Four blocks of HDB flats along East Coast Road will become desolate features of the landscape by 2015 when all shop-owners and residents in Blocks 1 to 4 vacate the place under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

The 75th site to be earmarked for redevelopment since the scheme inception in 1995, 117 housing units and 10 shop spaces will be affected. But the move is timely considering that the blocks were built in 1963 and is about 50 years old now.

Owners of housing units were given new replacement flats in 2- to 5-room flats at Chai Chee Road, or they had the option to sell their existing flats with the rehousing benefits to eligible buyers.

Currently Blocks 1 to 3 house 80 2-room flats and two 4-room flats (converted from two adjoining 2-room flats) in five storeys. There are also nine rental shops and a rental eating house.

Tenants of the commercial units were given ex-gratia payment of $60,000 per tenancy, and a 10% discount for future rental of HDB shops.

Block 4 is a rental block that is home to 35 two-room flats. Tenants were given priority and discounts in the purchase of the replacement flats at Chai Chee Road, or of other HDB flats in HDB sales. Or, instead, they could have opted for priority in the allocation of rental units from HDB.

Once the move is completed, Joo Chiat constituency, which houses the four HDB blocks, will be the only constituency in Singapore to only have private residences. This is surprising considering that 80% of the Singapore’s populace lives in HDB flats, and Joo Chiat constituency is not the smallest constituency in the country.

The single member constituency (SMC) is led by MP Charles Chong, and stretches from Joo Chiat, Katong, Haig Road, Siglap to a part of East Coast Park.

When interviewed, Mr Chong said one of the key challenges he faces in the ward is the growing proportion of asset-rich but cash-poor retirees who forms part of the 36% of its population aged above 50. As this group resides in private homes, they receive less in social benefits although they may have little cash to meet their daily needs and healthcare expenses.

As of June 2013, about 32% of Singapore residents (citizens and permanent residents) are aged above 50.

Mr Chong added that another challenge in the ward is the transportation issue. Currently there is no MRT station in Joo Chiat and difficulty in adding bus services due to low ridership and narrow roads. There is also parking space shortages.

The high density of condominiums has rendered it difficult to improve transports infrastucture and has resulted in a temporary stoppage in the construction of new buildings for road widening works.

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