A fresh look at our HDB housing estates — what is a non-mature neighbourhood?

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
From Canberra to Lentor and Tengah, it is increasingly challenging to fit the next generation of housing estates in Singapore into the traditional mould of non-mature estates.
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The Ministry of National Development (MND) is reviewing the classification of public housing as mature or non-mature to “keep pace with the times”, says National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Nov 20. As non-mature estates age, the distinction between mature and non-mature estates becomes less relevant, Lee adds. He was speaking at a government engagement session as part of the ‘Forward Singapore’ exercise, calling Singaporeans to offer ideas to shape and strengthen the nation’s social impact.
“Non-mature towns and estates refer to those where there is more land available for public housing, whereas mature towns and estates are usually those with limited land for public housing development,” MND had replied in a written answer to a question on the criteria determining mature and non-mature HDB estates from Daryl David, Member of Parliament representing Ang Mo Kio-Hougang division of Ang Mo Kio GRC. That was in April 2017, when MND said that estate classifications guide applicants in Built-To-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises.
There are currently 24 HDB towns and three public housing estates across Singapore. New BTO launch exercises are usually classified according to mature and non-mature estates. For example, new BTO flats offered in mature HDB estates include Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Clementi, Kallang and Whampoa, Marine Parade, Serangoon, Tampines and Toa Payoh. BTOs offered in non-mature estates included Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong East, Sembawang, Tengah and Yishun.
However, non-mature estates launched over the past 20 years boast the same conveniences, amenities, and transport connectivity as older HDB towns and estates. Some are even positioned as smart and sustainable towns, for instance, Punggol and Tengah.
Over close to six decades, urban planners in Singapore have planned HDB estates that focus on housing needs and developing community facilities, from sports complexes to food courts, shopping malls, public libraries and parks.
Newly created HDB towns and estates since the early 2000s include Canberra in Sembawang; the upcoming Lentor estate in the northern part of Ang Mo Kio off Upper Thomson, Tagor area and Yio Chu Kang; and the future Tengah town. These towns benefit from innovative urban planning focusing on placemaking, community building and sustainability.
In the latest episode of EdgeProp Singapore’s Real As State video series, we explore what each of these three neighbourhoods offers and chart their development path.

Canberra, a non-mature estate?

Canberra in the North region of Singapore is a good example of how new estates transcend the dated classification of mature and non-mature estates.
Nestled between Yishun and Sembawang, Canberra was earmarked for residential development in the late 2000s to help absorb some of the housing demand in nearby Sembawang and Yishun. Under URA’s planning boundaries, the Canberra neighbourhood is part of the larger Sembawang planning area. Most of the new public and private housing have sprung up around the Canberra MRT Station, an additional stop on the North-South Line that opened in November 2019.
Canberra is a subzone under the Sembawang planning area and identified as a non-mature estate. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
The first few BTO projects in Canberra were launched in 2013. For example, the 372- unit East Bank @ Canberra and 1,030-unit East Brook @ Canberra were launched for sale as part of the May 2013 BTO offering. The yet-to-be-completed Canberra Vista, a 1,467-unit BTO project launched under the February 2020 BTO sales phase, is expected to be one of the last public housing projects in Canberra. The BTO is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
Overall, Canberra is settling into a recognisable neighbourhood anchored by Canberra Plaza. One of the first New Generation Neighbourhood Centres built by HDB, Canberra Plaza opened in December 2020. Located next to Canberra MRT Station and connected via an overhead bridge, Canberra Plaza is a shopping mall with F&B outlets, supermarkets and enrichment centres.
As the focal point of the surrounding community, Canberra Plaza also incorporates public plazas, play areas including a water play park and community spaces. Other community facilities in the vicinity will also come online soon. For example, the indoor sports hall at Bukit Canberra opened in October this year, and the new hawker centre connected to it will open by the end of 1Q2023. Bukit Canberra is an integrated sport and community hub that will eventually feature a polyclinic, care centres and swimming pool facilities.
Taken together, Canberra features a wide range of amenities that will cater to the residents in the neighbourhood, which is set to grow. Besides BTO flats, new executive condominiums (ECs) in the area include the 496- unit Parc Canberra and 413-unit Provence Residence, launched in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Both were fully sold within the first year of their launches.
New private condominiums, like the 448-unit Watergardens at Canberra and the 219-unit The Commodore, were launched in August and November 2021 respectively. Both have also seen strong take-up rates at launch. The established private landed housing estate of Seletar Spring, parks, and the Sembawang Shopping Centre are in the vicinity.
A wide range of housing allows home-buyers of these BTO flats to upgrade to private housing in the future. Likewise, it gives senior citizens who want to ‘right size’ (or downsize to a smaller property) and live in the same neighbourhood the opportunity to purchase HDB flats in the resale market in the future.

Reshaping Lentor

It is also worth noting that the same level of community-centric and innovative urban planning also occurs in new neighbourhoods that predominantly feature private residential developments. This is the case for the upcoming Lentor neighbourhood. The Lentor area has predominantly been a private landed housing area, surrounded by greenery and other private housing estates along Countryside Road, Yio Chu Kang and the Upper Thomson Road, such as the Teachers’ Housing Estate.
Currently, the closest F&B spots are located along Casuarina Road and Springleaf Road. That will change with the new 96,000 sq ft mall opening at Lentor Modern, an integrated development by GuocoLand. The mall will include a new 12,000 sq ft supermarket and 10,000 sq ft childcare centre as well as F&B outlets and other amenities. It will be linked directly to the Lentor MRT Station on the Thomson-East Coast Line.
Lentor MRT Station extended the transport connectivity from Woodlands and Springleaf to Upper Thomson, Stevens, and Orchard Road. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
In the Lentor area, Lentor Modern will be the only mixed-use development integrated with the Lentor MRT Station. On top of the mall is the 605-unit, 99-year leasehold private condominium Lentor Modern. Launched in September, 85% of the units have been sold at a median price of $2,108 psf to date.
Beyond the mall, Lentor Modern will have a public plaza for people to gather, with pedestrian pathways and cycling paths to parks and park connectors. Just as was the case for Canberra, the attractiveness of Lentor was also boosted by the opening of Lentor MRT Station on the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL), which opened in August 2021. In the future, the TEL will provide a direct train ride to Orchard Road, Shenton Way, Marina Bay, and East Coast Park beach.
GuocoLand paid a record price of $1,204 psf per plot ratio for the Lentor Modern site at the close of the government land sales (GLS) tender in July 2021. The government released three more sites in the Lentor area in May for sale. All three were for private residential developments. In October, the URA released two more GLS sites in the Lentor area, one at Lentor Central and the other at Lentor Gardens. The government has released six GLS sites in the Lentor area, with four already awarded. The expected pipeline residential supply is about 2,500 units.

Tengah, the next new town

Over the next few years, all eyes will be on Tengah as the newest HDB town takes shape. It will also be the next opportunity for Singapore’s urban planners to showcase how they plan to incorporate the latest smart technologies town-wide throughout the planning and development phases.
The latest development plan for Tengah as the newest HDB town and the shifts in the land use in the area also reflects how Singapore has grappled with urban planning needs and land scarcity.
Shifts in the land use around Tengah reflect how Singapore has grappled with urbanisation, urban planning needs, and land scarcity. The forested areas have made way for new housing. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Before the 1980s, Tengah was largely undeveloped and was a forested area with various Malay and Chinese kampung settlements. With the residents relocated to new HDB towns in Jurong and Bukit Batok, Tengah became a military air base for nearly 20 years until 2015, when it was relocated to make way for future housing needs. (Find HDB flats for rent or sale with our Singapore HDB directory)
This highlights the need to balance housing against other important land uses such as defence, industry, and green spaces. The relocation of Paya Lebar Air Base in 2030 is another example of how defence and industrial developments make way for the next generation of towns and estates.
In Tengah, HDB says that the design of the housing districts emphasises sustainability and community-centric spaces. This echoes the urban planning considerations in earlier new estates such as Canberra and Canberra Plaza.
Tengah will feature five distinct districts, each with its own character, namely Plantation, Garden, Park, Brickland and Forest Hill. As their names suggest, forest and nature themes will feature prominently. When completed, there will be an estimated 42,000 housing units.
The first Tengah BTO development, the 1,620-unit Plantation Grove, was launched as part of the November 2018 BTO exercise. Construction is underway for at least 10 BTO developments and the first EC project, Copen Grand.
The 639-unit Copen Grand, jointly developed by City Developments and MCL Land, received 2,300 e-applications at the close of the e-application process on October 17. On the first day of sales booking on Oct 22, 465 units (73%) had been taken up at an average price of about $1,300 psf.
The November 2022 BTO sales exercise will include two more projects in Tengah — Garden Waterfront I & II @ Tengah. They will be among nearly 10,000 HDB flats offered as part of 10 BTO projects launched in the November exercise.
HDB buyers have been concerned about the relatively long completion period of some recent BTO projects delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. HDB assures buyers that the BTO flats at Waterfront I & II @ Tengah will have a completion period of about 3.3 years.

Redefining our neighbourhoods

The development plans for Tengah are part of a wider rejuvenation scheme that includes the Jurong Lake District and Jurong East area in the western region of Singapore. The Jurong Lake District has been envisioned as the city-state’s second central business district. It will be supported by new and advanced manufacturing hubs and research districts within the nearby Jurong Innovation District, helmed by JTC. Together, these commercial and industrial zones are expected to be the bedrock of the new jobs to sustain the growing population in the Jurong East region.
The first signs of the rejuvenation plan for the Jurong East area can already be seen. The much-loved Jurong Regional Library will make way for the future Jurong East Integrated Transport Hub, which is slated for completion in 2027. CapitaLand has also announced that it will redevelop JCube mall, Singapore’s first mall with an ice skating rink, into a new mixed-use development with residential units. Meanwhile, Perennial Holdings acquired the Big Box retail warehouse in December 2020 to redevelop it into a business park.
Rejuvenation plans are afoot in Jurong East, anchored by the future Jurong Lake District and Jurong Innovation District. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
From Canberra to Lentor and Tengah, it is increasingly challenging to fit the next generation of housing estates in Singapore into the traditional mould of non-mature estates.
Even future master planned areas like the Greater Southern Waterfront and the transformation of Paya Lebar Airbase reflect the foresight in Singapore’s urban planning, which incorporates work, live, play and lifestyle components.
It is time to change the classification of our public housing estates to reflect the advancements in our urban planning landscape, the increased connectivity due to the extended MRT network and the interwoven nature of work-live-play today.
You can catch our latest episode of Real As State featuring the Canberra, Lentor, and Tengah neighbourhoods on Nov 25. Available on Youtube and Facebook.

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