The continual recycling of residential buildings here is amazing. The building boom is showing no signs of abating, and that is not doing the Lee family any damage thanks to their interests in the concrete suppliers. Smaller low-rise condos that went "en bloc" in 2007 and early 2008 were demolished and most of these addresses (certainly not all) have sprouted giant towers on concrete and glass. Even though en bloc sales are now not so popular the cycle of de-construction, re-construction goes on.
One building comes down.
One building goes up.
It started a while ago, but gone it has gone insane recently.
But are these apartments worth living in? Even when I was looking for accommodation in 2004, I was taken to see many of these "modern" places. Without fail, I am sure any expat new to town, who is used to the space of housing in their own country would, as I did, consider the rooms cramped, the apartments awkwardly laid out and if not claustrophobic then vertiginous. And where are the people (ecpats presumably) who are going to live in these places? Does the words "over-supply" and "speculation" mean anything to these developers? Not when the bubble is still growing!
Again, like in the lead-up to the crashes of 1998-2000 and 2008 they are expecting the bubble to never burst. Or to burst just after they off-load their place for a huge profit. It is no surprise therefore that, as reported in the Strait-Jacket Times this morning we see "Developers snapping up their own units." (page B18)
THE sizzling property market is prompting even the developers themselves to snap up units in their new projects, especially high-end properties. Singapore Exchange filings show that a..." - (for further on-line reading registration/payment is needed. Fuck that.)
Many of these units purchases were at slightly higher (2%) than usual discount rates to family and "interested parties" (directors, CEOs, high percentage shareholders, etc). Most these developers are of course (Malaysian) tycoons and multi-millionaires. But even without discounts, the family and friends get first pickings at the best apartments.
Lee Kwan Yu once said he didn't want Singapore to turn into Hong Kong where sky-scraper apartment blocks cluster in the heart of the city, especially in the places like the instant towns of T ai Koo Shing and of Tseun Kwan O where dozens of 40 story apartment blocks appeared almost overnight. Even the old areas of HK are jam-packed with 20+ storey apartments.
Western district, Hong Kong
Well that "vision" is becoming out of date fast. Construction of these small-roomed condominiums is in blastosis (a biological term for hyper-fast replication of cells) everywhere you look in Singapore. But the developers are in general building places that I would not want to live in (not counting those $18.8m penthouses and other multi-million dollar rooms the entire family is "snapping up".)
When I was looking around for a place, I could not find one of these recently built apartments where the master bedroom would take my king-size sleigh bed (in my price-range at least, not penthouses for certain!). Fortunately I found an older place that had a giant master bedroom, where I could also place my desk and some of my bookshelves. It is my apartment in one of the older places makes Singapore livable for me. Lucky for me, it did not go "en bloc" in 2007 because there is 5-story height limit on my street. None of the big developers wanted a place without a view of the adjacent high-rise apartments.
Despite all these expensive new buildings with their full completement of facilities, when I walk to the nearest supermarket to get my fruit and veggies (no wet-market nearby) I see evidence contradicting of the affluence of Singapore.
On most of the streets of suburban Singapore there are 3-5 ft deep storm water drains that are open to the elements. Not only that, they are directly up against the footpaths (if there are indeed footpaths). There are no barriers, no warnings, no protection for children or drunks wandering home from Montero's Pub in Goldhill. How third world is this?
Footpath and drain in the Novena area
But being open and usually well maintained, at least the Singapore drains (usually) don’t have the typical noisome "Asian aroma" of stagnant, foul water you get whenever you step over a metal venting grid for the underground drains in so many big cities round here.
Sigh. Singapore is a place of contradictions.