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4th January 2015

Singapore Real Estate

50,000 housing units to be built

Source: Straits Times / Think

JAN 1, 1965

National Development Minister Lim Kim San announced ambitious projects, including the launch of 50,000 housing units and land reclamation along the east coast to raise living standards in Singapore.

Coming up were 15,000 flats in various estates and 35,000 in Toa Payoh, the second satellite town after Queenstown. Today, Toa Payoh has 36,616 flats and is home to about 109,900 people.

He said that 405ha would be reclaimed all the way from Bedok to Tanjong Rhu and promised homes for 250,000 people, including gardens and swimming pools.

He was describing what today includes Marine Parade estate and the East Coast Park, all built on reclaimed land.

Mr Lim said earth removed from the Toa Payoh site would be used to reclaim part of the Kallang Basin and enlarge the Bendemeer industrial estate.

He also announced plans to redevelop 344ha in the city centre to build new homes and modern traffic systems.

"This is the first urban redevelopment project ever launched in Asia," said Mr Lim, a wealthy businessman who was roped in to head the newly formed Housing and Development Board (HDB) from 1960 until 1963, when he became National Development Minister.

In all, the projects he announced at the start of 1965 would provide direct employment for an estimated 180,000 people and indirect employment for an equal number.

By the end of that year, the HDB exceeded its target of completing 50,000 units in its first five-year building plan from mid-1960 to mid-1965. It, in fact, finished a total of 54,430 new homes.

With about 23,000 units from the Singapore Improvement Trust, which the HDB replaced in 1960, there were more than 75,000 units of public housing for about half a million people, or 25 per cent of the population.

As of 2013, 81.9 per cent of Singapore's resident population live in HDB flats. Between 2008 and 2012, 47,273 housing units were completed by the HDB.

The provision of low-cost housing helped the ruling People's Action Party fulfil its key election promise at a time when slums were common.

How much did flats cost then?

In MacPherson, a three-room flat cost $6,200 and a two-room flat cost $4,900, The Straits Times reported in February 1965. The average worker in Singapore then earned $44.55 a week, or about $2,300 a year.

-By Ho Ai Li, China Correspondent in Beijing