More funding for ground-up projects to liven up HDB neighbourhood spaces

The new Yishun Town Square is the third new-generation town plaza in Singapore, after two others in Bedok and Punggol. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - From a brick art corner at Taman Jurong with lego-inspired furniture to a sky garden in Punggol for residents to learn how to grow food, people have been coming up with creative ideas to liven up common areas in Housing Board estates to encourage bonding.

Now residents have more reasons to put their heads together with HDB offering more money for projects in public housing estates.

Those with projects in mind can apply for a grant of up to $20,000, up from the current $10,000, as part of the HDB Friendly Faces, Lively Places fund which was launched in 2016.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who made the announcement on Saturday (May 19) at the start of HDB's Community Week, said: "With more funding, I hope residents can plan larger-scale and more impactful community projects."

Speaking at the newly opened Yishun Town Square on Saturday, he said that the fund will also be extended to HDB Merchants Associations to "enliven HDB spaces near their businesses".

Giving an update, he said that the fund has approved 50 applications for ground-up projects islandwide. They include converting an under-utilised grass patch in Aljunied to a play and gardening yard.

So far, 38 projects have been completed, reaching out to some 8,600 residents in different housing estates.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong attends the opening of Yishun Town Square on May 19, 2018. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

About $120,000 has been given out or set aside for the approved projects. Residents themselves have contributed more than $177,000 worth of resources including hours spent volunteering, professional services, equipment and supplies.

Taman Jurong resident Lee Aik Lam has been conducting lego art workshops for children and parents at Block 336 Tah Ching Road, a flexible workshop space that was completed in March.

The 56-year-old, who conducts lego robotics lessons in schools, received more than $9,000 in funding from HDB for his project, which has drawn 10 parent volunteers and 200 participants.

More than 100 lego art pieces are on display in colourful cabinets at the space.

"I want to inspire kids to imagine and create," he said, adding that the workshops have also led to friendships between families in the housing estates.

Minister Wong said: "Ultimately, the key ingredient is the residents, the people who live in the community. All of you play a crucial role in enlivening the common spaces, and forging that community spirit in our estates."

He added that close-knit communities "do not happen by chance".

"We have made it happen through deliberate planning and design," he said, adding that shared spaces like civic plazas, void decks and playgrounds are where residents meet each other, mingle and get to know each other better.

Yishun itself is a good example of how the kampung spirit can be built in a HDB town, said Mr Wong.

In the last decade, the estate been transformed into a town with new amenities, which includes the Yishun Pond Park and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The sprucing up is part of HDB's Remaking Our Heartland programme, said Mr Wong.

The new Yishun Town Square is the third new-generation town plaza in Singapore, after two others in Bedok and Punggol. Located in the heart of the town centre, these plazas make it easier for residents to visit nearby shops, gather and take part in activities.

Next year, Yishun residents will also have an integrated transport hub, with an air-conditioned bus interchange linked to Yishun MRT station via an underpass.

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