounds together, promote social integration, and uplift the lower-income. So how can our built environment help to foster a more inclusive Singapore? I have a few suggestions and these are areas we are working on.

First, we must improve the way we design our buildings and public facilities. We are going for Universal Design – that means designing for people of all ages and all abilities, both young and old, expectant mothers, as well as persons with special needs. BCA publishes guidebooks and develops standards for Universal Design and disseminates them to the industry. In fact, our efforts have received recognition from outside parties including the United Nations, which praised Singapore for our “user-friendly built environment”.

We will continue to do more. BCA is looking at raising the bar further as part of our review of the Accessibility Master Plan and Accessibility Code. We will be engaging stakeholders, including public users, in this process. We will pay special attention to the elderly, given our rapidly ageing population. All HDB estates are now barrier-free and we will see how we can further improve. We have been upgrading lifts in HDB blocks to provide direct lift access to households, and incorporating elderly-friendly designs in our flats and estates. We also have the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme to provide subsidised installation of fittings for our seniors, be it grab bars and anti-slip treatment to bathroom tiles.

Mr Darryl David asked about the Government’s plans for the EASE programme. We are studying what more we can do under EASE. One particular item we are looking at is to include assistance for those living in flats with multi-step entrances, and we will provide an update on this later this year.

Several Members also asked if we can enhance the designs of our flats to support our elderly. We’ve been looking at this, and we have introduced better designs for elderly-friendly estate and flats. One recent example is Kampung Admiralty. Within this area, HDB flats for seniors are integrated with a continuum of social and health services, so the residents have easy access to all the services “under one roof”. The feedback from residents who have moved into Kampung Admiralty is very positive and we will study how this can be implemented in other areas as well.

Beyond better integration, we will go further by exploring Assisted living. Assisted living is a model of living that integrates home and care. For example, within one block or even on the same floor, you can have individual apartment units together with shared communal facilities for dining, social activities, and a range of eldercare services. HDB will be working with MOH to pilot assisted living in public housing.

We envisage a collaborative model, where HDB will design and build the flat, and we will have to tap on private expertise to provide the services. We will pilot this in HDB flats and we will also study ways in which this can be done in private developments. That is our first point on making our future Singapore more inclusive in the way we design our buildings.

Second, our housing estates must continue to have common spaces, public parks and greenery for all to enjoy. Several Members also spoke about this. This is critical especially in our compact high-rise living environment. Mr Lee Kuan Yew started this with the push to make Singapore a Garden City. When we spoke to him in 2012 and asked what more we should do to take Singapore forward, this is what he said: “Singapore must retain the sense of space. We’re going to build taller buildings but we can’t build them closely together. There must be a sense of playing fields, and recreational areas for children and old people – a sense that this is a full country with all the facilities which you expect of a large country but in a confined space.” 

This is the challenge our planners have, and they are very conscious of this. It is reflected in the way we design our HDB estates. The planners have a difficult job – they do not always have a large greenfield site to work with. Some sites come with constraints, and they have to work around these constraints. They may not get everything perfect, but we take in feedback which many have shared, and we continue to improve our designs for new estates.

For existing estates, we also have programmes to rejuvenate our estates to keep them vibrant and liveable. At the town level, our Remaking our Heartland (ROH) initiative has covered nine HDB towns and estates. We recently unveiled plans for Toa Payoh, Woodlands and Pasir Ris for public consultation. We will finalise the plans later this year, and start works thereafter.

At the precinct level, we have the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) for our older estates built up to 1995. We typically select about 14 NRP projects a year, and I am happy to announce that this year, we will increase the number and launch about 20 NRP projects across the island. This is part of our efforts to provide support towards the construction industry. We are bringing forward projects particularly to help the industry during this period.

At the flat level, we have the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), which several Members highlighted. This is for flats built up to 1986. We will finish selection of the existing eligible flats by the end of this year, and we expect works to be progressively completed by 2022. Several Members have asked about expanding the scope of HIP, and extending it to flats built after the existing cohort. I have shared in this House previously that any upgrading programme is a major commitment that spans many years and would cost billions of dollars. We just had a major debate on the Budget about fiscal sustainability and how government spending is rising sharply, and how we need to raise revenues to meet these future needs. Any future upgrading programme has to be studied very carefully in this context.

We are studying this very carefully, and eventually when the proposals are put forward, I hope Members will support more resources for MND to do upgrading in existing estates as well. That is our second area, where we want to make sure that our estates have common spaces – parks, greenery – that all can access and enjoy.

Third, we can also facilitate more social interactions within the block itself. We already have the Ethnic Integration Policy to ensure a better racial mix. We also try to mix different unit types within the same block, something which several Members also spoke about. For example, we would build stand-alone studio apartments in the past. Now, all 2-room Flexi flats launched are integrated with other flat types within the same block.

Likewise, these are the same considerations when we build rental flats. We try not to cluster many rental flats together, and try to build them together with sold flats in the same neighbourhood – residents share and access the same communal facilities and amenities. More recently, we have also launched 3 BTO projects with rental and sold flats within the same block. These are in Woodlands, Bukit Batok and Sengkang. The flats are still under construction, but we will learn from this experience, get feedback about the lived experience in these flats, and if it is positive, we would certainly want to do more.

Importantly, it is also about designing the block to maximise opportunities for social interaction. Some of these things, I would acknowledge, happen more through serendipity than deliberate design. I will give an example – in the past, we did not have lifts on every floor, so the lift landing became a place where neighbours would get to meet one another. I say this from personal experience. My HDB flat was on the 21st floor just next to the lift landing, so every day, we would meet neighbours and get a chance to talk to them.

Today, lift landings are on every floor so you don’t have as many opportunities for interaction. It is meant to facilitate barrier-free access, but you don’t have that many chances to meet. We have to use other design methods to encourage neighbourly interaction. That is why in some of the new BTO flats in Dawson, for example, HDB has tried out more seating areas in the common spaces near lift lobbies.

We are trying out more greenery and rooftop spaces for residents to get together. These are different designs that are being piloted and tried out. It is something that we have to learn by doing, and from the experiences and feedback that we get, we can improve for each new project that we embark on.

A Distinctive Home

One major thrust in how we want to build our future Singapore is to make sure that we are more inclusive. Another major emphasis in the way we build for the future is to make sure we have a more distinctive Singapore.

We cannot just be another modern city – one amongst many in the world. We have to be a city that stands out, not by having the biggest, tallest or fanciest building but through our distinctive character and culture, our own heritage and identity. This means capitalising on our strengths: Our City in a Garden; our clean and safe environment; and our multi-cultural diversity and heritage.

Part of our shared memories is captured in our buildings. We are indeed paying more attention to heritage elements in our planning process, as highlighted by Mr Alex Yam. Buildings with historical significance will be preserved or conserved and re-purposed for other uses, as we have done with some of the buildings like the former Supreme Court building and City Hall. Some old buildings may have to go, but even in doing so, we can find ways to preserve the memories of the place.

This is the approach we took for Dakota Crescent. We’ve heard the many calls for the place to be kept. There was a ground-up initiative by several architects to do this. Mr Lim Biow Chuan spoke about this, and we have considered the feedback. In December last year, we announced that the central cluster of six buildings around the courtyard will be kept and repurposed. That includes the dove playground which I think many have fond memories of.

Such efforts demonstrate that it is possible for us to combine both old and new to bring out what is distinctively Singaporean. This is what we will do also for the Rail Corridor. It is a unique space where we can celebrate our heritage, culture, and biodiversity. It will connect close to one million Singaporeans.

We are reviewing our plans for the Rail Corridor, as Ms Low Yen Ling has suggested, to see how we can best make use of this unique space. I agree with Ms Low Yen Ling’s suggestion that it is important that the Rail Corridor is accessible to all Singaporeans. We have been working closely on this project with the community, anchored by the Friends of the Rail Corridor comprising residents, students, and nature and heritage groups.

For a start, we are working on the central 4 km stretch of the Rail Corridor based on public feedback. We will transform the conserved Bukit Timah Railway Station into a vibrant community node with amenities, open spaces, as well as a heritage gallery. As enhancement works for this central 4 km stretch commence later this year, we will also improve accessibility to the Rail Corridor from adjacent developments like homes, schools, workplaces, and transport nodes, including having new access paths in the nearby Hillview neighbourhood.

In parallel, we will implement trail improvement works along other stretches of the Rail Corridor this year, so that virtually, the entire 24 km stretch of the Rail Corridor will be connected seamlessly. You can walk, run and cycle along the entire 24 km stretch by 2021.

The Rail Corridor will also serve as a gateway to parks and trails island-wide. It will intersect with the upcoming Coast-to-Coast Trail, which will span across Singapore from Jurong Lake Gardens in the West to Coney Island in the Northeast. It will have convenient access to nature parks around the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves. It will connect to the Round Island Route, a 150-km continuous green trail which loops around the entire island.

Building Our Future Together

Mr Chairman, even as we embark on our next phase of development, we are committed to enhancing our City in a Garden, and making Singapore an even greener and beautiful home for all to enjoy.

I have shared our plans for our future city and home. To achieve these bold plans, we need to work together. The Government cannot do this alone. We are building up capabilities, not just within government, but also, as Mr Alex Yam said, amongst our architects, engineers, consultants and builders.

I agree with Mr Darryl David that the Government needs to partner the community, interest groups, businesses, and industries in building our future city. We can start with our neighbourhoods. There are many opportunities to co-create the common spaces in our HDB towns.

Recently, we launched a pilot in Sembawang, called Build-A-Playground. We build new playgrounds all the time – all of us see these in our estates – but this one was different. We spent time engaging the residents. They worked together on the project from conceptualisation, to design, to even the final assembly of the new playground on site. It took longer than usual – about two years – to build this playground. This is much longer than the usual time you would take to build a playground. But the end result was worth it. Residents shared that they love and take pride in this project. When they take ownership of the playground, they appreciate and enjoy it much more. This is a meaningful way to shape our common spaces together, and we hope to do more of this in other estates too. 

We want to enable such ground-up initiatives to shape our neighbourhoods. HDB already provides support for residents to activate their community spaces, and we hope that more will take up funding support from HDB. One example is a project titled “Welcome to our Backyard”. It was led by residents and volunteers in Aljunied Crescent. Before, it was an empty grass patch. Later, when the community got involved, they took ownership of the project and transformed it into a warm, welcoming backyard with swings and mini gardens.

Besides our neighbourhoods, we have also supported many community-initiated projects in our public spaces all over Singapore. Last year, a group of stakeholders in Kampong Gelam had an idea to spruce up a small park at Sultan Gate. With URA’s support, they installed park benches, picnic tables, lighting and even a giant swing. Now, there is a cosy spot for the public to gather and interact.

These are just two examples of the wonderful things that can happen when everyone takes ownership of the places we live and work in, and we shape our urban landscape together. There is tremendous potential for all of us to do more together.


As a nation of home-owners, all of us have a part to play in shaping our future city and home. In the last 50 years we’ve transformed from mudflat to metropolis. Let’s now work together on our next lap of urban transformation, to be a green, smart and liveable city; and a vibrant global city that’s inclusive and that’s distinctively Singapore – a place we are all proud to call home. 

Thank you.

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