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Why It Matters

Faith hubs can benefit groups

Soon, religious hubs housing Christian, Buddhist or Taoist faith groups could dot the island.

Last Tuesday, the Ministry of National Development (MND) approved the idea of high-rise multi-user faith hubs for the first time, following feedback from these religious organisations.

Under this new arrangement, a master lessee which will develop as well as rent or lease out the space will run the hub.

The MND previously said the hubs are likely to be within or on the fringe of industrial areas, and that religious groups will share facilities such as carparks and classrooms.

While the details have yet to be worked out, the model could ease the space crunch that has been felt acutely for decades by smaller, resource-poor religious groups.

While the Government has periodically released land parcels for places of worship, many small groups cannot afford them.

For the faith hub concept to be successful, several conditions need to be met.

For one thing, the land must be priced affordably. Religious leaders believe that the plots should not be tendered out at commercial rates since the buyers are non-profit entities.

They also emphasised the need to increase the land tenure, land size and plot ratio to ensure the endeavour is a viable one.

Property experts have suggested an open auction system instead of the current closed envelope tender process to increase transparency and reduce expenses.

The MND has said that it is using data gleaned from its Request For Information exercise which took place between December 2014 and February last year, to "refine the planning parameters for the new type of development".

This includes the land-bidding process, as well as the total gross floor area and number of levels allowed.

If the right conditions are met, the multi-user faith hub concept could take off in land-scarce Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Faith hubs can benefit groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe