When I hear the term “community housing”, images of dilapidated buildings adorned with graffiti come to mind. Upon spending time in Singapore, I was impressed with this country’s version of community housing: their HDB housing complexes.
Successful subsidized housing
The HDB, or Housing Development Board, is a program within Singapore that aims to bring affordable housing to Singaporeans. This is paramount to the country’s development as land is scarce on this island nation.
Already skyrocketing property prices means most Singaporeans might never be able to afford a “landed property” or bungalow in their lives.
By creating low cost housing with strict rules on who can own those units, the government attempts to solve the cost of accommodation related to the land scarcity problem, a problem compounded by Singapore’s high foreign population growth.
The older HDB
In most of the traditional heartlands, you will see them. Blocks of squarish concrete buildings intertwined with hawker centers, small stores, a local supermarket and maybe a wet market in the older neighbourhoods.
These are relatively clean building complexes, with ample parking space and many places to hang out on the “void deck” – the empty space under each block. These void decks are adorned with immovable tables and chairs to spend your evenings chatting away with a neighbour. Some even have study cubicles, all cast in concrete.
They have senior centers, supermarkets, community centers and some even have kindergartens on the first floor of these complexes.
The concept of having these blocked shaped high density housing neighbourhoods seemed to be a success.
However, they all look alike.
With “landed properties” aka bungalows at a high premium and private condominiums, approaching a million, something had to be done to bring character to regular HDB housing.
Enter the new breed of HDB housing
I happened to find myself at Buangkok Vale this weekend. This newly opened HDB complex held its “completion ceremony” on July 7, 2013
At first, I wasn’t sure if I was in an HDB complex or a condominium. Then I noticed that there was a lack of security guards and a swimming pool, which were features of other condominiums I had visited in Singapore.
The security guards and swimming pool aside, this was an amazing place to call home. The landscaping, though currently still under construction, was beautiful. The layout placed the car park and community areas in the center of the complex, increasing the probability that residents can meet and interact.
A garden with lots of foliage above the car park provided ample greenery for a population otherwise lost in a concrete jungle: a nod to the country’s goal of building a “city in a garden”.
From there, there was an outcropping where you could take in the scenic view of the community area below.
I discovered the badminton court, outdoor exercise facilities, playground for children and more as I walked around the block.
I heard someone had purchased their unit in this complex for around $260,000.