Toh Yi welcomes new senior residents

Ms Sim Ann (fourth from left) at the community event to welcome the new residents of the Golden Kismis studio apartments for seniors (above). Some 116 households have moved into the 132-unit block.
Ms Sim Ann (fourth from left) at the community event to welcome the new residents of the Golden Kismis studio apartments for seniors. Some 116 households have moved into the 132-unit block.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG
Ms Sim Ann (fourth from left) at the community event to welcome the new residents of the Golden Kismis studio apartments for seniors (above). Some 116 households have moved into the 132-unit block.
The Golden Kismis studio apartments for seniors. Some 116 households have moved into the 132-unit block.ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG

Tensions ease after concerns about having studio flats for the elderly in the estate are addressed

More than 200 Toh Yi residents signed a petition four years ago to protest against the construction of a block of studio apartments for the elderly in their estate.

But tensions over Block 21, Golden Kismis look to have eased. The project was finished a year ago, and 116 households have moved into the 132-unit block.

A community event was organised yesterday to welcome new senior residents of the nearly 30-year-old estate in Bukit Timah.

Ms Sim Ann, an MP for Holland- Bukit Timah GRC who oversees Toh Yi, told The Sunday Times: "Through repeated house visits to garner views and explaining to residents what the studio apartment project is about, the heated sentiments have calmed down."

When plans for Golden Kismis were announced in January 2012, residents submitted a petition with some 230 signatures a month later to Ms Sim, opposing the development sited at the junction of Toh Yi Drive and Toh Yi Road.

BENEFITING THE COMMUNITY

Everybody grows old sooner or later. One day, we will also be looking for a smaller flat.

HOUSEWIFE NG CHENG HOON, 49, on the new studio flats in the neighbourhood.

There are more than 1,700 households in the Toh Yi Garden estate.

Their main concern? The location of the block of flats, which is on a slope and would be a steep climb for the elderly. Some also grumbled about the loss of the estate's main recreational site comprising a basketball court, jogging track and community garden.

Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry, said the concerns have been addressed.

Along the footpath from the main road at Jalan Jurong Kechil to Golden Kismis, three sheltered resting points have been built by the Housing Board, she said.

As part of the estate's Neighbourhood Renewal Programme implemented by the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council, covered linkways and barrier-free access to nearby facilities were added.

The HDB was asked to provide 50 more carpark spaces to the 16 originally planned for the block. A basketball half-court was also built at the community centre nearby, said Ms Sim.She worked with the Ministry of National Development to give Toh Yi residents priority in applying for the two-room flats.

"Residents know that the studio apartments and the amenities are for all Toh Yi residents ," she said.

According to the HDB, about one in 10 Golden Kismis occupants are former Toh Yi residents.

Asked about the saga, housewife Ng Cheng Hoon, 49, who lives in a nearby block, said she had no issue with the project.

"Everybody grows old sooner or later. One day, we will also be looking for a smaller flat."

But some residents remain unconvinced. Mr Davy Nah, 45, a regional sales manager who signed the petition in 2012, said: "I still don't think it's the right location. Can you imagine an elderly person carrying groceries, toiling to climb up the slope? The rest stops are just a stopgap."

He said residents who opposed the project had been misrepresented as "selfish" and representative of the "not in my backyard" syndrome, when their aim was to persuade the Government to give the elderly better housing choices.

"It's a thorn in my heart till today," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 11, 2016, with the headline 'Toh Yi welcomes new senior residents'. Print Edition | Subscribe