Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the HDB Awards Dinner

Sep 8, 2016

I am very happy to join you today at the HDB Awards Dinner. 

Tonight is a night for all our industry partners, because we celebrate the achievements of all of you in helping us build quality HDB homes. All of you have excelled in the construction and design of our HDB estates and tonight, we recognise your contributions in helping to create these high quality homes, beautiful towns and a sustainable living environment for all Singaporeans. Let’s begin with a big round of applause to thank all our partners. 

This year is our 56th year in housing the nation. HDB’s journey has started for a long time, well before our independence, after we became a self-governing nation. If you remember the history then, housing shortages were a very serious problem in Singapore. People were living in squatters and slums, and there was a very urgent need for housing, particularly motivated also by the Bukit Ho Swee fire at that time. 

HDB had a very strong can-do, never-say-die attitude in solving this very serious and chronic problem. It was an attitude and spirit epitomised by the first HDB Chairman, Mr Lim Kim San – who was not daunted by the challenges and set up a HDB team to solve the problems in a step-by-step manner. 

That same spirit in HDB continues today. Over the last three years, from 2013 to 2015, HDB completed nearly 68,000 flats. Over the next four years, from 2016 to 2019, HDB expects to complete another 88,000 flats. Altogether, HDB would have completed 156,000 new flats in seven years. This is equivalent to six Clementi towns. I think it’s an amazing undertaking, and it’s all due to the hard work of our HDB officers and all of you here, working together with them. 

HDB is not just pushing out numbers and quantity, but it is also very focused on ensuring high-quality. The construction quality of HDB’s projects, like all other building projects in Singapore, is measured objectively and independently using the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS). Over the past decade, the average CONQUAS score for HDB’s public housing projects has been going up steadily, from 80.7 (100 is the best) in 2005 to 88.8 in 2015. In fact, the 88.8 score is higher than the national average score (of 88.5) last year. HDB is already doing way better, despite the scale. There is no single private developer that is doing projects of the same scale as HDB but despite the national scale of HDB’s projects, because of all of you working together with HDB, HDB is able to maintain a CONQUAS score in construction that is higher than the national average. I think it is really quite an achievement. I would like to recognize and acknowledge the work of all our contractors and builders who have been working with HDB on this because it’s through all your efforts and contributions that HDB is able to maintain such quality. 

In particular, I would like to congratulate this year’s 12 winners of the HDB Construction Awards for helping us uphold our commitment to build quality homes for Singaporeans. Amongst these 12 winners, I would like to particularly commend those who have been delivering excellent CONQUAS scores of above 90. They are China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co Pte Ltd, Kienta Engineering Construction Pte Ltd, and Teambuild Engineering & Construction Co Pte Ltd. Hopefully, this will motivate and inspire even more builders and contractors to set high targets for themselves. If all our HDB contractors are able to achieve 90 and above, HDB will certainly get the score of not just 88.8, but even better, and it can push the national average score up as well. 

Over the years, HDB has also gone beyond just constructing and building flats, to designing beautiful housing estates with lush greenery and lots of amenities and facilities for people to enjoy. All of us who have grown up in HDB estates from the 70s and 80s would be able to tell that today’s HDB estates are very different from the estates of old. I see the difference for myself, when I think back about what Marine Parade was like when I was growing up in the 70s – a very basic HDB flat, not a lot of amenities around, certainly no covered or sheltered walkway; maybe a playground for some of you and a ‘mamak’ store downstairs. Carparks were all open air carparks and not multi-storey carparks. Today if you go to a new estate like Punggol, you can see how different it is and how beautiful the new estates are. 

Again this work is only possible with the commitment and support of all our partners, in this case, our architects and designers. 

I would like to congratulate all 11 HDB Design Award winners tonight for your outstanding designs. Whether it is the unique terrace façade of Waterway Terraces I & II, or the sky gardens of SkyVille @ Dawson, and many other beautiful designs, these features give each HDB estate its distinctive identity, and create welcoming spaces for residents. These beautiful estates showcase HDB’s new generation of public housing, where both design and functionality come together to create a highly liveable environment. Thank you to all our architects and designers. 

Tokens of Appreciation: Working Together for ROH 1

Even as we build new HDB towns, we are also continuing to improve our existing towns. For example, we introduced the Remaking Our Heartland programme, or ROH for short, in 2007 to upgrade and rejuvenate some of our older estates. 

Dawson, Punggol and Yishun were the first towns to undergo a comprehensive makeover under ROH. Many of the plans to remake and transform these towns have already been realised and you can see the older estates getting a new lease of life. In Dawson for example, we have the Skyville@Dawson and SkyTerrace@Dawson projects. In Punggol, residents can already start to experience a very beautiful waterfront living experience, with a vibrant Town Centre. In Yishun, a mixed development in the Town Centre is on track to be completed by 2020. It will comprise a shopping complex, private housing, air-conditioned bus interchange, community club and town plaza. These are some of the ROH projects and there are others as well, including our Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and neighbourhood upgrading projects – these are all the upgrading projects/programme we do to rejuvenate older estates and many of you are involved. 

I also want to acknowledge government agencies that are involved in these upgrading programmes. There are many of them: URA, LTA, PUB, NParks and NHB. We thank all of you who have embarked on this journey together with HDB to rejuvenate our older housing estates and to give them new leases of life. 

Unveiling the Masterplan for Tengah : A Distinctive ‘Forest Town’ 

Next, I would like to mention some of the new plans that we have. Earlier, I announced that HDB will develop a new town in Tengah. This will be our 24th HDB town. It will incorporate many new ground-breaking ideas and planning concepts; so Tengah will have many ‘firsts’. I will explain to you 3 ‘firsts’ which we have in mind for Tengah. 

Tengah will be our first “Forest Town”. Tengah is located in an area with lush natural greenery and rich biodiversity. So as we build this new town, we will integrate the development with its surrounding ecosystems, and retain much of the existing natural landscape. So residents in Tengah will be able to experience the feeling of being “at home with nature”. One major feature will be a forest corridor – a green corridor 5km long and 100m in width. It will cut across the town and link Tengah Town with the Western Catchment Area and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Tengah Town will be truly integrated with our nature reserves through the forest corridor. There will be hiking trails and recreational spaces for residents to get close to nature. Besides the integration with the nature reserves, Tengah will also have its own Central Park. The park is about 20 hectares in size located in the middle of the of the town, complemented with ponds, canals, and promenades for recreational activities. New spaces for community gardening and urban farming will also be introduced in the neighbourhood. 

Tengah will be our first HDB town with a car-free Town Centre. If you are planning to drive into the Town Centre, you may have to change some of your habits. The Town Centre will be designed amidst a park. Instead of having cars coming into the Town Centre, we are designing the Town Centre with people in mind. Vehicles will ply underneath the town centre instead. This will make it friendlier for people and community activities. All the roads in Tengah will be designed with dedicated walking and cycling paths. There will be seamless connections for pedestrians and cyclists, and the whole of Tengah – as we design it this way, will become a town that will support our car-lite vision, our vision of a greener Singapore, a more people-friendly Singapore and people-friendly city. So with this new town, we have a chance to design something from ground-up – that will be people-friendly and car-lite. 

Tengah will be the first town for Smart Living in Singapore. We talk about Singapore becoming a smart city and smart nation. With IT and sensors, we have already started to introduce many of these smart features as pilots across different estates. For example, we have pilots in Yuhua and Punggol Northshore, where we use sensors to better manage utilities, or help households monitor their elderly parents or relatives who are alone at home. So these smart technologies are already in place, but in an ad-hoc fashion across different pilots and areas. Having gained experience with these pilots, we are now ready to do a larger scale roll-out town-wide. So Tengah will be our first Smart Living town, where all these technologies will be introduced on a town-wide scale, and residents can benefit from more efficient services, smarter services and greater convenience. 

With these features, we can make Tengah at the cutting edge of HDB development, and we will make it a very attractive place. We will develop Tengah Town progressively, starting with the first batch of flats in 2018. For those of you in the market or with children thinking about this, it is a very attractive place to consider. When fully developed, Tengah has the potential to provide about 42,000 residential units. Of these, about 30,000 units will be public housing and 12,000 private housing. 

Tengah will help to transform the entire western region of Singapore. Tengah is next to the new Jurong Innovation District – that’s our next generation industrial park which JTC is developing. It is an industrial park of the future to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and new industrial activities. It is not like the existing industrial parks but it will be a new industrial park very much supporting IT, innovation type of activities. That’s just next to Tengah. 

Near Tengah, is the Jurong Lake District. As many of you know, Jurong Lake District will be our second CBD. It is already a very vibrant area with commercial and residential activities but we are making it even better – revamping the Jurong Lake Gardens and the land where Jurong Country Club is - the HSR terminus will be located there. So Tengah Town will be a focal point, provides a chance for us to transform the entire western region, and will be a wonderful place to live, work and play. 

HDB will be exhibiting its plans for Tengah Forest Town at the HDB Hub starting from tomorrow. I hope all of you will take this opportunity to visit the exhibition and share with us your feedback on the plans. That’s what the exhibition is about – to showcase some of our ideas for Tengah Town, and to get feedback and suggestions from all of you to fine-tune and improve on the plans before we roll them out. 


We’ve come a long way in our housing journey. Today HDB living is part of the shared experience of the vast majority of Singaporeans. Nearly everyone will have had the chance to stay in a HDB flat and know what HDB living is about. 

We have achieved a lot, but there’s still much more that can be done. HDB’s job is not over, and will never be over. HDB must continue, even in the future, to build affordable and high-quality homes. HDB must cater to the evolving needs of society, especially with changing demographics, with an ageing society and rising expectations. HDB must continue to provide a conducive living environment where Singaporeans from different ethnicities and backgrounds can come together and enlarge our common space, where we can build our shared experiences and memories and forge cohesive communities together. These are things that HDB must continue to do even in the future. 

In some ways these are bigger challenges than the ones HDB tackled when it first started its journey 56 years ago. But I’m confident that with the same can-do spirit of our pioneers, and with the partnership of all our stakeholders here, we can move forward and make progress. Let us work together to provide better homes for our people; and make Singapore a better home for all. 

On that note, thank you very much and congratulations to all award winners.