SINGAPORE - For years, Geylang residents have been complaining of the vice-related activities in their backyard.
Prostitutes loitering the streets, and shady peddlers selling illegal sex pills and contraband cigarettes are not uncommon.
In a bid to manage "issues arising from conflicting uses", the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced yesterday that the area between Lorong 4 Geylang and Lorong 22 Geylang - which is the heart of the red light district - is proposed to be zoned for commercial and institutional uses.
Currently, the plot is zoned for residential and institutional needs.
URA's group director for physical planning Ms Hwang Yu-Ning said residential projects in the neighbourhood, which she describes as rich and colourful, that have been approved, will not be affected and will still be built. Existing residents will also not be asked to leave.
But should URA's proposal go through, future residential projects will no longer be approved for the area.
This proposal could be a significant development for residents of the area, experts told The New Paper.
Activities, including those of the red light district, in the neighbourhood currently have to be mindful of residents' needs and concerns, said Mr Colin Tan, Suntec Real Estate Consultants director of research and consultancy.
But that may change if the proposal goes through and the land becomes a commercial zone, Mr Tan said.
"When the area is a commercial zone, you would expect more people, activities and traffic in the area.
"People may also be less likely to complain, as opposed to such things happening right at the doorstep of a housing estate of a residential zone," he said.
He also expects more budget hotels to spring up in the area, but said it is unlikely that a large shopping mall would be built.
OrangeTee director of research Christine Li said the change of the land zone could also encourage existing residential property owners to sell their homes as commercial land fetches higher prices than residential land.
But Ms Li said she does not expect major changes in the short run.
"Given that current residents are not evicted and the activities will continue, it looks like it'll be business as usual for the time being," she said.
This sentiment was echoed by Mr Edwin Tong, who oversees several lorongs in Geylang as MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC.
"I don't think the landscape will change much as the vast majority of property in that area are non-residential. There are not more than 1,000 to 1,200 residential units there," he said.
Making the area a commercial zone will prevent the growth of more pockets of residential units, which in turn makes enforcement difficult, he said.
Said Ms Hwang: "This will enable issues within the area concerned to be managed more effectively, and will prevent the spillover of disamenities to surrounding areas."
Members of the public can submit their feedback, objection or representation to the proposal by writing to the Ministry of National Development's Permanent Secretary at 5, Maxwell Road, Singapore 069110, by Feb 11.
The URA will then go through the public feedback and make adjustments, if any, to the proposal before submitting it to the Minister of National Development, who gives the final approval.
This article was first published on January 14, 2015.
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