Old flats in Tiong Bahru get new lease of life

SINGAPORE - Five old blocks of flats in Tiong Bahru are being given a new lease of life, even though they were earmarked for demolition almost 20 years ago.

From next year, Blocks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 in Tiong Bahru Road will be rented to couples waiting for their new flats, the Housing Board (HDB) has told The Straits Times.

Standing out against a backdrop of taller and newer blocks, these four-storey ones were built by the now-defunct Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), which provided public housing before the HDB took over in 1960.

They were slated for demolition in 1995, but have so far been spared the wrecking ball as HDB continues to find use for them.

The latest purpose for the 120 three- and four-room units is rental, under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme.

They are part of 800 flats, including others in Bukit Merah and Queenstown, that will be retrofitted and rolled out under the scheme early next year.

Under this programme, which began in January last year, such flats can be rented by first-timer married couples with children under the age of 16 who are waiting for new flats.

Three months later, the scheme was extended to those without children and, in September last year, to married couples comprising first-timers and second-timers, as well as divorced or widowed parents with children.

When The Straits Times visited Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore's oldest housing estates, last week, renovations were being carried out at the five blocks and surrounding areas.

The HDB said the works include external repainting, reinstating footpaths, landscaping and installing fixtures such as lights and water heaters in the flats.

These blocks are part of 16 in Tiong Bahru Road and adjacent Boon Tiong Road picked for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) in 1995, when it was first introduced.

Under the scheme, which aims to rejuvenate ageing HDB blocks, residents have to move out and are offered replacement flats.

While the other 11 blocks have been demolished, these five blocks were leased to a private operator from 2007 to this May.

They are among 138 SIT blocks still standing.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2014 master plan, the site has been earmarked for residential use and future widening of Tiong Bahru Road and Zion Road.

For Tiong Bahru resident Tee Chai Teck, 70, the five blocks are a symbol of the past.

He lived in an SIT flat in Boon Tiong Road more than 20 years ago, but moved to a new block in the same road under Sers.

"I hope they don't tear these down too," said the cinema ticket collector, who also runs a market stall in Tiong Bahru. "They bring a sense of familiarity."


This article was first published on Dec 24, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.