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New HDB flats prevent Bukit Timah from further establishing itself as a private housing enclave: experts

SINGAPORE – The introduction of new public housing in Bukit Timah for the first time in about 40 years is an important move that could help prevent the area’s further entrenchment as a private residential enclave, urban studies academics said.

His comments follow an announcement by National Development Minister Desmond Lee on May 23 that a mix of public and private housing will be developed on the land of the former Bukit Timah Turf City.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 homes will be built on the 176 hectare site over the next two to three decades.

A spokesperson for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the agencies are still working on detailed site plans, including the ratio of public to private housing.

Dr Harvey Neo, research professor at the Lee Kuan Yew Center for Innovative Cities, said if the Government is truly sincere in “downgrading” the image of areas like Bukit Timah, the majority of planned housing should be public flats.

Comparing Turf City with Tengah, which is planned to have 42,000 homes, about 70 per cent of them public flats, Dr Neo said a clear sign that the Government wants to have greater diversity would be if it set aside at least 80 per cent cent of the upcoming units on the former racecourse site for the public.

But this may not be enough to change public perception about Bukit Timah, given that Turf City is a small part of a district with a large concentration of private housing, he said.

“We’ve already had limited public housing around Toh Yi Drive for years, but that hasn’t changed the perception of Bukit Timah,” he said.

Dr Woo Jun Jie, senior lecturer at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the insertion of public homes in Bukit Timah would benefit schools in the area as children from more diverse backgrounds will be able to attend these schools.

“This is an important development, as greater social diversity and inclusion in schools will ultimately contribute to broader social cohesion and a stronger sense of shared national identity,” Dr Woo said.

He added that the injection of public housing into Turf City is in line with the Government’s ongoing efforts to increase diversity and access to housing in the city center and other prime locations.

But when asked if the move reflects the government’s push for greater inclusion in recent years, sociologist Chua Beng Huat said he doubts having public housing in Turf City would really allow for class mixing.

Professor Chua, professor emeritus of the department of sociology and anthropology at the National University of Singapore, said the People’s Action Party (PAP) government has embraced social inclusion, “probably because income and wealth inequalities have become public issues and can potentially become politicized in the coming years. general election”.

“This insertion of public housing in a traditionally privileged class area is an attempt to demonstrate the Government’s determination in matters of ‘inclusion’,” he said.

However, Professor Chua said that since the apartments will likely be considered Prime flats, adding public housing in Bukit Timah “will appease the upper end of the middle class, an important segment of the electorate for the PAP, rather than (reach) truly class.” -mix”.

Under the Housing Board’s new flat classification, which will come into force from October 2024, Prime flats are those in the most select locations, such as the city center and surrounding towns.

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