If supporting a 6.9 million population is not a problem – why has land for public housing suddenly become a serious problem now?
I refer to the speech by Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong for Debate on President's Address in Parliament on 17 May.
Mr Wong said at the start of his speech that the government has made very clear from the outset that the HDB lease is 99 years.
"There’s no doubt about that. 99 years is a long time. It covers two generations. The oldest HDB flat today is around 50 years, and the vast majority have more than 60 years remaining. So this is not an immediate issue." said Mr Wong.
He then rejected the idea of the government offering lease extension for HDB flats at the end of 99 years, by saying, "...despite our best efforts at planning, we are still severely constrained by space in Singapore. If there is no more land to recycle for future public housing, then what will happen to our children and grandchildren? How will they have access to subsidised housing in the future?"
In this connection – “The growth in the population to between 6.5 and 6.9 million by 2030 – from 5.3 million now – would involve persuading citizens to have more babies and handing out citizenship to more foreign-born professionals, the government said in a white paper” (Reuters, Jan 28, 2013).
So, is this not somewhat illogical and contradictory – telling us that we need to grow the population to 6.9 million (implying that land for housing is not a problem) – but now saying the opposite that land and housing is a big problem – and that’s why the HDB 99-year lease cannot be extended?
In fact, Mr Wong in his same speech said, "The next HDB town is Tengah. It’s a “forest town” which we have designed, and the first batch of flats will be sold in November this year. We will improve on what we’ve done in Punggol so that Tengah will be even better with new concepts of urban living...Besides launching Tengah, we’re now already looking at the next new site, and that is Paya Lebar, after the Air Base relocates to Changi. The site is bigger than AMK or Bishan; so there are huge opportunities for further urban innovation, for a better quality of life for Singaporeans."
Isn't that an acknowledgement that land that could not be used in the past for residence use can be converted by the government if there is a need to? Why then did the Minister use scarcity of land to reject the idea of offering lease extension to HDB owners?
Non sequitur and Uniquely Singapore?
Editor's note - Perhaps the readers should take heed to what Mr Wong said as part of his speech, "Our duty is not just to the current generation who already own homes, but also to the future generations – those not yet voting, those not yet born, those whose lives and future depend on us making the right decisions now on their behalf. At the end of the day, we want to ensure every generation will be able to have an affordable and quality home in Singapore. "