High-density living = urban lifestyle in shoebox?

By The Folks @PropTalk - June 3, 2012 No Comments
Below is a letter published in today's Sunday Times:

Last Sunday’s commentaries by writer John Lui (“Shoebox flats = Inhuman? Where’s the logic?”) and editor Warren Fernandez (“Can we cope with 8 million on the island?”) touched on issues which are related: the size of our living space and the social implications of a growing population.

Does high-density living mean an urban lifestyle in shoebox apartments?

In 1965, when I was five, my father earned $80 a month as an electrician, and my mother was a seamstress.

We lived in a rented Housing Board “no-room flat” which offered a living area, a kitchen and a bathroom.

Our kitchen had a foldable table and chairs, while our living area had a bed and a small wardrobe with a mirror on one of its doors.

Whenever my mother needed to cook in the kitchen, we had to fold away the table, and I would do my homework on her Singer sewing machine.

A stack of carton boxes in one corner of our flat functioned as our mobile storage space.

At night, I would sleep with my mother, and my father would usually sleep on the floor, next to all the unsewn clothes.

I seldom had toys, not because we could not afford them, but because there was no space to store them.

As I grew older, my parents decided that such a small living space was not ideal for any child to grow up in. So we moved.

Today, shoebox apartments are being built and promoted by developers, who say they see the need and demand for a modern urban lifestyle. Actually, the motivation is purely profit-driven. Shoebox units point the way to higher revenues for developers who want to maximize their margins.

Back in 1960s, we had a choice to upgrade our then-urban lifestyle by not renting such a small flat.

But today, many people choose to live in tiny shoebox flats.

When someone decides to buy a shoebox apartment, he will need to take a loan that will tie him down for the next 15 to 20 years.

Try getting out of this lifestyle when it’s time to have children.

Ben Liew

Ben's letter brought back some old memories. I too spent the early years of my life living in a “no-room flat” in Lengkok Bahru. It housed 5 adults (my parents, my grandparents and my uncle) and a kid (me), so you can imagine that it was quite a squeeze back then. My parents and I spent the nights sleeping on the floor as the flat could only accommodate one bed, which was occupied by my grandparents. Thus it was a huge relief when we finally got the keys to our brand new 3-room HDB flat in Stirling Road!

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