Singapore / Reason of transition from SIT to HDB

Before the independence of Singapore, the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) was set up by the British colonial government in 1927 to deal with the problems concerning the urban modernisation process. They include: to improve the general physical environment, to widen existing roads, to cope with the growing numbers of rickshaws, trolleys, buses, electric trams and cars, to create open spaces, back lanes, modern sanitation and to develop public housing. [1] Although Singapore was facing an acute housing shortage at the time, SIT was not given the authority to build housing for the people except for those left homeless. It was only in 1932 that SIT was given more powers to undertake building projects. However, SIT’s building efforts were far from adequate to meet the needs of the fast-growing population and the housing situation worsened, especially after the Pacific War of the 1940s. [2]

As the ineffectiveness of SIT was exposed when its supply of housing could not meet the demand, in March 1960, soon after Singapore gained self-government, the Housing Development Board (HDB) was established as a statutory body. It took over from SIT the pressing task of providing proper public housing for the entire population as the housing shortage and its related problems such as overcrowding and squatter colonies had reached alarming proportions. This reflects a change in political and social agendas of the government, where its main focus was then to speedily house the masses at the lowest cost and at the same time eradicate the inner city slums and unhealthy living conditions. This was proven to be successful when the HDB managed to build 53,777 dwelling units within the said 5 year period of plan, as compared to the total of approximately 23,000 units the SIT built in its 32 years of existence. By 1976, more than 50% of the population was living in HDB flats, a significant improvement from the 8.8% living in SIT flats in 1959. [3]



1. Colony of Singapore. (1958) Master Plan – Written Statement. Singapore: Tien Wah Press 

2. Book: Clancey, G. Ryan Bishop, John Phillips, and Wei-Wei Yeo, eds. (2004) Beyond Description: Singapore, Space, Historicity – Towards a Spatial History of Emergency: Notes from Singapore. New York: Routledge.


2 Comments on “Singapore / Reason of transition from SIT to HDB

  1. It is nice to learn about the facts about the SIT and HDB and their development. However, is it possible to relate their policies to the private households, as this Trust and Board are set up to improve people’s living standard?

  2. Singapore is a very good example of successful housing strategies as they have a strong emphasis on homeownership and offers grants and subsidies for citizens. I am interested in seeing how the HDB has effectively implemented the public housing program.

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