Govt mulling over bringing HDB living to heart of city: Lawrence Wong

HDB flats in Bishan.
HDB flats in Bishan. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

SINGAPORE - The possibility of bringing HDB living right to the heart of the city, such as in the Greater Southern Waterfront project when it is developed, is something the Government is mulling over, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong revealed on Thursday (Aug 11).

But a key concern is how to ensure equity, as getting such a flat - which will be heavily subsidised and will have a high value on the open market - will ultimately boil down to chance, he said.

He was speaking at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at the National University of Singapore, and responding to a question from an undergraduate about preventing stratification in society.

Mr Wong said: "Somebody who gets it by the luck of the ballot eventually ends up with a significant windfall gain, making it unfair for the person who doesn't get the flat in the city centre, which will be highly sought after.".

The PSA Pasir Panjang container terminal as seen from Vivo City. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Greater Southern Waterfront, a development three times the size of Marina Bay, will be built on land freed up when the ports in Pasir Panjang and Tanjong Pagar are relocated to Tuas by 2027.

Mr Wong suggested that one way of getting around the problem is for the Housing Board to impose different requirements and lease periods for such flats.

But he said there was no good solution yet and the Government is thinking through different options.

During a question-and-answer session that overran its allocated time of one hour, he gamely fielded a wide variety of questions.

Another undergraduate raised concerns that polarising issues, such as homosexuality, would undermine national unity.

Mr Wong said there was a need "to understand that if one side pushes too hard, the other side will push back and sometimes when we do that, it becomes more divisive (and) counterproductive". He added that attitudes on sexuality "will evolve, as they have in all countries".

Students also asked what more can be done to foster the spirit of enterprise, with some suggesting that schools should help develop entrepreneurship and critical thinking.

Mr Wong, pointing to how the Government is providing more pathways such as in technical learning, said this will hopefully bring about a mindset change on the definition of success and encourage more risk-taking.

He also addressed the topic of rising costs of living. On the recent increase to carpark charges, he said they were necessary so as not to pass on the increased maintenance costs to taxpayers in general.

He said public spending had to remain low if the country wanted to keep taxes low and not incur budget deficits. "We have an important cultural mindset, which is that today's generation is prepared to make some sacrifices so that the future generations can have a better life... I hope we continue to preserve this," he said.