Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Committee of Supply Debate on 8 March 2022
Mar 8, 2022
1. Mdm Chairman, even as we continue fighting COVID-19 today, we are focussed on our mission of building an even better Singapore tomorrow.
a. I will explain how we are doing this in four key priority areas:
b. First, keeping public housing affordable and accessible and meeting the housing aspirations of Singaporeans;
c. Second, transforming the way we build, design, and maintain our city;
d. Third, growing our City in Nature;
e. And fourth, safeguarding our Built Heritage.
2. My MND colleagues will give more detail on various areas of our work.
Keeping our public housing affordable and accessible
Approach to public housing
3. Helping Singaporeans own their homes is a key National priority, and a promise that the Government has been committed to for decades.
a. A home that we can call our own, provides the basic foundation to raise our families and bring up our children.
4. If you look at other cities –
a. They have different ways of housing their people.
b. Some leave housing largely to the private market, while others provide rental flats to certain demographic groups at subsidised rates.
5. But the experience of these cities shows that the private market will often not provide adequately for low-income or even middle-income families.
a. That is why our focus is to sell flats to Singaporeans, including low-income households, at highly subsidised prices, rather than offer them rental units at subsidised rents.
6. We are committed to ensuring that public housing remains affordable and accessible, to help meet the housing aspirations of Singaporeans.
a. We plan the supply of new flats by taking into account long-term factors such as changes in demographic changes and trends – including family formation rates and household sizes.
b. We also monitor the market and make adjustments to meet cyclical shifts in demand.
c. In addition, we provide generous grants for first-timers, for both new and resale flat purchases, with more help for lower-income buyers.
d. Mr Chong Kee Hiong asked if we should review our affordability benchmarks.
e. Now, most first-timers buying HDB flats in the non-mature estates only need set aside a quarter of their income or less to pay for their monthly loan instalments.
f. This is already significantly lower than the international benchmark of between 30 to 35% for affordable housing, and it allows buyers to pay their mortgage with their CPF savings, with little or no cash outlay.
g. To ensure prudent use of public funds, we impose a monthly income ceiling to allocate housing subsidies to those who may need it more.
h. To Ms Poh Li San’s question, the current income ceiling of $14,000 for BTO flats already covers more than eight in ten Singaporean households. The income ceiling for Executive Condominiums (ECs) is even higher, at $16,000.
i. Households earning an income above $14,000 have a variety of housing options, such as resale flats, ECs and private developments.
j. The income ceilings were just raised in 2019, but we will continue to review.
Managing strong demand for housing
7. In the immediate term, the pandemic has had a serious impact on the construction sector, causing:
a. housing delays,
b. concerns about tight housing supply,
c. and worries about rising resale home prices.
8. At the same time, marriage and family formation, a growing trend of smaller households, and the current low interest rate environment, have led to strong housing demand, in both the BTO and resale markets.
9. Since last year, we have been working closely with industry on two important tasks:
a. First, we are working hard to minimise delays in the ongoing construction of flats.
b. And second, we are ramping up our building programme to meet the strong demand for public housing.
c. We will launch 23,000 flats per year in 2022 and 2023, and are prepared to launch up to 100,000 flats from 2021 to 2025 if needed.
10. Ms Cheryl Chan asked about these efforts.
11. This is difficult work, especially in the midst of an ongoing a pandemic. Our HDB colleagues have been on the ground, working closely with contractors to overcome the many challenges that COVID-19 has thrown at them:
a. Bringing in workers safely, to make up for manpower shortages due to border restrictions
b. Coping with the impact of public health measures on productivity at worksites
c. Sharing cost increases when prices of construction materials rose sharply
d. Localising more precast production, and stockpiling more material, in case of further disruptions in supply chains
e. And so on.
12. We have seen some progress:
a. In 2021, we delivered about 14,500 new flats, more than the 9,400 flats in 2020, and the 13,500 flats in 2019, pre-pandemic.
13. We are also increasing the supply of private housing through the Government Land Sales Programme.
14. And last year, we introduced measures to cool property markets, to pre-emptively address the risk of home prices running ahead of market fundamentals, and in doing so, keep housing affordable for genuine homebuyers.
15. So that is how we are addressing the housing situation today – by increasing both private and public supply to meet the strong demand, while moderating market movements and minimising delays.
16. We are not out of the woods yet, because the pandemic situation remains uncertain and the geopolitical situation increasingly volatile.
a. But the delays have impacted many Singaporeans’ life plans. We seek your understanding and support, as we press on, to try to minimise delays and deliver your homes to you as soon as we can.
17. In the meantime, for first-timer families who face challenges renting on the open market, we assist them with interim rental housing under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, or PPHS.
18. Mr Chong Kee Hiong, Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Mr Gerald Giam asked about the PPHS supply.
a. We are on track to add 800 more units by mid-2023 – we have tripled the number of PPHS flats offered at each application exercise.
b. But supply remains tight, so we are prioritising families with the greatest needs.
c. As a result of these efforts, application rates have fallen significantly, from about twenty times to about nine times in the most recent exercises – though that is still high.
d. That said, around half of the applicants who are invited to select a flat decide not to do so, suggesting that many may have other options.
19. HDB also offers Interim Rental Housing, or IRH, on a case-by-case basis for those who do not have other interim housing options.
a. To Mr Gerald Giam’s suggestion, the supply of IRH flats varies to meet the demand, as these flats are also used for PPHS or public rental.
20. Members have made other suggestions to address concerns about housing delays and supply.
21, Mr Louis Chua and Mr Gan Thiam Poh suggested building more flats with shorter waiting times
a. Significant land and infrastructure preparation is needed before we can build BTO flats.
b. Where possible, we have brought forward our plans for land preparation. This allows us to launch flats with shorter waiting times.
c. In November last year and February this year, we launched more than 4,000 flats with waiting times of around three years or less. We will launch more such flats in future where we can.
d. Some flats offered on Sale of Balance Flats (SBF), Open Booking of Flats (OBF) also have shorter waiting times.
e. But all this depends on whether sites are available.
f. For brownfield redevelopment, we may be delayed if existing users of the land require more time to relocate or if existing services need to be diverted.
g. For greenfield sites, we need to carry out detailed environmental studies.
h. In fact, we have accelerated many of our plans in order to increase the BTO supply over the next two years. That is our priority, to meet the current strong demand.
22. The Leader of the Opposition asked if we will also review the various HDB priority schemes and give absolute priority to certain groups.
23. Priority schemes allocate housing supply to meet the needs of a wide range of Singaporeans –
a. to support the marriage and parenthood aspirations of young couples,
b. the desire to live with or close to parents or married children for mutual care and support,
c. or the housing needs of our singles and seniors.
d. These objectives remain all remain relevant and important.
24. Let me explain how our priority schemes work.
a. For each scheme, we set aside a certain proportion of flats.
b. Those who qualify for the scheme and are balloted within that quota are guaranteed a chance to select a flat.
c. Those who are balloted outside of the quota will be considered with the other applicants who do not qualify for this scheme.
d. In that sense, each priority scheme guarantees a certain number of flats for qualifying applicants, and so addresses different categories of households and families in Singapore who have needs.
25. But we cannot guarantee a flat for all the applicants in any one of these priority schemes for a particular launch, because there may well be more applicants than there are flats set aside for each scheme.
a. It would mean that the other groups who do not qualify for that scheme will not get the chance to book a flat at all. This could include singles, couples who do not have children, and others.
b. We would also need to build a lot more flats and use a lot more land to meet this demand, if done this way.
c. Instead, our approach is to strike a calibrated balance between the housing needs of different groups.
26. And so, contrary to the Leader of the Opposition’s characterisation of the way in which we set aside our priority schemes, it is not one in which priority refers only to more chances, but rather, trying to balance the needs of different groups to provide absolute priority within certain quotas, to ensure that one group does not eat up the quotas and spaces for other groups.
27. As for putting out information on the application numbers on the different priority schemes, HDB already provides the number of applications received for each project across the various household types, for every town and flat.
a. These figures are updated through the application period, for each BTO and SBF exercise. Applicants can refer to this information in deciding which project to apply to.
Keeping public housing inclusive
28. Besides managing current demand and supply, we also continue to enhance our housing policies. Ms Mariam Jaafar asked what we were doing to make our public housing fairer and more inclusive.
Prime Location Housing
29. One major policy we rolled out last year was the new prime location public housing model, or PLH, after many years of study and engagement.
a. This allows us to build flats in prime locations and keep them affordable, so that these areas remain diverse and inclusive, and do not become places where only the well-to-do can live.
b. We have just launched two PLH projects.
c. They attracted a lot of interest, with more than three applicants for each 3-room flat, and more than ten for each 4-room flat.
30. We also plan to build public rental flats in future PLH projects where possible.
a. To Ms Mariam Jaafar’s question, our approach has been to integrate sold and rental flats in the same BTO projects, including in prime areas, where feasible,
b. to enable Singaporeans across different backgrounds to build neighbourly ties, form community bonds, and build a stronger and more cohesive community and society.
c. We have completed two new blocks that integrate both rental and owned HDB flats in the same block, and more are in the pipeline.
31. Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Louis Chua raised some concerns about the PLH model. These are not new – they have been raised by others, considered and addressed during our extensive public engagements. But let me go through them again quickly.
32. Mr Pritam Singh asked how we determine the subsidy recovery rate.
a. As we have explained, because PLH flats are in prime locations, we need to provide additional subsidies, on top of the usual BTO subsidies, to bring the price of the flat down to an affordable level for more Singaporeans.
b. Mr Louis Chua suggested lowering the subsidy quantum at the point of sale. If we were to do that, it will just mean that only those with higher incomes or wealth can afford these flats. This would go against the intention of the PLH model.
c. We size the subsidy recovery rate to recover these additional subsidies, as a percentage of the resale price, when the flat is sold on the open market. This is to be fair to the other BTO flat buyers who do not get these additional subsidies. Taken together with the other measures such as the 10-year MOP, disallowing of rental of whole flats and ringfencing the pool of eligible buyers to those meeting the BTO eligibility conditions at the point of resale, among others, would help to mitigate excessive windfall gains.
33. Mr Pritam Singh also asked how we determine which projects come under the PLH model, and if the PLH might push up resale prices of neighbouring flats.
a. We look carefully at the attributes of each project, including expected selling prices, to decide if we should apply the PLH model.
b. As to whether neighbouring resale flats will see higher prices, this is unlikely as they are much older flats. In any case, it will take another 15 years or so before PLH flats reach the resale market, so. So we will keep studying and monitoring this
34. Mr Louis Chua asked why singles are not allowed to buy PLH flats.
a. To moderate resale prices, we require resale PLH buyers to meet BTO eligibility conditions –
b. Which is a set of criteria that most people are familiar with.
c. This criteria includes singles who are part of larger households, with caregiving responsibilities – say they are buying a home with parents – or with their siblings if their parents are not around. This would apply mostly to older singles.
d. The PLH model is very new and we have only launched two projects.
e. We will continue to monitor the response to PLH projects, and review the parameters as part of our regular policy reviews.
Supporting ethnic integration
35. Besides socioeconomic inclusiveness, we also want our public housing estates to reflect our society’s ethnic diversity.
36. The Ethnic Integration Policy, or EIP, seeks to support that.
a. It enables people from different ethnic backgrounds to integrate in their daily lives – around their homes, at the markets or hawker centres, in schools, neighbourhood shops and playgrounds, and so on.
b. That provides some of the conditions to foster tolerance and understanding, and counteract the powerful social forces that tend to divide societies.
c. Even today, nearly one in three HDB blocks, and 16% of HDB neighbourhoods, have reached one or more of the EIP limits.
d. Without the EIP, racial concentrations could be much higher in various parts of Singapore.
e. So the EIP remains relevant and important in promoting racial harmony, and I am glad that we have established a bipartisan consensus on this after our debate in this house last July.
37. We are mindful that some flat owners may face difficulties selling their flats, when the EIP limits are reached.
a. For example, some may have to lower their asking price, or may take longer to sell their flats.
38. We have been helping these families in different ways,
a. such as by giving them more time to sell their flats,
b. and even waiving the EIP limits in exceptional circumstances.
39. But it is not sustainable to keep waiving the EIP limits, because this would erode the very objectives that the EIP seeks to achieve.
40. Over the years, we have continued to receive feedback about the rough edges of the EIP and suggestions on how to smoothen them, from the public and from MPs – including Ms Mariam Jafaar, Mr Chong Kee Hiong, Mr Saktiandi Supaat and Mr Lim Biow Chuan, during this debate.
41. We have said before that we would continue to study these options.
42. Having done so carefully, we have decided that:
a. For EIP-constrained households who face genuine difficulties in selling their HDB flats, HDB will buy back their flat, on a case-by-case basis.
b. Now, this complements existing forms of assistance that I have just articulated
43. To ensure that we focus on the households with the greatest needs,
a. we will offer this buyback assistance to those who have owned their flats for at least ten years.
b. But, those who are EIP-constrained and need to move out earlier due to extenuating circumstances can still appeal to HDB for special consideration.
44. In assessing households for buyback assistance, we will consider the household’s specific circumstances,
a. including how long the household has been EIP-constrained,
b. and whether they have marketed their flats consistently, at reasonable prices.
45. If HDB assesses that the conditions have been met, it will appoint a professional licensed valuer to perform a valuation and HDB will make a fair offer, so that the household is not unduly disadvantaged due to EIP.
46. In deciding how best to assist EIP-constrained flat owners, we had considered other suggestions.
47. Mr Saktiandi Supaat suggested applying the EIP limits over a larger geographical area. Mr Pritam Singh had also previously suggested this.
a. But this could likely lead to over-concentration of particular ethnic groups at the local level, in specific blocks or neighbourhoods, rendering making the EIP less effective.
b. And when the limits are reached in larger geographical areas, significantly more flat owners will be constrained. At that point, HDB may have to waive the EIP limits in even more cases.
c. So this is not a viable long-term solution.
48. Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Lim Biow Chuan suggested giving a grant to households who may have to sell their flats at a significantly lower price due to the EIP. We studied this in detail, but found that it would be difficult to implement in practice:
a. First, it would be difficult to size the grant fairly.
i. A fixed grant may undercompensate some sellers but overcompensate others
ii. Yet a variable grant – say, a certain percentage of the transacted price – would give sellers with higher flat values more support in absolute terms, which might not seem fair to others.
b. Second, some buyers and sellers might well artificially lower their transaction price to take advantage of the grant, and it would be hard to guard against this. This would be unfair to taxpayers.
49. So, on balance, we have decided that the most feasible option would be to buy back flats from EIP-constrained households in genuine need.
50. This is not a decision that we make lightly, because it requires significant Government resources.
51. But we believe it is the right thing to do, because the EIP benefits all of us, and helps to foster a more cohesive society.
52. Finally, a quick response to Mr Pritam Singh’s question about EIP data.
a. During our exchange in Parliament on the EIP last year, he wanted data to understand what was unique about EIP-constrained neighbourhoods.
b. I had said that we would look into what we could practically provide, given the large volume of data requested.
c. In our response to his two PQs, we had provided comprehensive figures, such as
d. the number and proportion of blocks and neighbourhoods that have been constrained by the different EIP limits over the last 30 years,
e. As well as the areas corresponding to some of the neighbourhoods that were EIP-constrained in both 1990 and 2020.
f. However, there are practical limitations to providing all the datasets requested.
g. For instance, he had requested the names of all EIP-constrained neighbourhoods from 1990 to 2020 – a 30-year period.
h. But there are no public maps or demarcated areas that we can make reference to.
i. So we did the next best thing and provided corresponding areas, but it would have been difficult to do so for all neighbourhoods without significantly compromising accuracy.
j. So where practical, we have and will continue to provide the information requested to further everyone’s understanding of the issue. I think it is important to clarify this.
Meeting diverse housing needs
53. Next, we want to contribute to a more inclusive society by meeting the housing aspirations of low-income families that need more support.
54. Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Ms Nadia Samdin asked how we will help families in rental housing to own their own homes.
55. Our public rental housing system is not just about providing homes for lower-income citizens.
a. We also want to provide integrated social support –
b. in education, healthcare, training, employment, and many other areas –
c. to help them achieve stability and to improve their situation.
d. And that is what Community Link, or ComLink, is all about – to enable low-income families with children, to achieve stability, self-reliance, and ultimately social mobility. More will be said during MSF’s COS.
56. For those who are ready for home ownership, HDB’s Home ownership Support Team will guide them through their journey.
57. We also provide financial support to make home ownership more affordable for these families.
a. First-timer families can benefit from the usual first-timer grants like the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant or EHG.
b. Whereas for second-timer families with children, we introduced the Fresh Start Housing Scheme in 2016.
c. Under the Scheme, families can receive a $35,000 housing grant
d. They can buy 2-room flats with a shorter lease, which are otherwise only available for seniors.
e. Families will also receive close support from a social service agency, to ensure that they can sustain home ownership.
58. We want to give more support for these families who aspire to own a home again, for their children to grow and develop.
59. So as the Finance Minister had announced in his Budget Speech, we will enhance the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will do so in two ways:
a. First, we will increase the grant to $50,000, to help more tenants afford a home.
b. Second, we will allow families to buy 3-room flats with a shorter lease to meet a wider range of housing needs, rather than just short-lease 2-room flats.
c. This is the first time that we will offer new 3-room flats on shorter leases. We are doing so to provide these families with more housing options.
d. It is a substantial change that we are making in our housing policies, to support lower-income families and their children, as they seek to improve their lives.
e. My colleague, MOS Faishal Ibrahim, will share more details on our other efforts to uplift households living in rental flats.
60. As our population ages, we are also paying close attention to the needs of our seniors.
a. In particular, we are doing more to help seniors age-in-place while getting appropriate care.
b. We launched our very first Community Care Apartment, an assisted living pilot, in Bukit Batok last year.
c. MOS Faishal will share more details on our plans to launch a second Community Care Apartment pilot, and to work with the private sector to provide more assisted living options.
61. Members have suggested that we do more to support the housing needs of other groups, such as singles, or those who prefer rental to home ownership.
a. My colleague SMS Sim Ann will address some of these suggestions.
b. SMS Sim Ann will also share more about how we are making our HDB estates more vibrant and liveable.
Transforming and enhancing the resilience of the Built Environment sector
62. Let me now turn to how we are transforming the Built Environment, or BE sector.
63. The sector was badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and MPs, such as Mr Henry Kwek, have asked about its progress.
64. Throughout this period, we have worked closely with the industry – not just on BTO projects, but also more widely across the sector – to deal with the challenges that have come our way, from manpower shortages to cost increases and supply disruptions.
a. We still hold regular meetings and site visits to understand the situation on the ground, and to find a way forward.
b. We are thankful for the close partnership with trade associations, companies and workers, as the sector recovers.
65. We are seeing encouraging signs.
66. Construction output has reached close to pre-COVID levels, and work is progressing steadily.
67. The manpower situation is also improving.
a. Between November 2021 and February 2022, around 16,000 S Pass and Work Permit Holders from the Construction, Marine and Process sectors entered Singapore each month.
b. This is more than five times the monthly average of 3,000 between May and October 2021, when travel restrictions were in place.
68. While the Omicron variant has had some impact on firms, we are much better prepared this time around, after the difficult lessons we learnt when the pandemic first struck.
69. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully, because the sector is still under some stress.
70. Above all, the pandemic has reminded us how important it is for the sector to be resilient to shocks.
71. The sector remains heavily dependent on migrant workers to take up manpower-intensive jobs at construction sites.
a. So we need to step up our transformation of the sector, which we started when we launched the Construction Industry Transformation Map in 2017.
b. Together with our industry partners, we are determined to make a decisive change in how we do things in the sector.
72. We will push on to improve the quality of our construction workforce, and shift more towards productive work processes.
73. To drive this transition, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Manpower had earlier outlined the changes that we are making to our foreign workforce policies.
a. First, we will remove the current Man-Year Entitlement (or MYE) framework in 2024 and introduce a new levy framework that encourages off-site prefabrication work.
b. This will make it easier for firms to hire workers for more productive and skilled work.
c. Second, we will reduce the Construction Dependency Ratio Ceiling, from 1:7 to 1:5. This means that firms will be able to hire fewer migrant workers, per local worker.
74. Some might ask why we are making these changes, when the industry is still recovering.
a. But it is precisely our painful experiences from the pandemic that have shown us why these changes are necessary.
b. And as the sector recovers, we should seize this opportunity to fundamentally change how we design, build and maintain our city.
c. These foreign manpower moves should be looked at together with other efforts to raise productivity.
d. For example, we have enhanced our Buildability framework over the years, to raise the standards for manpower-efficient designs and technologies.
i. And from April this year, all larger buildings must be designed in ways that require less manpower to construct.
ii. This means that the industry should need fewer workers when the foreign workforce policies take effect from 2024.
75. Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Mr Henry Kwek have asked how we will support firms to digitalise and adopt productive technologies, such as Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (or PPVC).
a. Indeed, this continues to be a key priority.
b. This year, to support firms and workers to be more productive, we will extend various schemes under the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund (CPCF). My colleague MOS Tan Kiat How will elaborate on this later.
76. We will also push ahead with Built Environment sustainability, to address climate change.
a. During the Green Plan Joint Segment, I had spoken about the importance of greening our buildings.
b. Ms Tin Pei Ling and Ms Mariam Jaafar asked if we will do more to reduce emissions in existing buildings.
c. Today, more than half of our buildings that are more than 20 years old have not been retrofitted, and they lag behind newer buildings in terms of energy performance.
d. Retrofitting older buildings costs a lot more upfront, and it may take several years to recoup this investment.
77. This is why we will provide $63 million in grants, to help building owners undertake retrofits, and achieve higher standards of energy efficiency and sustainability.
a. We will do this by significantly enhancing our Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings.
b. The previous Scheme supported retrofitting costs for more than 80 buildings, and achieved more than 180 GWh in annual energy savings. This is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of close to 40,000 4-room flats.
c. Under the enhanced scheme,
i. we will raise the minimum qualifying standard from Green Mark Gold to Green Mark Platinum
ii. and expand the scheme to include residential as well as light industrial buildings.
d. Building owners can choose the strategies and technologies that are most appropriate for their building.
i. For example, they can upgrade the cooling system, install solar panels, or redesign spaces for natural ventilation.
e. The grant amount will be based on the additional carbon abatement and Green Mark certification achieved, instead of the cost of works as used by the previous scheme. For example, a project that achieves Zero Energy certification can receive up to $1.2 million under the enhanced scheme.
f. You can apply for this scheme from the second quarter of this year.
78. We are also exploring whether to require building owners to conduct energy audits, to improve the energy performance of their buildings. We will consult our industry partners on this before deciding.
79. Together, these efforts will help to enhance the productivity, sustainability, and resilience of our BE sector.
a. Transformation is never easy, but it also creates many exciting growth opportunities.
b. We look forward to working with the industry on this.
Transforming Singapore into a City in Nature
80. Let us turn to another important priority: transforming Singapore into a City in Nature.
81. During the Joint Segment on the Green Plan, I spoke about the progress we have made.
82. Why are we striving to become a City in Nature? We face intense land-use pressures, as a city state.
a. We need to find space for all the things a country needs, within the limits of our city state –
b. Not just homes, community amenities, industries and offices, but also reservoirs, airports and seaports, military bases –
c. And all the other things that larger countries can site far outside their cities.
83. And amid these intense pressures, we also want to conserve our natural heritage. It is a tough balancing act.
84. To do this, we take a science-based approach – to understand the ecological value of our green spaces, and identify the most important ones to conserve.
a. In some cases, this means retaining green spaces that were intended to be developed for other purposes.
b. For example, we have retained Rifle Range Nature Park and the Mandai Mangrove and Mudflat, which were originally intended for housing and industry respectively because they are important buffer zones for our core biodiversity habitats.
c. These nature parks will be completed by mid-2026, along with Khatib Bongsu Nature Park.
85. Last year, we also launched the Ecological Profiling Exercise, or EPE, in partnership with experts and members from the nature community. Ms Nadia Samdin asked for an update on this.
86. Based on the EPE’s findings, we are creating more ecological corridors between our core nature areas.
a. For example, we found that the forests at the western half of Ulu Pandan are richer in biodiversity than its eastern half. So we will safeguard a sizeable nature park there.
b. We also found that the green networks around Toh Tuck, Maju, and Clementi are important stepping-stones between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Southern Ridges.
c. So over the next few years, we will establish a Clementi Nature Corridor that runs through these green spaces, including the eventual nature park in western Ulu Pandan.
87. Beyond strengthening ecological connectivity, we also continue to expand our island-wide park connectivity networks, to give Singaporeans greater access to green spaces near their homes.
a. Today, we have around 370km of park connectors – more than seven times the length of Singapore from East to West.
b. And we keep adding more. In January, we launched the eastern half of Phase 1 of the Round Island Route. Covering a total distance of 75km, this green connection makes the journey from Rower’s Bay to Berlayer Creek more seamless and accessible.
88. Prof Koh Lian Pin asked what more we can do to involve Singaporeans in nature conservation.
a. This is an important point. Being a City in Nature is not just about our living environment. It’s about who we are as a people – how we respect nature, take care of it, and steward it responsibly.
89. We are encouraged by the strong support of our community partners.
a. Over 320,000 trees have been planted under the OneMillionTrees movement, involving more than 30,000 members of the community.
b. Many volunteers have also helped restore and enhance our green spaces, through the Friends of the Park initiative.
c. And last December, through our City in Nature Conversations, we heard many thoughtful suggestions on how to advance our greening journey.
90. We invite Singaporeans to join us in realising our vision of a City in Nature – and grow a greener, more liveable, and sustainable home.
Safeguarding our Built Heritage
91. Besides stewarding our natural resources, we also want to safeguard our history and heritage.
92. As we look to the future, we must also remember our past.
93. Our built heritage is important because it gives present and future generations a sense of place, identity, and rootedness. Our built heritage has significant intangible value that we should safeguard.
94. Today, heritage conservation is an important consideration in our planning process. When evaluating development proposals, URA works closely with the National Heritage Board (NHB) to determine the conservation merit of our buildings, consults relevant stakeholders, and calibrates how to balance conservation with development.
95. Despite our short nation-building history, our conservation efforts have achieved good success with close to 7,200 heritage buildings gazetted for conservation.
96. Over the years, we have continued to refine our approach to safeguarding our built heritage, and expanded our engagement efforts with the heritage community and key stakeholders.
a. For example, we formalised constructive working relationships with the heritage community by setting up public-private-people partnerships like the Heritage and Identity Partnership (HIP) and NHB’s Heritage Advisory Panel (HAP).
b. These partnerships allow us to tap on their expertise upstream at the planning and design stages of development to optimise how we conserve and celebrate our built heritage.
97. We have been developing a structured framework to evaluate when and how additional heritage impact studies should be conducted as part of the planning process.
a. In 2018, URA, HDB and NHB commissioned NUS’s Department of Architecture to pilot a large-scale detailed heritage study of the Old Policy Academy.
b. The Old Police Academy played an important role in the professional development of police officers from the 1920s until 2005.
c. And since 2016, the Singapore Police Force (SPF), URA and HDB have been engaging the larger police fraternity on how we could celebrate and sustain the heritage of the Old Police academy. The heritage study report was also published for public feedback last year.
d. Members of the public who wrote in include a former trainee who shared his memories of the place. He suggested retaining certain roads and certain road names.
e. Taking into consideration the study and the feedback received, we plan to conserve six buildings including four within the new housing estate. They will be meaningfully adapted for contemporary uses. Part of the parade square will also be retained as an open space.
f. For buildings and spaces which cannot be retained in their entirety, we will explore how to sustain their heritage significance in the design of the new housing estate. HDB and SPF have also formed a dedicated workgroup chaired by MOS Faishal with police and heritage stakeholders and have started to discuss how to celebrate the rich heritage of the Old Police Academy.
98. In response to Mr Xie Yao Quan, we are glad to announce that we will formally implement a structured heritage impact assessment, or HIA framework.
a. Under this new framework, developing agencies for public projects that are likely to cause major impact to significant heritage sites will need to consult URA and NHB, to determine if a heritage study is required.
b. For sites that require an HIA, which is the most extensive of heritage studies that may be imposed, agencies will engage consultants to provide an additional and more detailed assessment on the significance of each heritage element and the recommended interventions. The HIA will complement URA’s and NHB’s existing processes.
c. Findings will be shared unless there are security or other concerns, and members of the public will be invited to give feedback. Heritage communities and other stakeholders will continue to be engaged throughout the process.
d. We expect such detailed and in-depth HIAs to only be necessary for larger scale public development projects in areas of rich, complex heritage significance.
e. For other projects, URA’s and NHB’s existing processes remain adequate.
99. The implementation of the HIA framework marks an important milestone in the maturing of our heritage evaluation processes.
100. And we will continue to refine this process along the way.
Planning our city for the long-term
101. Now, keeping public housing affordable and accessible, transforming the BE sector, and growing Singapore into a City in Nature and safeguarding our Built Heritage – these are just some of the key priorities that we are working on.
102. We have to do all this, while meeting the evolving needs and aspirations of Singaporeans, all within the confines of our small city state.
103. This is a big challenge. There will be difficult trade-offs.
104. But it is also due to tight constraints like these that the most creative and resourceful ideas are born.
105. As part of our Long-Term Plan Review, we are reaching out to Singaporeans from all walks of life, to hear their goals and dreams and aspirations for our future city.
a. My colleague SMS Sim Ann will give an update on this.
106. We hope all Singaporeans will walk with us on this journey, as we build a better city, together.