Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the REDAS Anniversary Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia

Nov 21, 2022


1.                  A very good evening to everybody. I am delighted to join you tonight for REDAS’s 63rd Anniversary celebration.

2.                  I would like to thank all of you here at REDAS for making a significant contribution to Community Link (ComLink) this evening – raising over half a million dollars to help low-income families living in our rental flats. Let me give you an update on what is happening on that front. For rental housing, some 50,000 families live there because they have no other housing options. They rent from the Government, and many of these families have particularly challenging circumstances. The problems they face are inter-locking, if you don’t solve one, you can’t resolve the other. Through Community Link, what we do is that we reach out to these families proactively, and if they have children – for all 14,000 of them, we work out a proactive roadmap for the family, and they have a strong voice in the trajectory they’d like to take. And then we weave the support of the Government around their plan, rather than have them approach individual departments separately to seek help for various things. A much more integrated, coordinated, whole-of-government and whole-of-community approach, to help these 14,000 families overcome challenges. Because if you don’t do so, the risk of them perpetuating in poverty for many generations is a real probability. Starting from this month, every family with a child who applies to HDB for rental housing, gets the assurance not just of shelter and a safe harbour – in the form of a rented home, but it comes automatically with the assurance that social coordination will accompany them. They will be supported holistically as a family unit, with the hope that they can improve their lot in life, and also move ultimately to home ownership. This is very much part and parcel of the Singapore Story. With that context, you can be assured that your generosity will go a long way as we seek to provide more holistic and integrated support for them. And in Singapore we must make sure that we do things in this way, so that we don’t leave anyone behind.

3.                  The last two years of the pandemic have been exceptionally challenging for the Built Environment sector. All the developers have been through some really rough times. Many of you leaned forward to support firms across the Built Environment value chain – you worked with your consultants, contractors and sub-contractors; you wanted to keep the whole value chain going so that the projects can be delivered to the customers who were waiting for their keys, and you worked together to adapt to the very difficult circumstances. I thank all of you for playing your part to keep the industry going.

4.                  We have been able to get through these two years, because of the collaboration and close partnerships that have been built up over the years.

5.                  The theme of tonight’s dinner is “Forward Real Estate SG”. Therefore, I will talk about three key areas where developers can play an important part in shaping the future of Real Estate and the Built Environment here in our city-state.  

Transforming Singapore’s Built Environment Sector

6.                  First, you can help make a big push for the sector to transform, become a lot more productive and resilient to future shocks. We’ve been through two hard years, we’ve learnt the lessons from it, and I’m sure we will proactively work to make our sector more resilient to such future shocks.

7.                  We launched the refreshed Built Environment Industry Transformation Map (BE ITM) just in September this year. Brought together a lot of the industry players to think about what we need to do so that we are more resilient, more productive and more effective. It sets out the work that we must do, together with industry stakeholders, to achieve greater productivity, to digitalise, and to be a lot more sustainable. In particular, we have adopted a value-chain approach to drive transformation throughout the building lifecycle. From design, to construction, operations and maintenance, stakeholders across each stage of the building lifecycle can achieve more by working together and integrating processes.

8.                  As developers, you play an important part in helping to set the direction of our sector’s transformation. You are in a unique position to encourage greater collaboration along the entire Built Environment value chain, and drive the adoption of productive technologies: from digital platforms to robotics, to automation in construction. I am glad to hear that REDAS has supported the push towards digitalisation in the Built Environment sector because you recently launched a prototype REDAS Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) dashboard just earlier this week. Your dashboard will equip developers with timely information, to facilitate faster and informed decision making.

Striving Towards Net Zero

9.                  Second, you can work with us to build a more sustainable city, as we strive towards our target of achieving net zero by 2050.

10.              The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) has reinforced the urgency of sustainable development. As a small, low-lying island state, Singapore faces existential challenges from climate change. There is no time to waste. That is why Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to catalyse a nationwide sustainability movement, to move towards a greener future. Specific to our Built Environment sector, we have unveiled the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan to accelerate our transition towards a green, low-carbon city.

11.              Indeed, there are many ways that you as developers can come on board to green our buildings to support our sustainability ambitions. For instance, your projects can adopt energy-efficient and sustainable design, and maximise the production of clean energy. You can also partner research institutions to develop and demonstrate innovative green building technologies, as demand for green building solutions is well expected to grow. I also encourage you to strive for higher sustainability standards under the latest edition of the Green Mark scheme. With the growing environmental consciousness amongst investors and the public, attaining higher Green Mark standards such as Green Mark Platinum or Super Low Energy (SLE) label, will allow your developments to gain a competitive edge and showcase what the next generation of buildings can achieve.

Building Spaces for Singaporeans

12.              Third, you are also pivotal in building a city that meets the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans.

13.              Our society continues to evolve and change. It is therefore important for our homes, our city, our neighbourhoods and our infrastructure to adapt and keep up with the latest trends and challenges ahead. For example: Our population is ageing. Today, about one in seven of us in Singapore are seniors 65 and above. By 2030 – in eight years’ time, that figure will be one out of every four of us, will be 65 and above. We have to ensure our urban environment is more accessible to seniors, and meets their care and social needs. The public sector will play our part, partner us, to make the rest of the city elderly friendly. HDB, for instance, is piloting new housing typologies, such as assisted living and integrated developments, and we also recently launched a site at Parry Avenue earlier this year under a concept and price tender to pilot a private assisted living development. Let’s see how it goes.

14.              Household sizes are getting smaller, and more young singles wish to move out earlier and live independently. In HDB, we are examining possibilities, some people have shared with us – give us the floorplate, give us a few options of how we would like to configure our rooms, because more and more people want to work from home, or have to do so. Standard designs have been great all these decades, but there is a yearning for greater customisability. So let’s see what we can do. We have also seen a growing interest in co-living spaces, where tenants rent rooms on flexible lease tenures and engage in social and community activities in communal spaces. In our Forward Singapore engagements, young Singaporeans tell us that while the vast majority still aspire to own their own homes, some are also considering rental, including as a transitional arrangement. 

15.              Another key trend is the shift towards working from home, or working away from office, as well as flexible work arrangements. This will have implications on the idea of residential property and office property. How we plan our city and zone our city in the years to come will lead the change, but also be responsive to market signals from consumers, buyers, and industry.  The pandemic had forced a paradigm shift in the way we think about work. Even as we emerge from this pandemic, Singaporeans tell us that they would like more support to work at home, or work near their homes. Workplaces will need to be reconfigured and optimised to facilitate fruitful collaborations and interactions on Work-from-Office days. For example, Amazon’s new office at Asia Square is furnished with moveable furniture and operable walls, so that smaller rooms can be linked up to host meetings for larger groups and even townhalls. The industry’s customers are imposing new requirements and expectations. Many also want the flexibility to work nearby, and we are exploring ways that we can support this. Just a very small scale example, in Jurong , HDB collaborated with an SME – Burztech, and with the local community, to launch work-study pods at the void decks – public housing, but using the community spaces, the void decks, to enable people to work and study near home. 

16.              We have to do all of this and drive change in response to changing aspirations, while fitting everything into this 730 square kilometres of land. So we need to be very disciplined and creative to make room for all our different needs. We employ a variety of strategies to maximise land-use. For instance, we build higher, we co-locate different facilities, and we stack them on top of each other. One example is Tuas Nexus, we are co-locating a Water Reclamation Plant and an Integrated Waste Management Facility to meet Singapore’s long-term waste management and water treatment needs.  Such projects literally save us hectares of land that can be used for other purposes.

17.              We are also reclaiming land where feasible, making use of underground spaces through an Underground Master Plan that we are developing, such as the use of rock caverns, and redeveloping and rejuvenating existing developments to free up land for new and higher intensity uses.

18.              But even as we look forward into the future, we also need to look back into our past. And I talk about it literally, in the form of better adaptive reuse of some of our older buildings, our conserved buildings. Recently, I had the pleasure to open an NUS research facility in conservation, known as the ArClab at Neil Road. It was a gift from a real estate company to NUS, to help the industry pick up the skills needed, so that the industry has the opportunity to better make use of older buildings, including conserved buildings. Retaining character, history and our roots, while having a very fresh, new and vibrant real estate development there. And of course, Golden Mile Complex – one of our iconic mixed-use developments, post-independence. We are looking forward to a good project that can showcase the future of adaptive reuse.

19.              We also need to ensure that our urban spaces remain inclusive and accessible to all. As we locate more uses together in mixed-use developments, we also want to ensure permeability between public and private spaces where possible. Singaporeans should not be made to feel like certain spaces in the urban landscape are only reserved for those with means. We want more shared spaces, porous spaces within private and public developments, where Singaporeans from all walks of life have opportunities to come together and interact. An example of how the Government has facilitated this is through the offering of bonus Gross Floor Area for Outdoor Refreshment Areas within more privately-owned public spaces. Developments that have maximised their development potential can propose new Outdoor Refreshment Areas (ORA) within their public spaces, over the maximum intensity stipulated in the Master Plan.

20.              These moves will require very careful, long-term planning, as well as close support from you to develop and implement bold, fresh and innovative solutions.

Promoting a Stable and Sustainable Property Market

21.              To conclude, let me just say a few words about the property market.

22.              The economy is vital to the well-being and health of the society, and real estate particularly so. Real estate and property are issues that Singaporeans care very deeply about. Residential property is a home and an asset for many people, probably one of the largest assets that many people in Singapore own.

23.              The Government is committed to keeping public housing affordable and accessible, to meet the housing aspirations of Singaporeans, and to help Singaporeans own their home.  We have something very unique in Singapore, compared to other countries around the world. This is a key national priority, and provides the basic foundation for us to raise our families, bring up our children, and build strong communities.

24.              We had announced property market measures in December last year and September earlier this year to moderate demand and ensure prudent borrowing. We moved on these measures given the clear upward momentum in prices across the HDB resale market and the private property market, despite the very uncertain economic outlook. If left unchecked, prices are likely to run ahead of economic fundamentals, and outpace the growth in income. This will increase the risk of a destabilising correction later on, that will hurt many households and many businesses. Therefore, we moved decisively but carefully to roll out the cooling measures, being cognizant of the uncertain global economic outlook and rising interest rate environment. As the latest measures were only introduced in end September, let us all continue to keep watch over their impact. As of now, we have seen transaction volumes in both the public and private market moderate over the past month, which could be early indication of a moderation in momentum in both markets.

25.              We remain firmly committed to the stability of the wider property market. This will only benefit the majority of stakeholders – developers and home buyers alike, over the long-term.


26.              On this note, allow me to conclude by thanking all of you once again for your close partnership over many years, working together to build a vibrant city, to provide beautiful homes, and creative new ideas for community. We look forward to working closely with you to build our future Singapore, together.

27.              Thank you all, congratulations, and have a good evening.