Pioneers who convinced people to resettle from slums to flats hailed as HDB turns 55

Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lim Kim San in 1963 viewing models of the upcoming Cantonment Road housing estate. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday lauded HDB pioneers, such as Mr Lim, for laying the foundation for publ
Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Lim Kim San in 1963 viewing models of the upcoming Cantonment Road housing estate. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday lauded HDB pioneers, such as Mr Lim, for laying the foundation for public housing. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - While paying tribute to the Housing Board (HDB) on the eve of its 55th birthday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday noted that its early years were "exceptionally challenging" and thanked the board's pioneers for laying a strong foundation.

"While resettlement from slums to modern HDB now seems obviously positive, convincing the people then to move into high-rise flats was an arduous task," Mr Khaw wrote in a blog post, referring to how HDB had to resettle squatters from slums into flats after it was formed on Feb 1, 1960.

Acknowledging the the work of pioneers like HDB's first chairman, Mr Lim Kin San, and Mr James Bong, a resettlement officer previously with the Singapore Improvement Trust, he wrote: "They laid the solid foundation, from which we can now move public housing to even greater heights."

He noted how officers like Mr Bong faced strong resistance from the squatters: "Tremendous patience and a human touch were needed. Mr Bong did just that!"

Pointing to the transformation of HDB towns over the past 55 years, Mr Khaw said of the board's pioneers: "I think we have not disappointed them and I hope to continue to build upon their vision, to achieve greater success."