In my earlier blog entries, I have whined and harped ad nauseum about bringing our people along in the Re-making of Singapore. How? By adding one more settlement option for en bloc sales, viz, 1-4-1 exchange.
Hence, as early as 1 Mar 2007 (two days before the then Minister for Law, Prof S Jayakumar’s parliamentary speech was reported in the press about upcoming legislative review of the Land Titles (Strata) Act), I submitted a paper to the then Law Reform and Revision Division of the Attorney General’s Chambers on this principle of equity in offering “exchange” option to owners ensnared in en bloc sales. My first “exchange” blog entry was on 26 Mar 2007, as further refined with the passage of time and repeated in numerous subsequent blog entries in Apr, Nov, Dec 2007 and culminating in my last National Day blog entry of 7 Aug 2008. http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com/2008/08/so-whats-alternative-in-end.html
In fact, my proposed solution is more than 1-4-1 exchange. It encompasses about a HOLISTIC APPROACH to "manage" the en bloc beast instead of letting the crazed bull run helter-skelter in an en bloc frenzy. How?
One suggestion: By developing an en bloc quota system by (a) geographic regions, (b) estate type and (c) estate age - in much the same way that Singapore "manages" (i) land allocation for our transportation network on one level (roads, rail tracks, cycle paths, walkways) and (ii) time/distance demand by different vehicles on our road network on another level (Certificate of Entitlements, Electronic Road Pricing).
From a macro-economic perspective, an en bloc quota system would also be healthy to minimize asset bubbles and regulate redevelopment land reserves. Lessons that should have been learned from the 2006-07 en bloc frenzy that created the TRIPLE WHAMMY EFFECT: (1) supply contraction with demolition of estates sold en bloc, (2) immediately matching demand spike for replacement units (both purchase/rental) and (3) increased competition for construction resources/labour, thus fuelling price spirals on ALL fronts. Various government agencies were caught on their back foot, scrambling for sand, granite chips, foreign workers and housing for these workers that in turn spun-off into another barrage of complaints about increased sleaze in residential areas and new dumps in countryside areas.
Greater diversity in urban landscape and architectural legacy would result from en bloc quotas because redevelopment land would be made available at different points in time to capitalize on evolving building technologies/efficiencies and new design trends. As it is, the whole stretch of condos along Paterson Road will have the sameness of all-glass facades with disproportionate emphasis on bay windows, planter boxes and balconies brazenly exploited under the building regulations prevailing at that time.
Another suggestion: By calibrating incentives for plot amalgamation to create the spatial vista for better light and improved ventilation and also minimise the wastage of set-back boundaries in-between many small land plots where the apartment blocks jostle neck-by-jowl with each other (eg, with sub-tiered Development Charges for different ranges of land plot sizes).
Just as the legislative review was being prepped for parliamentary debate in Sep 2007, I specifically pointed the Ministry of Law official in late Aug 2007 to South Korea’s urban renewal model of “Hapdong Re-development” that mandates 1-4-1 exchange.
[Interesting trivia: The etymology of “Hapdong” in the Korean Hangul language traces back to its roots of the Chinese word for “Cooperation”.] To me, the South Korean urban renewal model is more neo-communitarian in approach. Isn't time to curb the Excesses, the Unsustainability, the Imbalance? Isn't it time to "manage" en bloc urban renewal?