Housing Minister Khaw Boon Wan assured Singaporeans in Parliament yesterday that the country has enough land for the development of 500,000 more HDB flats – more than double needed to house the White Paper’s projected 5.9 million population.
“This is the ‘kiasu’ approach, to give us plenty of buffer,” said Khaw.
“We may not need to build as many units as projected but we can take comfort from our planners’ assurance that we can build new homes for all Singaporeans and keep housing affordable.”
He said that the government was working to tame high HDB resale prices and believe that current cooling measures will soon make an impact – if not, more would be done.
“In short, young Singaporeans, please don’t worry. There will be enough flats for everyone, and you won’t have to wait too long.”
Khaw added that HDB would continue to launch more BTOs and ECs as long as there continued to be demand, with new areas at Punggol, Tampines North and Bidadari available for new public housing.
Taking a shot at WPs anti-migrant policy suggestion during Tuesday’s Parliament session, Khaw said that he was “shocked” by their recommendation that Singapore freeze its foreign worker population for the next eight years.
“I do need more construction workers, more than are currently available,” said Khaw.
“That (WP policy) will throw a spanner into my plans, and I will not be able to deliver new buildings for 2,000 new families. Please rethink your proposal.”
Warns of 'dire consequences' if Paper recommendations are ignored
Going straight into ongoing debate over the Population Paper, Khaw bluntly admitted that the policy would be unpopular with frustrated Singaporeans, but warned of the dire consequences of not supporting it.
"Our Singapore population is ageing rapidly and our labour force will soon shrink. If nothing is done, there will be less job opportunities for our young and not enough healthcare workers to care for our old. That is the crisis that will confront us in the next 10 to 15 years," he said.
"If we sweep the problem under the carpet and wish it away, it will not. It will only become more serious and may become insoluble."
Khaw also spoke about quality of life, saying that despite having no mountains or lakes, Singaporeans are still able to enjoy lush greenery, clean air and blue skies – as well as stay in flats ‘superior to most apartments in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York’.
“By most measures Singapore is more liveable than other nations. Our policies have always focused on good planning to ensure livability. With better resources and experiences we can do even better than we do today to ensure Singapore remains this way.”
Khaw also sought to disprove notions that Singaporean’s quality of life would diminish with a higher population density, saying that HDB would work to ‘improve the estate layout, common spaces, air flow, landscape, greenery and connectivity between spaces’.
These layouts, he said, would promote greater community interaction.
He acknowledged that current infrastructure restrictions and overcrowding has been ‘painful’ for Singaporeans, but said that if current challenges were not dealt with properly, future generations would suffer.
“We cannot simply pretend (the challenges) don’t exist. We cannot simply pass them to future generations. This government is and always will be on the side of Singaporeans. The scenarios sketched in the White Paper are no blindly pro-business, or blindly pro-growth. People first – not growth first.”
Reported with Jeanette Tan at Parliament
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