Tanglin Halt: From old to gold

The little township of Tanglin Halt sits on the cusp of Queenstown, flanked by Commonwealth MRT Station and Portsdown Flyover. Its first occupants moved in during the 1960s—Tanglin Halt’s flats were completed between 1962 and 1963—and its atmosphere is best described as exuding the original kampong spirit. With communal planting patches rioting all along the grassy plots demarcating each block, Tanglin Halt is an instant reminder of the old days in Singapore, when matriarchs brewed soup over diligently fanned charcoal fires and children climbed trees, played with marbles, and had no idea what online streaming was.
One of the Tanglin Halt blocks. Photo courtesy of Ruth Loh
But progress stops for no one, not even Tanglin Halt. In June 2014, HDB put its biggest Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) plan into action. This SERS project consists of 31 blocks comprising 3,480 flats, including a selection of blocks along Commonwealth Drive.

The HDB owner’s en bloc

Introduced in 1995, SERS has been called the HDB owner’s en bloc sale. To date, only 4% of HDB flats—a little more than 80 sites—have been selected for redevelopment, and HDB estimates only 5% of flats are suitable for SERS. Not all early-generation flats nearing the halfway mark of the typical HDB unit’s 99-year tenure are slated for rejuvenation. For those that are, however, existing owners are paid a compensation fee based on market value and then given the option to select a new HDB flat in a government-chosen location.
Tanglin Halt is the poster child for SERS-ready flats. The blocks picked for an architectural makeover are more than 50 years old, low-rise (at 10 stories), have empty or leftover spaces, and large surface car parks. Its housing potential is so great that analysts have said a redevelopment could produce 5,000 new homes or more.

Leaving Tanglin Halt

It isn’t the first time a Tanglin Halt site was selected for a SERS project. In January 2003, the government announced its SERS plans for blocks 50 to 54 at Tanglin Halt. Homeowners were given the option to purchase flats at blocks 89 to 91, which they moved into by 2008.