By the 1950s, Singapore was already covered by settlements (Humphrey, 1985). Demolition of the settlements to make room for public housing was unavoidable. Between 1961 and 1984, more than 230,000 households were resettled (Wong and Yeh, 1985:316), taking up more than 40 per cent of public-housing flats built in the same period. An overwhelming majority of resettled households opted to purchase the 99-year leasehold on public-housing flats, reaching more than 90 per cent in the mid-1980s (Wong and Yeh, 1985:318). By 1990, only 28,000 people were estimated to require resettlement. Thus a very significant proportion of households in public housing are either resettled in their entirety or have one or both spouses originally from resettled families. Having to adjust to standardized flats from different house-forms and different environments is, therefore, a widely shared experience for a substantial number of Singaporeans.
Significantly, the resettlement process has solved the most fundamental problem in urban renewal and slum clearance: namely, that of rehousing those affected in improved premises. Consequently, with the exception of some early resistance (Gamer, 1972; Aldrich, 1985), resettlement is a reasonably smooth process. This is a major achievement in itself. However, how well the resettled households adjust to their new houses and environment remains a question to be answered. That answer can be obtained only through longitudinal studies of affected individuals and households, from their times in the squatter, through an initial settling-in period, up to the point when a stable life pattern is established in the new environment.
However, it is by now difficult to conduct such studies because samples of villages of substantial size are no longer to be found. Furthermore, high-rise, public-housing living is now the national norm, and adjustment to it is therefore less significant than it used to be. Indeed,