Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore

Synopsis

Looking at the ways in which Singapore's planners have dealt with the problems of creating communities in a modern urban environment, the author concludes that the success of the public housing programme has done much for the nation.

Excerpt

For the citizens of the island-nation of Singapore, high-quality public housing is the single most important tangible material benefit derived from the impressive national macroeconomic growth over the past three and a half decades. Correspondingly, universal public-housing provision has been, and will continue to be, a foundation stone upon which the single-party dominant government of the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since its political independence in 1965, builds its legitimacy among Singaporeans. Housing has become a covenant between the people and the government in Singapore: a promise of continually upgraded housing units and environment in exchange for political support. This once unwritten agreement became the explicit campaign strategy of the PAP in the 1997 general elections.

Due to its strategic significance to the PAP government, the national public-housing programme in Singapore has acquired many features that are very dissimilar to more conventional programmes elsewhere. For example, instead of being relegated to the margin of a housing market which is dominated overall by private-sector developers, public housing is the primary mode of housing consumption in Singapore. The state public-housing agency, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), has close to a monopolistic hold on new housing supply in the market. Started modestly as an agency entrusted with building 1- and 2-room rental flats for the poor in 1961, the HDB had by the mid-1990s constructed more than half a million high-rise flats, housing more than 85 per cent of the three million population resident on the island. Furthermore, the small rental flats have largely been demolished, making way for larger flats which are offered as 99-year leasehold properties to the tenants, reflecting the increasing affluence of the population. With the overwhelming majority of the population residing in public-housing

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