Singapore / How Public Housing relates to Civic Nationalism?

    Before independence in 1960, Singapore is full of kampung, which are villages of different races. Different ethnic enclaves were scattered around the territory and different ethnic groups were geographically isolated from each other. Even in downtowns, there are strong colours of different ethnic groups. They were polarised and hardly integrated with each other, not to mention that they could have the sense of being a unity. This does not favour to Singapore and potential crisis may happen between different races. Such background of Singapore gave rise to the establishment of Housing Development Board (HDB), which implemented land nationalization and transformation of land use. Traditional ethnic groups villages and kampung were deconstructed and relocated in public housing. The first Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, mentioned that the basic principle for public housing is to group different races so that they can have common values and experience good and bad times together. Moreover, people tends to take care of the units better if the units are their own property, rather than just being rented. This may lead to the enhancement of commitment toward the country since the population own assets and anything happens to Singapore will easily or directly affect them. So people are more willing to form strong bondings with neighbourhood and maintain a healthy society to safeguard their country.

    The aim has been successfully reached eventually. Overall, public housing solves two problems. One, it houses 80% of all citizens. Second, it mixes different races together for the sake of civic nationalism. Yet, there is an unexpected consequence. Each race has its own preference for applying public housing estates and form new ethnic enclaves. For instance, Chinese prefer to live in Ang Mo Kio zone. HDB then implemented a policy to cope with this situation in 1989, which is Ethnic Integration Policy. A limit for the proportion of races within each neighbourhood and specific block is set to better integrate different communities and prevent polarisation.

  • Ang Mo Kio/ Hougang Zone: Malays 5%, Chinese 90%, Indian 5%
    Bedok/ Tampines : Malays 20%, Chinese 76%, Indians/others 24%
    Bukit merah : Malays 5.5%, Chinese 88.4%, Indians/others 6.1%
    Kampong java : Malays 6%, Chinese 78.8%, Indians/others 15.2%

    National Average : Malays 14.1%, Chinese 77.7%, Indians/others 7.1%

  • limits for racial proportion under Ethnic Integration Policy.
    For Chinese, 84% (neighbourhood), 87% (block)
    For Malays, 22% (neighbourhood), 25% (block)
    For Malays, 10% (neighbo
    urhood), 13% (block)
    (The percentage is similar to the national average)


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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.