Thanks to careful urban planning, Singapore's housing estates have long mixed public and private homes, with residents of condominiums and landed property sharing town centres and amenities with those who live in HDB flats. Social mixing has not been left to chance, either. Organised groups of residents have been active on the ground in HDB estates for the past 40 years, running activities to encourage neighbourliness, guard against crime, and deal with public health issues, among others. Known as residents' committees or RCs, they also serve as a bridge between residents and the Government by collecting and passing feedback on the ground to official agencies for follow-up action. The equivalent in private estates are the neighbourhood committees or NCs, which have been around for 20 years.
These grassroots groups, as ubiquitous as hawker centres, are now being merged as one of several efforts to avert the entrenching of class divisions in society. The idea to erase the longstanding distinction between RCs and NCs came from grassroots leaders themselves. The merged entities, to be called Residents' Networks, will encourage residents from public and private estates to mix more freely and participate in community activities together, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said when he announced the change.