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.
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 Low
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.
This current SERS project affects blocks 24 to 38 and 40 to 45 at Tanglin Halt. Residents haven’t vacated the premises yet, but are expected to move in the second half of 2020. With SERS relocation, the government tries to keep the original communities intact as possible and shift residents together to the same precinct. In the case of Tanglin Halt, residents will be moved to one of these locations: SkyResidence@Dawson; SkyOasis@Dawson; SkyParc@Dawson; Dawson Vista; Forfar Heights; and Commonwealth 10. All these are a short drive away (or a long stroll, for lovers of walking) from the affected blocks.
The price of SERS
Most of the flats at Tanglin Halt up for SERS redevelopment are two- and three-room flats. The following table indicates the compensation range for these homeowners.
In addition, owners of flats under SERS are eligible to buy new homes at subsidised prices and receive a grant of up to S$30,000 per family or S$15,000 if the homeowner is single.
Homeowners who prefer to move elsewhere can buy a new HDB flat in other developments while keeping their SERS rehousing benefits. Homeowners can also sell their SERS unit in the resale market for a lucrative price, new homeowners inherit the original owners’ SERS compensation and rehousing benefits.
More than 40 SERS-affected units were sold within eight months of the 2014 SERS announcement as eager buyers seized the opportunity to pick fresh units with central addresses, at favourable prices. Premiums ranged from S$10,000 to S$30,000 and upwards for these homes.
As with most SERS announcements, Tanglin Halt residents inevitably gravitated into two opposing camps. Some people were happy about getting a new home with the full 99-year lease at subsidised prices, direct from HDB while others were unhappy about losing their homes and sense of belonging. In the case of Tanglin Halt, many residents had lived there since the 1960s and had sunk deep roots into the neighbourhood, where they visited the market, hawker stalls, shops, and eating houses daily.
The full revampTanglin Halt food center. Photo courtesy of Ruth Loh
Apart from homeowners, the occupants of 157 market and hawker stalls, 50 shops, and four eating houses will move out by 2024. Among the new redevelopment schemes for Tanglin Halt is a plan for a new neighbourhood centre.
What comes next?
HDB hasn’t announced when the new flats will be ready or what their prices might be. The first Tanglin Halt SERS project was announced in January 2003 and those residents have moved into their new homes at blocks 89 to 91 on Tanglin Halt Road. The blocks earmarked for both Tanglin Halt SERS projects have not completed demolition and rebuilding. Still, the latest values from the newer 2008-completed units at Tanglin Halt might be an indicator of prices to come.
Tanglin Halt has had a good run, with more than half a century of memories and generations of families calling it home. With the government’s plans for redeveloping this prime address, the neighbourhood will have a new infusion of life, a changed atmosphere—and the chance to make its mark as a transformed locality.