Marketing and communications manager Andrea Ang enjoys relaxing in the balcony of her five-room Housing Board (HDB) flat when she is stressed. After all, her home on the 21st floor in Crawford Lane overlooks the historic and colourful district of Kampong Glam.
The 35-year-old can also see the windows of her parents’ five-room HDB flat, just a street away in North Bridge Road.
“There’s a running joke in my family that my parents can wave a flag at their window when dinner is ready and we’ll just walk over,” said Ms Ang, who is an only child.
Five years ago, Ms Ang and her husband Gary Lim, 39, who works as a director of photography, had specifically searched for resale units within walking distance of her parents’ flat, where she grew up.
Now that she is working from home, the decision to live near her parents, who are in their 60s, has paid off, she said. She goes to their place an average of four times a week, sometimes for a meal and other times just to chat.
“This area feels very much like home to me. As much as it has seen me grow up, I have also witnessed the change and development in this neighbourhood. I cannot imagine living anywhere else,” she said.
For Ms Ang and many other Singaporeans, their homes have taken on added significance amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most have never spent as much time in their homes as they have in the past few months, in line with the authorities urging people to work from home where possible.
Ms Ang said that growing up, she never imagined the quaint neighbourhood of Kampong Glam, now a thriving arts and cultural district, would become as popular as it is today.
To live, work and play in the bustling cultural district where there is a blend of old and new is “pretty amazing”, she said.
“At the neighbourhood shops, everyone knows everyone because they’ve been there for ages. A few streets away, you also get the hipster cafes,” she added.
One of her fondest childhood memories is following her grandmother to the nearby wet market in North Bridge Road to buy groceries. These days, she still visits the same market.
“It has been upgraded over the years, but what’s nice is that the character of the place is still intact, and the same community still goes there,” she said.
The mix of old and new in the upcoming town of Bidadari is also what drew Mr Sathiyasivan Balakrishnan, a 31-year-old customer service officer, to apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat there almost five years ago.
He and his wife Durgashini Sathiyasivan, 28, a civil servant, are eagerly waiting to move into their three-room flat early next year. It is currently being renovated.
The couple now live with Mr Sathiyasivan’s mother in St George’s Road in Boon Keng, where he has been living since he was 19.
They had opted for the mature estate of Bidadari for their first home because they wanted to live in a central location with established amenities such as eateries.
“For festivals such as the Chinatown and Little India light-ups, or the Ramadan bazaar in Geylang Serai, we’ll be more likely to go because it’s just a short bus ride away,” said Mr Sathiyasivan.
“Potong Pasir, which is just opposite our future house, has an old-school charm to it which we like as well,” he added.
Stories such as Ms Ang’s and Mr Sathiyasivan’s have been among the fruits of HDB’s labour over the last six decades.
In 1960, amid a severe housing shortage, the HDB was established to build many flats quickly and cost-effectively. These early flats were simple and utilitarian, while the towns had basic facilities.
Since then, the HDB has continued to build homes to cater to Singaporeans’ evolving needs and aspirations. Around 1.2 million flats have been built so far.
Greening efforts have been stepped up, with landscaped spaces incorporated throughout every housing development, along with smart and sustainable features in new towns such as Tengah.
Older towns have also been systematically upgraded through various HDB programmes – such as the Home Improvement Programme and the Remaking Our Heartland programme.
Over 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats, and nine out of 10 own their homes.
In celebration of its 60th anniversary this year, the HDB has partnered Singapore Press Holdings’ Photonico platform in a project – titled “Shapes of Home” – to trace the evolution of Singapore’s public housing journey.
Members of the public are invited to take part in a photo contest to share what home means to them.
Winning entries will be published in The Straits Times and on the Photonico website.
ST will also run a series of 10 Big Picture pages every Wednesday and Saturday, starting this Saturday, with archive photographs showcasing life in HDB estates.
The HDB said: “Through the years, ‘home’ has also transcended beyond the physical four walls, into the heartland, estates and towns. Through this collaboration, we seek to capture the shapes and forms of the HDB ‘home’ and everyday moments of heartland living though the eyes of Singaporeans.”
Originally published in The Straits Times.