Public facilities should be adapted to provide different services that meet the community's changing needs, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
She highlighted the need to tailor the facilities in a town to its changing profile over time during a ministerial community visit to Punggol West yesterday, where she launched a temporary container library.
The estate has five Residents' Committee (RC) corners, which also provide childcare services and serve as study corners for children.
Ms Fu said this was a good example of how public facilities could be used to provide social services for families in the interim, while waiting for more permanent facilities.
"Punggol West is a very young and youthful town... and because it's young, there are a lot of services required by the families and I can see that there are provisions being done," said Ms Fu.
She cited the temporary library, located at an open field in Punggol Walk, as another example of meeting residents' needs before permanent facilities are ready. The library has more than 3,000 books, mostly for children.
Residents had made repeated requests for such a facility, as the Punggol public library will be ready only in 2020.
Asked whether such interim facilities could be a way to cope with demand for services in future new towns, Ms Fu said: "Increasingly, we need to think about a formula like this, because a town changes... every decade, the needs (of the community) change. So how do we turn around the facilities so they can be adapted to meet the needs of the residents of that time?"
For example, RC corners in the estate could be used as childcare centres now, converted to study corners as children in the estate grow up, and then eventually be adapted to serve the needs of elderly residents, she said.
For Punggol West residents such as Ms Theresa Mak, 33, the new library means her children can now borrow new books every week.
Made up of two containers painted bright blue and green, the library contains books from authors like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Some books are from the National Library Board, while others are donated.
"We have some books at home, but nothing beats a library," said Ms Mak, a public servant who has a daughter and a son, aged four and one respectively.
Ms Sun Xueling, the MP for the ward, said: "We wish to inculcate good reading habits among our children, so that is why we decided to set this up, to meet the interim needs of our residents."
The launch of the library yesterday was also attended by Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MPs - Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck and Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary.
Yesterday, Ms Sun also addressed concerns about lifts malfunctioning in the estate. She said the breakdowns were likely caused by renovation contractors who cause lift machinery to get clogged with debris.
"We have hired cleaning contractors to do very specialised cleaning, so it's not just about surface wiping but we also use vacuums to go deep between the doors and tracks to get at dirt, sand and silt," she said.
Town council officers have also been patrolling new blocks to monitor renovation contractors, and she said she was in talks with lift manufacturers to understand technical reasons behind the breakdowns.