SINGAPORE - Estate upgrading projects must cater to residents' needs, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
She cited the neighbourhood renewal programme in the Woodlands ward of Sembawang GRC as a project that has done so.
Ms Fu, who visited the ward on Sunday (June 11), pointed to barrier-free access ramps being built in anticipation of an ageing population, and new facilities such as playgrounds and a basketball court.
She said those facilities met the needs of the estate's residents, who are relatively younger due to a higher proportion of children and teenagers.
"Ultimately that is the most important thing, how to make the living environment one that is relevant to the residents," she told reporters during a ministerial community visit.
The three neighbourhood renewal programmes in the ward cover about 60 housing blocks, and will benefit about 4,700 households.
About $16.2 million has been set aside for the projects, which include upgrading existing playgrounds and community spaces, and building new covered linkways and bicycle racks.
Two projects will be completed in September this year, and the third in March 2019.
During her visit on Sunday morning, Ms Fu attended two block parties and spoke to stallholders at the wet markets in Admiralty Place and Woodlands North Plaza.
She and Mr Amrin Amin, the MP for the area, joined residents for zumba at one block party.
Ms Fu said such activities are a way to turn neighbourhood facilities into "a very liveable and communal space" where people can bond through sports or exercise and get to know their neighbours better.
She said her ministry can help in terms of programming: "We want to see how to make the hardware work better for the people... we can make it more relevant to people here."
Mr Amrin said his grassroots team is "working very hard to improve the software", to bring residents together.
For instance, they hold open houses to celebrate festive occasions and distribute nasi briyani during Ramadan.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health also said his residents have given him feedback on various issues, from facilities to jobs and local problems like noise.
Activities like block parties which bring people together can help resolve conflicts, he noted.
"The demands will be moderated when people see each other as friends, and the give and take becomes much easier," he said.
Woodlands resident Ma Lazein Tun welcomed the new facilities at Fu Shan Garden like the basketball court, which her daughter, 14, and son, 12, use.
Said the 42-year-old, who has lived in the estate for seven years: "My daughter plays there more often than my son. She's the sportier one."