A different Paya Lebar, with air base gone

SINGAPORE - The look of Paya Lebar may be very different in time to come.

The relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base from 2030 will free up 800ha of land - bigger than Bishan or Ang Mo Kio. Current height restrictions in the eastern swathe of Singapore to ensure navigational safety for aircraft will be relaxed, meaning that current low-rise buildings may be redeveloped.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced this plan during his National Day Rally speech in 2013. He said that the land will be used to "build new homes, new offices, new factories, new parks, new living environments and new communities".

But shifting out the air base may not directly lead to a boom in property prices in the area, according to property experts.

On Tuesday (July 18), the Ministry of National Development, National Environment Agency and Singapore Land Authority announced that Tengah Air Base will be expanded to free up Paya Lebar Air Base for future developments.

On whether this heralds a property price boom in Paya Lebar, SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak said that there are many factors to be considered, such as the timing of the move and the market conditions at the point in time .

He said: "It really depends on when the relocation will be and the market conditions at that point in time. For instance, a recession might mean fewer people would be purchasing houses and hence property prices will not shift much."

Mr Mak said that if the land is being redeveloped for residential purposes, it might lead to an increase in supply of houses, and this would "put a cap on property prices".

Even if there is any price increase, it will only "rise at a moderate pace".

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said that the freeing up of Paya Lebar Air Base is significant as current height restrictions will be relaxed.

He said that there will be "greater room for development of a higher density neighbourhood" in the area. Existing flats in the area, for example, will have the potential to be redeveloped and built higher.

Mr Ku said that it is too early to speculate how the landscape of Paya Lebar will change, as there are other existing towns that have yet to reach its full potential, citing Jurong West as an example.

The lack of basic utilities in the land currently occupied by Paya Lebar Air Base, such as sewage, gas and telecommunications, is something that will take years to address, Mr Ku said.

After all, he said, the land has been used as an air base for decades, and the capacity for those utilities is lower.

"After the land has been returned to the authorities, it will take many years for basic infrastructure to be laid out first, before redevelopment can take place," Mr Ku said.

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