Image: The Business Times
After more than 40 years, the curtain fell on the Housing and Urban Development Company scheme with the privatisation of the last HUDC estate yesterday.
Braddell View, comprising 918 flats and two shops, is the largest of the 18 HUDC estates and the last to be privatised, a Housing Board statement said. All 7,731 HUDC units have now been converted into private housing since the Government first moved to privatise such estates in 1995. This was done to meet the rising aspirations of Singaporeans to own private homes and give greater control over management and maintenance to the owners.
In their day, HUDC units were larger, better built, had fancier designs and were more expensive than their HDB counterparts. Some, at 158 sq m, were the biggest public housing flats ever built. Today, HUDC's role has been largely superseded by other housing types such as the Design, Build and Sell Scheme and executive condominiums which also cater for the "sandwiched" class, said property experts.
Said Mr Colin Tan, director of research and consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants: "HUDC was a good scheme for people who could not afford private property but wanted something better (than public housing)." The supply of private housing was limited then, so many picked the HUDC option, said Mr Tan. But as the years passed, dwindling demand and the larger number of housing choices meant the scheme ended in 1987.
When Braddell View obtained the required 75 per cent majority support from flat owners to proceed with privatisation in 2014, then Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan wrote: "Symbolically, the designation marks the end of the HUDC era."
With the general trend of smaller flats being launched, property experts remarked that a scheme like HUDC could still work today. Said International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong: "If the Government were to now create a new class of bigger and higher quality housing like HUDC, it would be popular among upgraders and those with large families."
Meanwhile, Braddell View residents were elated to hear the news of the privatisation, a hard-fought process that spanned 18 years. The estate will now be managed by its Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST), and its existing management committee assumes the role of its council. Mr Alex Teo, Braddell View's new MCST chairman, told The Straits Times yesterday: "We are still just digesting the news after we received word at about 5pm. Everyone is so happy, and there might be celebrations."
Compared to the other 17 estates, the privatisation process took a longer time for Braddell View due to its unique characteristics - it sat on two parcels of land with different leases that expire two years, two months and 27 days apart. One lease will expire in 2077, and the other in 2080. The next step would be to meet residents to discuss whether to proceed with a collective sale or not, which might be tricky. At 106,120 sq m, the size of the estate would need an ambitious developer to bite. Said Mr Teo, who is in his 70s: "That is our next big battle. For now, we need to study (our next steps) carefully."
Adapted from The Straits Times.