Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Launch of HDB Community Week 2018

May 19, 2018 21:00

Today marks the start of this year’s HDB Community Week, and I am very happy to join all of you in the launch.

The Community Week is an important event in our annual calendar. HDB’s mission is not just to build flats and hardware, but also to provide Singaporeans with an endearing home, a conducive environment for everyone – for couples to raise their children, for families to grow up together, for neighbours to interact with one another and for all of us to form strong community bonds.

Many of us growing up in HDB flats would have experienced this special quality of HDB living. It is this shared experience that binds us as a community and creates a sense of belonging to our home.

But all these did not happen by chance. We have made it happen through deliberate planning and design. In all our HDB towns, you will find a host of shared spaces and facilities, including void decks, pavilions, green spaces and playgrounds. These are places where residents can meet their neighbours, they can mingle, socialize with one another and get to know each other. We take this work very seriously. That is why HDB regularly interviews residents, to get their feedback about HDB living, from the amenities in their estates, to the design of their flats, and the usage of community spaces. The feedback that we gather on a regular basis enables HDB to improve their design and the planning of new facilities in HDB towns.

Besides good design, HDB also has a range of programmes to encourage community bonding and ground-up initiatives. HDB works closely with the People’s Association and other community partners in order to do these sort of programming at the community level. But whatever the activities that are organised, the key ingredient is still the residents, the people who live in the community. All of you play a crucial role in enlivening the common spaces, and forging that community spirit in our estates.

That’s why we started the Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund in 2016. The idea was that we will provide support to residents to promote more ground-up activities. We want to support residents in implementing these projects for their community. The fund has so far been well-received. We have approved some 50 projects, benefitting residents island-wide. Some of the projects involve physical works like converting a grass patch to a play and gardening yard, while others include handicraft and gardening workshops.

All of these initiatives are created by the community, for the community, and we will do more to support residents in initiating these ground-up projects.

So today, I am very happy to announce that we will double the funding cap for the Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund. The funding cap today is $10,000. So we will double it to $20,000. With more funding, I hope residents can plan larger-scale and more impactful community projects. We will also extend the fund beyond residents, to Merchants’ Associations within our HDB heartlands, so they too can make use of this resource to enliven HDB spaces near their businesses. So these are the support that HDB will provide, and we hope that residents, merchants and businesses will make full use of the fund, organize more activities and continue making our HDB estates a very special place for every Singaporean. 

Yishun itself is a good example of how we can work together to build strong kampong spirit in a HDB town. Yishun started as a gambier and pineapple plantation. The first HDB flats were developed in the 1980s at Chong Pang. Since then, Yishun has transformed into a vibrant town with many new amenities. We did the Remaking Our Heartland programme for Yishun some years back, and we are starting to see the amenities taking shape. So the town has been spruced up.

Today, you have a Yishun Pond Park which has an iconic three-storey lookout tower, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the town centre. Just next to the park is the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and the new Yishun Integrated Transport Hub will be opened next year. So residents will have an air-conditioned bus interchange, with an underpass linking to Yishun MRT station. So the connectivity of the town will also be improved.

Now we are making all this even better with the new Yishun Town Square, which is where we are today. This is the third of our new generation town plazas. So we have been rolling out these new generation town plazas. They are literally a super void deck, big open space where everyone can gather. We started in Bedok Town Square, we then rolled it out in Punggol, so Yishun is the third one to have a new generation town plaza. We locate these plazas at the heart of the town centres, so it is convenient for residents to come together, and get to know each other through events and activities. This Yishun Town Square is integrated with the new Northpoint City and the nearby shops at Yishun Town Centre, so residents will also find it more convenient to visit the shops, and more importantly, to mingle and take part in activities at the town square.

Besides providing the facility, HDB has also formed a Town Plaza Activation Team, with partners from the local community and also from the grassroots organisations. So the Town Plaza Activation Team will look at organising and putting together events and activities that can be held here to bring residents together, so that more friendships can be forged. In fact, the team has already started to get feedback from residents on the type of activities that they would like to see here. So the feedback has indicated that sports and fitness activities, as well as children-friendly activities are ranked very high on the wish list. I am sure the team will be following up to prioritise these activities. With your feedback, the activation team will work with residents to plan and organise the activities and make this town square attractive and useful for all Yishun residents.

Finally, to celebrate the development of Yishun, we have installed 11 heritage markers that mark the town’s milestones. These milestones include Singapore’s first naval base, the opening of the Yishun MRT station and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and now, the opening of this town square. So the markers are important heritage markers to help Yishun residents remember the history of the town and what the town has been through, and I’m sure Yishun residents will enjoy even more milestones as the town grows together with its community.

Finally, I encourage all of you to explore the town square and the exhibits that have been put up for you to enjoy. You can also find out more about HDB’s community-building activities, and how you can become more involved in shaping the community here in Yishun.

I hope you will be inspired to take part in the activities happening here in your backyard, or better still, start your very own community projects and help shape your HDB heartlands together and make it even better for all of us.

Thank you very much and have a good weekend.