Singapore (1960s-1970s) / Early Housing Development

    In 1960, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) was set up to take Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) place. At that time, one-third of the total population, which was around 4.5 to 5 million people, was living in slum or kampung where the living condition is extremely unfavourable. In the First Five-Year Plan (1960-1965, HDB job was to build maximum number of housing units in the shortest time. Quantity was the aim while the quality was not quite the concern. The flats were designed according to utilitarian and simplicity and the usable space was optimised. Prefabrication was used during the construction to minimize the time used and lower the technical requirement for labour. The flats were cost-effective so that low-income people could afford it. As for the choice of site, the public housing in this stage was mainly built on the vacant land of the downtown peripheral, for example, Bukit Ho Swee and Queenstown. HDB has built 55000 units, which is 5000 more than the target and can provide place for 23% of the total population. The flat types included one-room to four-room emergency and standard flats. For one-room emergency flat, it consisted of a bed-cum-living room (140 sq. feet), a room for both toilet and kitchen purpose (80 sq. feet) and a balcony for various uses, such as drying. Some one-room units only have shared communal toilet and kitchen. The unit plans of different flat types are shown below.

    In the Second Five-Year Plan (1966-70), since HDB managed to meet and even exceed the quantity target, more attention was paid on the quality of flats and public space of the housing, such as playgrounds, car-park and other recreational facilities, in order to increase the living condition. The ‘new town’ concept started to arise and Toa Payoh was an example. HDB also built larger units to replace the one-room emergency flats. /the unit flats included one-room to four-room improved flat. The average number of room per household surged from 0.8 in 1951 to 2.2 in 1970.


Kong, L. and Yeoh, B S A. (2003) The Politics of Landscape in Singapore: Constructions of “nation”. New York: Syracuse University Press.

Suryadinata, L. (2000) Nationalism and Globalization: East and West. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies.

Wong, T-C., Yuen, Belinda. and Goldblum, C. (2008) Spatial Planning for a Sustainable Singapore. Singapore: Springer Science + Business Media.

Yeh, Y-T. (2009) Nation Politics of Public Housing Policy in Singapore. No.50. Taiwan: Journal of Geographical Research

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