In the midst of the continual negativity around population and housing issues, I thought it’ll be refreshing to share something different. My family moved from a 64 sqm three room flat to a 105 sqm four room apartment almost exactly 13 years ago. In this move, we experienced continual assistance from HDB and two MPs. It was a great experience, one that seems so very different from the now usual tirade against HDB and the associated ministries.
The First Home
I was born and bred in Jurong and am very proud of the stumpy 5 storey flats at Corporation Drive which was the first place I called home. It was a generally low income neighborhood and every family there was doing its best to make it past each month. My family was no different.
But it was growing up with such open friendly neighbors that crafted my perception of the human spirit. We were cooperative, watching for each other and having our doors always open. As kids, we visited each other’s homes on a near daily basis and 5:30pm always meant someone would bring a ball to the huge circular open space behind my block that was mosaic tiled. It was here that I suffered a deep cut which required 5 stitches on my chin. That scar brings warm memories of a friendly neighborhood that was so full of life and graciousness amidst simplicity. I love my neighbors, everyone of them.
It was soon time to move not because we wanted to or had the means to but because Jurong was being redeveloped. In what was introduced as a SERS move, our neighborhood was to be moved as a whole and relocated to a series of new eighteen storey flats further down the road. It was sad leaving the place because quite a number of neighbors decided to cash in as HDB valued our apartments and paid good sums on it. Considering how most apartments were bought at around S$20,000 to S$40,000 (1970s to 1980s), many of my neighbors and my parents were getting a bumper amount turning it back for many times the price purchased. Not all moved together, some decided to move further out in other parts of Jurong while the others headed east.
As a twelve year old who spent countless hours with a widely varied set of friends, I had to leave the only home I knew with a heavy heart. It wasn’t as if the place was nice or beautiful, it was the people. We knew the neighbors that my family were so fortunate to have would be a thing of the past. After all, it was pretty standard at that point in time (1996) that new HDB flats were now just a series of closed door neighbors who barely knew each other.
Moving was a scary thing.
I could write a lot about my neighbors, like how they swiftly and consistently aided my family when and after my mom was scalded. How we helped each other settle family arguments. How kids were taken care off by different families just like relatives in a massively extended household. There are stories of cats, many cats including my first. Then, there were never ending games of football. We had a neighborhood team, a ragtag bunch ranging from 10 year olds to 20 year olds. I could go on and on but that would be missing the point. Moving was a scary thing. And the process of getting a new flat was especially of concern to my physically disabled parents.
Disabilities and Problems
We lived at the ground floor of our first flat. My dad is wheelchair bound and has barely any strength in his arms. We were confronted by the fact that ground floor apartments in new HDB flats had 3 steps up into the house. This was of course to prevent susceptibility to flooding (later known as ‘ponding’) and that the elevation of the apartment would serve as some level of protection against dust and pest. That was all fine and dandy unless you were wheelchair bound.
That was all fine and dandy unless you were wheelchair bound.
We were faced with living on the ground floor and applying for a permit to build a long gradual ramp or living on upper floors that did not have the steps leading into the apartment. Again, due to physical disabilities, my dad needed his bathroom to be specially fitted with a concrete platform so that he could transfer himself from wheelchair to platform to bathe independently. According to HDB guidelines at that time, you couldn’t build a concrete platform on higher stories. We were caught in a jam.
Worse still, the allocation of positions for selecting flats were balloted. My family was placed on the later end of the selection process. Needless to say, when it was our turn, all the ground floor flats had been snapped up. This began a series of appeals and letters between us, HDB and the MPs. It was also at this point that we had a change in MPs and our case had to be passed between them.
A Unique Solution
After much discussion, it was decided that HDB would convert a void deck into an apartment for us that would not have 3 steps leading into the house. As audacious the solution sounded, there were many niggling issues that came into play.
It was decided that HDB would convert a void deck into an apartment for us that would not have 3 steps leading into the house.
The void deck that our new apartment was stipulated to be built was part of a designated walk way. Because of this, the planner decided to reroute the covered linkways connecting the 8 flats to accommodate our new house. If you were to walk to BLKs 177 to 184 at Yung Sheng Road, the current linkways you see were never part of the initial plan. We were vary graciously aided by the now often maligned HDB and the MPs that oversaw our case.
I wouldn’t mention names but as a family, we are very grateful to a select few that spent much time and effort in making our new home come true. They worked with us directly on a daily to weekly basis. However, I am also sure there were many others behind the scenes that played equally important roles. Thank you very much, you made a big difference to our family.
Our New Home
Our home was constructed way after all the flats in the estate had been done. Because of this, we were able to observe how the void deck was being converted into a home. The following are some pictures as we witnessed our home being built in 1999 and how it is now in 2013.
It was amazing to watch a house being built and to be able to witness the progress on a daily basis. This is a home that my family cherishes because of the joint effort and difficulties that shrouded our move.
We lost many old neighbors but in their place found new ones. In a way, the new neighbors did share some of the old ‘kampong’ spirit that our old estate enjoyed. Mothers gather daily in common areas and the neighbours around my home do hang out late in the night sharing a tale or two at times. I cannot emphasize how important this spirit of neighborliness makes an entire estate a home.
I cannot emphasize how important this spirit of neighborliness makes an entire estate a home.
This is a 13 year old story but one I thought had to be shared. While there are many mis-steps in current policy concerning housing and population, there was this time where the authorities went out of their way to help those in need. Our family is indeed very blessed to have received such.
Thank you for making our new home such a joy for 13 years and counting.
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