SINGAPORE - More than 400 rental households have moved out of two blocks in Toa Payoh as part of broader plans to redevelop older estates to provide new homes and amenities.
The relocation exercise for the 414 rental households in blocks 29 and 31 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh started in 2021 and took two years, with the last tenant moving out in May 2023, said the Housing Board on Sunday.
About half of the households opted to move to rental flats within Toa Payoh, while 22 per cent shifted to new rental flats in nearby Bidadari – a new public housing estate with 12 Build-To-Order projects.
Another 20 per cent moved to rental flats in other towns, while the remaining households either bought a flat or no longer required a rental flat from HDB, the board said.
The site of the two Toa Payoh rental blocks is zoned for residential use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s masterplan.
It has a gross plot ratio of 4, which allows for buildings much taller than the existing 11-storey blocks. In the same site, four 36-storey HDB blocks that were completed in 2018 sit next to the two blocks.
The two blocks – located behind the iconic dragon playground – are being demolished.
Retired taxi driver Ang Tiau Hong, 84, opted to move into a two-room rental flat in Bidadari with his wife instead of remaining in Toa Payoh as they wanted a newer flat that would require less maintenance.
“I like living in Toa Payoh, but the flats are very old, everything is yellowing and needs to be repaired. In Bidadari, the toilet pipes and electrical wires are all new,” said Mr Ang, who is now paying $50 a month in rent, up from $44 when he was living in Toa Payoh.
“The only thing is food at the nearby shopping mall is too expensive, so I prefer to take one of the three buses to Toa Payoh to have my meals,” he added.
HDB said tenants were given $2,500 in rehousing allowance to help defray the cost of moving. Tenants who relocated to towns farther away were given an additional $2,500 in rental credits.
Those who were ready to buy their first flats received a $15,000 relocation grant on top of other housing grants they were eligible for, said HDB.
Tenants were first informed of the relocation exercise in July 2021 by HDB officers who went door to door to explain their rehousing options and benefits.
Mr Gary Woo, senior estate manager at HDB’s rental housing department, said the large-scale relocation project required close coordination among several public and social service agencies.
“Many seniors lived in the two blocks, so naturally there were some concerns and anxieties,” he said.
“Along with our partners on the ground, we all worked towards the same goal of ensuring as seamless a journey as possible for the tenants and no one is left behind.”
Retired regional director Ang Hock Pho was among 13 volunteers from the Singapore University of Social Sciences Gerontology Student and Alumni Community who helped 50 to 60 vulnerable seniors in their relocation process, including the collection of keys and inspection of their new place.
“For seniors, moving homes is already stressful. If they see the flat they’re moving into is in a lousy condition, they’ll be even more stressed.
“We also turned on the utilities, fixed up the lights and coordinated the moving of their belongings for them,” said the 59-year-old, who had already been delivering weekly bento sets to the two rental blocks before the relocation notice.
“We started with a goal to help vulnerable seniors move with ease. Along the way, we worked out best practices for future relocation exercises as there are bound to be more in land-scarce Singapore,” said Mr Ang.