Public Housing in Singapore--Functions of HDB
By Derren Tan (Faculty of the Built Environment, UNSW)
In respect to estate and community administration and management, there are 4
functions that can be clearly seen as part of their scope of work (Yeh, 1985). Note that
as points 1 and 2 are administrative functions, they will not be covered in detail:
Administartion of Policy Matters
This function assumes a social management role where rules and regulations,
rates and charges are in accordance to government and housing policies so as to
safeguard the interest and privileges of the majority of residents. In this form of
administration, HBD regularly reviews and updates policy issues and rules, and also
set standard rates and charges in consultation with the government. The rules may be
set out in 4 categories:
1. Eligibility rules pertaining to purchase and rental of flats.
2. Rules relating to the allocation of flats.
3. Rules against the misuse and abuse of public premises (eg illegal parking),
and unruly and uncivic behaviour (eg. littering).
4. Setting out fines and charges against unfulfilled obligations and payments,
and all of the above.
Administration Relating to Flat Ownership
This includes administrative services to applicants and residents in areas such as
registration and allocation of flats, subletting and resale, legal services, welfare
services and loan provisions. It has always been ideal for every family to eventually
own a home of their own. This idea has become a reality to many Singaporeans
basically because of the Ownership Scheme which was introduced by the government
in February 1964. Essentially, this scheme was aimed at providing public housing for
those who cannot afford private housing.
Apart from the Home Ownership Scheme, there were also Other housing
schemes that made available by the Board. All these schemes require certain services
that will help in the smooth transaction of applications. Some of the administrative
support provided by HDB includes helping applicants get registered and allocated,
providing legal services in morgaging and issuing of leases, post-allocation services
for people in schemes that require transfer, subletting and reselling of flats.
Property Maintenance and Improvement.
The function of Property Maintenence and Improvement include major repairs
and replacements of mechanical and electrical installations such as lifts and water
pumps. In August 1988, when Town Councils were formed, the responsibility in the
area of maintenance and improvement were handed over to them. HDB continued to
take on the role of a developer, a landlord and lessor. As such, they continue to
function in areas of regisration and allocation of flats, tenancy and lease
administration, and the collection of rent, loan and sale installmants. In 1988, while
HDB was managing 620,467 residential units or flats, it had 43 area offices
distributed around the city-state to help HDB manage these estates. The area offices
were like a predecessor to town councils and were under the management of the
Housing and Development Board. By 1991, these area offices were replaced by
around 27 Town Councils (Ooi, 1990). In the area of property maintenance and
improvement, town councils conducts the various operation (Wong & Yeh, 1985).
Note: the icons represent the table of maintenance activities conducted:
Regular Upkeeping Service
These are the daily services provide by the town councils and may include refuse
removal, sweeping, washing of common areas, landscaping works, 24 hour
emergency lift service, etc.
Cyclical Preventive Maintenance
Some of the preventive measures taken in maintaining the buildings, and its
mechanical and electrical installations involve fortnightly lift services, re-roofing
every 10 years, giving a new coat of paint to the building every 3 to 5 years,
waterpump servicing every 45 days, etc. Major Repairs & Improvement
Regular repairs and improvements of existing buildings is an on-going process
for HDB. This mainly refers to the upgrading of old buildings in areas such as
carparking extension, improving booster-pumps, water tanks and piping, etc. On a
larger scale, this may include a total refurbishment of the new town in order to keep
up with the standards of newer developments.
Support Services Relating to Community Development
HDB provides a catalytic support to community development by organising
community activities, promotion materials, and other means that will enable grassroot
organisations to communicate with its residents. The purpose of setting up Town
Councils was to allow residents to participate in the day to day activity of estate
management. In order to enable this task and to serve the residents better, leaders in
the councils must be able to reach out to their level of communication and needs. As
such, several support services and organisations have been formed in order to develop
better community living. Apart from the welfare services that are provided and the
circulation of a monthly informative literature, HouseWord, HDB has found
community development to be the most successful through the work of grassroot
organisations (Wong & Yeh, 1985).
These grassroot organisations are run by volunteers and are supported by town
councils. All of them have different roles and yet they all have a single purpose, that is
to promote participation in community activities. Over the years,. these organisations
have proved to be an invaluable channel of communication between the residents and
the board. Apart from these grassroot organisations, HDB also acts in laison with
other relevant bodies, such as the Boys Club, the Police Force, Sports Club and the
Department of Social Welfare in order to provide for specific needs of the residents.
At present, there are 3 active grassroot organisations. They are: the Citizens’
Counsultative Committee (CCC), the Management Committees of Community
Centres (CCMCs) and the Residents’ Committee (RCs). Citizens’Counsultative
Committe (CCC) were setup in 1965. They look after the general welfare of the
people in the whole constituency including both HDB and non-HDB residents. They
coordinate the efforts of the CCMCs, RCs and other minor organisations and also play
a leading role in promoting national campaigns.
Management Committees of Community Centres (CCMCs) were setup in 1964.
They organise a wide range of activities that are open to all. Some of these activities
include computer classes, cookery classes, sport education/competitions and
kindergarden classes. Within the CCMCs, there are also other sub-committees that
serve different purpose. For example, there are the women sub-committe and the
youth sub- committe that cater for their respective groups.
A Community Centre building at Tampines East. Local residents are encouraged
to use the various facilities provided (eg. computer rooms) and to participate in their
Residents’Committee (RCs) were setup in 1978. The RCs look after a much
smaller area than the CCCs. Because of this, Town Councils tend to work more
closely with them than any other organisation. The reason is basically because
through the Risedents’Committee, HDB is able to abstract more accurate information
and feedback about residents’ needs. As such, they have been given more
administrative, organisational and logistical support through a network of RC group
secretariats provided by the Community Relations Department, Ministry of
Community Development. In addition, they are all provided with the neccessary
infrastructure facilities like RC centres and RC notice boards.
A Residents' Committee Centre located at the void deck of a block.
Their fundamental objective is to actively promote neighbourliness, harmony and
community cohesiveness among residents of diverse backgrounds and interest
through a variety of social, cultural, recreational activities (Our Home, April 83).
These activities can be broadly classified into 2 categories. The first category includes
government initiated schemes such as civil defence exercices, neighbourhood watch
scheme or other national campaigns. The second category of activities and projects
include the ones that are organised by the RCs and residents themselves. They include
activities that meet the social, educational and recreational needs of the residents.
Examples of this are children’s and senior citizens’parties, junk removal, mass
cleaning, tuition projects, educational outings, newspaper collection for fund raising,
community projects like civil defense exercises and the neighbourhood watch scheme,
One of the activities organised by the RC is to encourage residents to help
maintain the fruit trees that are planted around their blocks.
A childrens' day karaok competition organised in one or the hard courts.
A leisure cruise to a neighbouring island like this, is usually organised by the
local community centre to promote neighbourhood relationships within the
Like Town Councils, RCs are voluntary organisation run by and for residents
living in the same zone. Each zone has a number of apartment blocks comprising off
500 to 2500 flats. The size of a RC varies from 10 to 30 which includes a Chairman, a
Secretary, a Treasurer and other office bearers. These volunteers all belong to various
socio-economic groups living in public housing estates themselves. They may be
teachers, clerks, managers, technicians, salesman, or anyone with a secondary school
level education and above. They are usually 30 to 40 years in age and are often from
various racial group so that each of them may represent their own ethnic.
On a broader scale, the work of Town Councils and grassroot organisations is not
only to encourage the building of communities in high-rise, high- density environment
but also has the intention of a national task in nation- building, where the people and
the government move towards a better society as a cohesive nation.
At this point, it is important to remind ourselves that the overall Physical
Planning and Design of HDB flat units and estates have also contributed much to
creating a pleasant and stable community to live in. This include the design of such
physical elements and spaces like void decks, corridors, lift-lobbies, the overall
planning of towns, neighbourhoods, precincts, and other establishments like
community centres, kindergardens and parks, also help pitch into the building of
Source: http://www.fbe.unsw.edu.au/ 12/18/1999