Cracks in houses 'due to nearby project'

Cracks in houses 'due to nearby project'
Cracks found in the kitchen of a house in Jalan Derum. It is one of the landed homes in the estate off Sembawang Road understood to have been affected by the damage.

SINGAPORE - The unsightly cracks that have formed over the past few months along the walls of Mr Jesudoss Susai's 24-year-old home have left a gaping hole in the retiree's plans. "I wanted to sell my house last year, but after this, I told the agent to put a stop to the sale," the 83-year-old said.

Mr Susai is among a group of residents off Sembawang Road whose houses have been plagued by large cracks - as wide as 15mm - on ceilings and walls, broken floor tiles and uneven driveways.

Residents have blamed the damage on the construction of a nearby three-storey development of commercial and residential units that began around November last year. Of the 35 landed homes in Jalan Legundi, Jalan Derum and Sembong Road, 17 are understood to have been affected.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, residents said they had raised their grievances individually with developer Kwang Lee Hang when they began noticing the damage in May. They said it has been doing short-term repairs and measuring the size of cracks that have continued to resurface. The firm could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"They came to repair our house before, and they said they would do another before Chinese New Year," said retiree Chong Lim Seung, 82, who lives with his wife and daughter in Jalan Legundi.

Mr Susai's house, a single-storey landed property on the same road, has been repaired three times, but the cracks have continued to appear.

A report given to residents by the developer's engineers deemed the affected homes structurally sound. The damage at Mr Chong's house was "most probably attributed" to it settling on poor ground conditions, causing cracks to appear over the years.

The report added that this settlement "could have accelerated" over the past month due to the lowering of underground water levels, which causes the ground below these houses to shift.

Associate Professor Susanto Teng of Nanyang Technological University's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering said that while such damage "should not be a usual thing", pre-empting such occurrences is "not something missed out" by developers and contractors. "When they excavate they need to construct a support system to ensure ground movement is minimised," he added.

The report said recharge wells were installed at the site to pump water back to the underlying soil.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, the ward's MP, said he met affected residents on Sunday to assess the situation, and had asked the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to "arrange for the developer of the neighbouring plot to repair the more serious damage in some of the houses before Chinese New Year". "This, of course, depends on whether the developer accepts responsibility. If he doesn't, then we will have to look at legal solutions," he wrote.

Mr Shanmugam also called for talks with neighbourhood committee members, the BCA and the developer to be held in two weeks.

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