Saturday, 31 August 2013

HDB unveils plans for three new housing areas

By Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia, 29 Aug 2013

Three new housing areas will be launched over the next few years, offering 40,000 new homes in all. They are Punggol Matilda, Tampines North and the new centrally-located estate of Bidadari.

Homebuyers will be able to apply for units as soon as September -- when some 500 units at Punggol Matilda are launched by the HDB.

From waterfront living at Punggol Matilda, to a boulevard park at Tampines North, and preserving the heritage and greenery at Bidadari -- these plans were unveiled by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan at the HDB's "Future Homes, Better Lives" Exhibition.

Mr Khaw said: "The plans for Bidadari, Tampines North, and Punggol Matilda, will capitalise on their individual distinctive character so that they can all achieve a unique identity and provide a unique living experience.

"The planners of HDB have carefully built on each estate's history, distinctive local flavour and features. As we rapidly expand our building programme to create new precincts in new towns, my instruction to HDB is to seize every opportunity of building new precincts, to build on our strong foundation, so as to advance our social mission. Every new town must be better than the previous one."

Punggol Matilda, which is about one-tenth the size of Toa Payoh town, and will be a waterfront home to about 28,000 residents with 8,000 flats.

One of seven distinct districts in Punggol new town, Punggol Matilda will take inspiration from the historic Matilda House in its area -- this will be reflected in a new housing form that will be offered.

The district will also pilot a new "landscaped deck" housing concept -- where centralised amenities are built on elevated decks, with car park facilities underneath. The HDB said this will allow more generous building-to-building space and give residents "door-step" accessibility to precinct amenities located on the landscaped deck.

The second new area is Tampines North -- an extension of the existing Tampines town.

Taking after the town's shape as a leaf, it will see a boulevard linear park serve as the "main vein". With an area of about 240 hectares, it is also about three times the size of Bidadari estate.

The district will house about 21,000 units -- with about 80 per cent being public housing, and the rest private housing. The first public housing units will be launched in the second half of 2014.

Perhaps the most highly anticipated is the Bidadari estate, located in central Singapore.

Once a cemetery, it is now a green space and recreation area for residents around the estate. With a land area of 93 hectares, Bidadari is expected to have 11,000 residential units -- with about 90 per cent set aside for public housing. The first flats will be launched in 2015.

The existing greenery will also be preserved with a new park, and a lake being planned as the green lung for the area.

The Upper Aljunied Road will also be fully pedestrianised.

All the building in the three areas will be about 16 to 17 storeys tall.

Property analysts expect the Bidadari Estate and the Punggol Matilda district in particular, to prove popular with homebuyers.

"Bidadari because it's around the city fringe and also around the Bidadari estates there will be three MRT stations. Another one would be the Punggol Matilda estate, because it has the unique feature of having the pedestrian veranda that can connect the residents all the way to the beach," said Nicholas Mak, Executive Director for Research and Consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants.

Another common feature -- the three new areas will come with cycling paths and pedestrian networks.

Each area will take 10 to 15 years to complete.

3 new estates, 40,000 homes
By Sumita Sreedharan, TODAY, 30 Aug 2013

Community gardens, huge parks of up to 10 hectares, walkways lined with greenery and landscaped decks integrated with housing blocks. Amenities like these will feature prominently in the three new housing estates of Bidadari, Tampines North and Punggol Matilda, the plans for which were unveiled yesterday at an exhibition at Toa Payoh HDB Hub. Together, these estates will yield 40,000 new public housing units.

Speaking at the exhibition, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that promoting “pervasive greenery and community gardens” will be one of five characteristics of every new town, or what he described as the “next generation of housing”. The others are encouraging interaction and healthy living among residents, as well as energy efficiency, recycling and higher productivity be it in refuse collection or the construction of the flats.

“As we rapidly expand our building programme to create new precincts in new towns, my instruction to HDB is to seize the opportunity to build on our strong foundation and to advance our social mission. Every new town must be better than the previous one,” Mr Khaw said.

He added: “These fresh planning and design ideas will characterise our next generation of public housing.”

On the three new upcoming towns - which are slated for completion over the next 10 to 15 years - Mr Khaw pointed out that the development plans will “capitalise on their distinctive character to bring about a unique identity and living experience”. “The planners have carefully built on each estate’s history, distinctive local flavour and features,” he said.

For example, Bidadari Park will feature heritage trees, Tampines North will boast a 10 ha Quarry Park - in a nod to Tampines’ past as a sand quarry site - and Punggol Matilda will have verandahs and colonnaded walkways inspired by a conserved property in the vicinity, the Matilda House,

Applications will open for a Build-to-Order project in Punggol Matilda in the BTO exercise next month. Buyers can expect units in Tampines North and Bidadari to come on stream in the second half of next year and 2015, respectively.

HDB said the pricing of projects in these estates will depend on the location, design and the different attributes of the flats such as floor area, design features and orientation, as well as the resale prices of nearby HDB units.

Most analysts whom TODAY spoke to expect the projects in Bidadari to be the most popular among the three new estates, due to its centralised location and links to transportation nodes. PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail, however, felt that Punggol Matilda could potentially be most attractive. “Punggol is attracting a lot of attention, mainly because of lifestyle amenities and facilities,“ he said.

All three new estates will have extensive cycling and pedestrian networks. In terms of public transport, Bidadari will be served by the North-East Line (NEL) and Circle Line (CCL), while Punggol Matilda will be near the Punggol LRT line. New bus interchanges will also be built in Bidadari and Tampines North. Chris International Director Chris Koh noted that currently, Tampines North is the least accessible by public transport as there are no MRT or LRT stations in the vicinity. Analysts also wondered whether Tampines North would be classified as a mature estate given that it is part of the larger Tampines town, leading to its flats being priced higher.

ERA Key Executive Officer Eugene Lim said: “Tampines North could possibly be considered as part of the mature town of Tampines... residents there will be able to access the regional centre without being directly affected by the hustle and bustle.”

S'poreans unfazed by Bidadari's past
Most feel that planned HDB estate, which was formerly a cemetery, should retain its name
By Rachel Tan, The Sunday Times, 1 Sep 2013

Would you be comfortable living on top of someone's final resting place?

Once the largest grave site in Singapore, the 18ha Bidadari Cemetery is making way for a new Housing Board town and private estates.

However, many young Singaporeans are not aware of its history.

From a group of around 20 people in their 20s and 30s that The Sunday Times spoke to, only half knew it was a burial ground.

Asked if she knew what Bidadari used to be, 22-year-old Melissa Lim gave a typical response for her age group: "Nope. Oh dear, I think my local geography is really bad."

The Sunday Times also quizzed the online community on what they thought of the new developments and if the estate's name should be changed.

Of those who did know its past, most felt its name should be retained and honoured.

"It's our history, our heritage," 37-year-old property agent Irene Gilene Goh wrote on Facebook. "Locals will still know it's Bidadari, even if the name is changed.

Another Facebook user, Mr Joey Neo, posted: "I have been living in this neighbourhood for 30 years. It's more peaceful than a non-cemetery estate.

"Almost everywhere in Singapore had graves you may not know about which have already been replaced by new estates."

Mr Gan Ying Kiat, 30, was looking to move to the Bidadari area with his wife. "I'm not bothered by its cemetery history," he said. "I'm aware that other housing areas like Bishan were also cemeteries.

"We were keen on the proximity to the city and its potential for capital appreciation."

Bidadari - meaning "angel" or "fairy" in Malay - had sections for Muslims, Hindus, Singhalese and Christians but burials ended there in 1972.

Towns such as Bishan, Toa Payoh and parts of Bukit Timah were also cemeteries.

"The name (Bidadari) is already distinctive to many people and hence easily recognisable for its locality," said Mr Siyang Teo, 30, a public servant and nature lover who frequents the area.

When developments are complete, Bidadari will have a park one-tenth of its size and a cycling path to serve 11,000 new flats.

Some locals are worried that the natural beauty of Bidadari will be destroyed. Its parks are home to rare animals such as the variable squirrel.

Others, like 32-year-old graduate Carolyn Lek, are resigned to losing green space. "Singapore's short of land, so I guess eventually nearly everything will be developed," she said.

Businesswoman Eunice Tan believes it will take a lot of incentives to entice people to live on a former graveyard.

The 60-year-old said: "Frankly, I wouldn't like to live on such burial grounds unless the prices and amenities are extremely attractive, especially for first-time buyers."

She even proposed alternative names for the new development - including "Happy Estate" and "Sunshine Estate".

Ms Sitifazilah Perey had similar sentiments. She wrote on Facebook: "Since there are a significant number of superstitious Singaporeans, it is better to change the name."

Matilda, a grand old house in Punggol
By Rachel Tan, The Sunday Times, 1 Sep 2013

Matilda who?
That was one of the most common reactions from people when asked what they thought about the name chosen for the upcoming Punggol Matilda housing estate.

While a few were aware that it was named after the iconic Matilda House, which was built in 1902 by the old Punggol seaside, many did not know the full story behind the colonial building.

The abandoned six-bedroom, red-tiled bungalow was a gift intended for the wife of Alexander Cashin, whose father was the first Eurasian millionaire in Singapore.

Its colourful history, however, seemed lost on many who spoke to The Sunday Times yesterday.

Some who claimed to know the history of the house, like insurance executive Riella Tan, however, had their own take on it and said the Housing Board should reconsider the name. "I'm aware of Matilda House but it's famous for being haunted. It should be renamed," she said.

Still, there are others, like student Isabelle Yeo, who welcomed the name because of its links to the past. "At least it combines the elements of the area," she said.

Whatever the case, the name for the new south-western Punggol district - which will have 8,000 HDB units and boulevards leading to a waterfront shopping mall - and Matilda House are here to stay. In fact, the Urban Redevelopment Authority had granted the house conservation status and it will get a new lease of life in 2015 as a condominium clubhouse.

Financial adviser Mindy Wang, on the other hand, is concerned that the history of the estate may fade away once it is integrated with the new housing project.

"I do relate it to certain places growing up, but those places are either gone or have lost their original flavour," said the 24-year-old. "I feel sad for their fate and I imagine that is how residents near Matilda (House) might feel as well."

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