Common clutter

Storage and cardboard boxes stacked in the common corridor of a block at Choa Chu Kang Street 62. These are some of the items that residents across the island leave in the common corridors of HDB flats.

SINGAPORE - Sofas, fish tanks, potted plants, bicycles and storage boxes.

These are some of the items that residents across the island leave in the common corridors of HDB flats.

Not only are these unsightly and a nuisance to residents, they are also a potential fire hazard. Discarded items left in areas such as lift lobbies and common corridors account for about one in five fires - every day, at least two such fires break out.

The Ministry of National Development's Town Council Management Report released on Thursday highlighted how prevalent this problem is.

Across 15 town councils, nine had issues dealing with corridor clutter, resulting in these town councils receiving a medium banding for maintenance.

The main issue was with obstructions in corridors, which accounted for at least 35 per cent of maintenance issues. The New Paper went to at least five of these nine areas to see how bad it is.

At Jurong West Street 52, old furniture, bicycles and even an unused fish tank were left outside some of the units.

At Choa Chu Kang Street 62, potted plants lined the corridors and storage boxes were stacked outside some units.

In Chai Chee, there were also toy scooters, shoe cabinets and bicycles.

Most of the people who had put these items along the corridors said they had received warnings from their town councils, but came up with excuses.

One resident in Choa Chu Kang who did not want to be named said he dries his laundry on 10 bamboo poles in the lift lobby because he has nine people cramped in his flat and there is no space inside.

"We had a warning from the town council but we called and explained our situation to them," said the man, who is in his early 20s.

"The town council said it's okay as long as it does not obstruct the stairways," he claimed.

A 46-year-old resident in Chai Chee, who gave his name as Mr Zhang, said he stacked items against the corridor railing because he was afraid his young son would climb and fall downstairs.

An elderly man in Chai Chee, who did not want to be named, had arranged two chairs and a small table in the lift lobby.

"The ventilation in my house is bad, so I sit outside here where it is cooler," he explained.

Some who leave items outside their homes said they try to minimise obstruction to their neighbours by pushing the items up against the walls.

FRIENDLY

"We're very friendly with our neighbours and no one has complained so far," said one resident who wanted to be known as Mr Sim. The 22-year-old had cardboard boxes and plants lined outside his flat.

"And as long as you don't block anyone's path it's okay," he added.

Madam Poh Xee Xee, 57, said her neighbours had complained about her because their children had crashed into the bamboo pole holders placed along her corridor, right outside her unit.

She too received a warning, but has ignored it. "My maid can't hang clothes out the window because she's not tall enough," she said.

None of the residents said they felt the items posed a fire hazard.

But a Singapore Civil Defence Force spokesman said items like furniture and newspapers can "easily fuel fires when lighted materials like cigarette butts are indiscriminately thrown onto them".

"Cluttered common areas can also seriously hamper firefighting efforts, fire evacuation and conveyance of patients during a medical emergency."

tnp@sph.com.sg

- Additional reporting by Elizabeth Law


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.