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更新时间:2019/1/7 16:11:58 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Can Singapore's social housing keep up with changing times?

“I remember feeling very free. There was a lot of land to roam about,” says Chuck Hio Soon Huat. He sits at a table drinking coffee. “We built our own toys, climbed trees, walked in the river, shot birds, picked fruit.”

"当时很自由,可以漫步在广阔的土地上。"侯顺发(Chuck Hio Soon Huat,音译)说。他坐在桌旁喝着咖啡:"我们自己做玩具,爬树,在河里走,打鸟,摘水果。"

Hio reminisces about the past with his friend and former work colleague, Lam Chun See. The food court where they’re chatting is designed to look like one of Singapore’s many hawker centres, but a sentimental version – a pastiche with faded pastel awnings inside a modern shopping plaza.

侯顺发和他的朋友兼前同事林振喜(Lam Chun See,音译)一起回忆过去。他们聊天的美食广场在设计上和新加坡众多的熟食中心差不多,但更有人情味,开在现代的购物广场里,彩色遮阳篷已经褪了色。

The Singapore they remember is completely different from the contemporary city-state famous for its pristine streets, sleek buildings and high-end malls.


They chat about growing up in kampongs (or kampungs), traditional villages of zinc-roofed wooden houses that often had no running water or electricity.


Today, kampongs have almost entirely disappeared in Singapore, swept away by high-rises in what is seen as one of the world’s most ambitious and successful public housing programmes. But what drove this programme, and how well has it served Singapore’s generations?


‘Talk less, do more’


A push to build public housing began under the British in 1920. But the real change came in 1959 when the People’s Action Party (PAP) took power, says Han Ming Guang of the Singapore Heritage Society.

1920年,英国人最先开始建造公共房屋。但新加坡传统文化学会的韩明光(Han Ming Guang,音译)说,真正的变化是在1959年人民行动党上台之后。

“There was a need to redevelop certain key areas of Singapore and also to re-house people away from the city as the PAP leaders wanted to make Singapore modern,” he says.

"人民行动党的领导人希望将新加坡现代化,因此有必要重新开发一些重要地区,并将人们安置在远离城市的地方," 他说。

This process was accelerated after a fire at a kampong in 1961 left thousands of people homeless, and deepened government concern about squalid and over-crowded living conditions.


In 1960, the Housing Development Board (HDB) was established and within three years had built more than 31,000 flats. With an ambitious mantra of ‘talk less, do more’, hundreds of thousands of people were moved from kampongs into HDB flats, sparking mixed reactions.


“There were some who were delighted,” says Han. “These groups had been squatting or sharing a tiny space with others and had no electricity or modern sanitation. Moving into the HDB units was a godsend to them.”


But others resented having to move. “They chased us out,” says 66-year-old Lam Chun See, who writes a blog on his kampong days called Good Morning Yesterday. “They took our land.”

但另一些人则不满强制搬迁。"他们把我们赶了出去,"66岁的林振喜说。他把在甘榜的日子写成了博客,名为《早上好,昨天》(Good Morning Yesterday)。"他们抢夺了我们的土地。"

Lam is referring to the Land Acquisition Act, which came into force the year after Singapore became independent in 1965. It was controversial but then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew insisted it was necessary. It enabled the government to acquire land at low cost for housing projects and move people out of the overcrowded city centre.

林振喜指的是1965年新加坡独立一年后生效的《土地征用法》。这部法令是有争议的,但时任总理李光耀(Lee Kuan Yew)认为势在必行。它使政府能够以低廉成本获得土地用于住房项目,并将人们迁出拥挤的市中心。

“The rationale of the Land Acquisition Act was that we ought to make sacrifices for the good of the country,” says Lam, “But if I [the government] take your land, that means I’m appointing you to make the sacrifice; to me that’s unfair.”


Chuck Hio Soon Huat remembers different emotions. “I didn’t feel sad at all, maybe I was too young. Shifting into an HDB flat felt better because it was much cleaner, much more convenient.”


HDBs were initially available only to rent, but home ownership soon became a national priority propelled by Lee Kuan Yew, who believed it would drive national stability.


After decades of intensive building, Singapore now has more than 1 million HDB flats across 23 towns. In 1960 just 9% of Singaporeans lived in public housing; today that figure is nearly 80%, with more than 90% of residents owning their homes.


Sale prices for new builds (Build-To-Order) are lower than market value – although there is a waiting period of at least 3 to 4 years before you can move in – and rental stock is heavily subsidised for low income households. Latest figures show that HDB flats make up 73% of Singapore’s total housing stock.


Pre-determined path?


Safura Ashari, an estate agent who got into the business eight years ago after getting divorced, helps clients find HDB units.

阿萨里(Safura Ashari)是一名房地产经纪人,八年前离婚后入行,专帮客户寻找组屋。 

The 40-year-old lives in an HDB in Pasir Ris in the east of Singapore. Uniform tower blocks line the road and there’s a buzzing food court, shops, a doctors’ surgery, a vet and a grocery store. The estate is alive with residents despite the tropical rain.


Ashari says it’s a close-knit community. “I don’t lock my door, I make it a point to know my neighbours,” she says. “On my floor we have Indians, Chinese, Filipino and I’m Malay. We celebrate all the holidays – Hari Raya, Christmas, Diwali.”

阿萨里说这是一个紧密联系的社区。"我不锁门,我想要认识邻居们," 她说。"我那一层有印度人、中国人、菲律宾人,我是马来人。我们所有节日都庆祝——开斋节、圣诞节、排灯节。"

The diversity is not a coincidence – each HDB has to meet strict ethnic quotas. The government’s Ethnic Integration Policy, implemented in 1989, aims to maintain an ethnic mix in HDBs, something Lee Kuan Yew said would prevent communities “fragmenting and being alienated from one another”.


For estate agents like Ashari, this can prove tricky. “I had a case where I was selling the property for two years. The Malay quota was filled and it was a Chinese seller, so you can only sell to Chinese.”


Maintaining racial quotas is just one factor in accessing social housing. New HDB flats are only available to married couples. Singletons must wait until the age of 35 to buy and even then, can only purchase more expensive resale flats rather than new builds.


Divorcees also face hurdles – they can’t rent HDB flats for 30 months after selling the matrimonial home, limiting them to the more expensive open market, says Corinna Lim, executive director of AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research). Unmarried mothers can also only buy HDBs once they hit 35 because they are not recognised as a “family nucleus”, she adds.

新加坡妇女行动与研究协会的执行理事林女士(Corinna Lim)表示,离婚人士也面临难题——将婚姻期间的住房出售后30个月内不能租住组屋,他们只能去更昂贵的公开市场找房子。她补充说,未婚母亲也只有在年满35岁后才可以购买组屋,因为她们不被视为"家庭核心"。

The rationale is that less restrictive housing policy could encourage divorce and non-traditional family structures, but Lim says there is no “substantive evidence” to show divorce rates would increase if housing rules were relaxed.


“The reality is that there will always be divorced parents and unmarried mothers who need stable housing, regardless of the social or policy environment,” she says.

"现实情况是,不管社会和政策环境如何,总有离了婚的父母和未婚母亲需要稳定的住房," 她说。

‘Steph’, who had a daughter at 17, says her need for a proper home is the same as any other family. “Family comes in different shapes and forms, and we need to start acknowledging it. Me being unwed doesn’t make me less of a mother or less of a Singaporean.”


Raymond Yeo, 43, was single when he bought his first home at the requisite age of 35. Now married and looking to upgrade his flat, he has mixed feelings about the system. He liked the original philosophy but feels that some of the criteria for buying an HDB need revisiting.

现年43岁的杨先生(Raymond Yeo)在所要求的35岁时买了第一套房子,当时他还是单身。现在他已经结婚,想要换套更好的,他对这套体系爱恨参半。他欣赏原本的理念,但觉得一些购买标准需要重新审视。

“The government shows you paths they have created for you, so if you don’t conform, there’s nothing for you. If you want to own a home, you will try to get married and hopefully you can buy,” he says. “I feel the younger generation has no choice but to follow the path that is laid out for them.”


Ashari takes a different view despite having experienced her fair share of setbacks in life, and remains upbeat about the HDB system. “None of my clients have gone homeless, no matter what situation they are in,” she says, adding that it is common to appeal to the HDB and find a solution.


Home ownership is achievable mostly thanks to subsidies like grants to live close to your parents and access to a Central Provident Fund (CPF), a savings fund that all working Singaporeans are required to pay into. There are tight regulations around selling and renting out your HDB.


Ashari has seen clients’ attitudes change over the years, however. “The more conservative ones just want to have a roof over their heads,” she says, “but there is another group that want a good HDB in a good location. They say: ‘I’m going to stay there for five years [as mandated by law] and then I’m going to rent it out and I’m going to buy another private property [on the open market].’”


Keeping communities connected


Tan Jin Meng, a 53-year-old with a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has taken a broader look at Singapore’s housing policy. Amid rising debate on inequality in the city-state, he points out that the public housing provision constitutes a “very significant social benefit”.

53岁的谭进梦(Tan Jin Meng,音译)拥有李光耀公共政策学院的公共政策硕士学位,他对新加坡住房政策的审视更为全面。关于新加坡不平等问题的辩论日益激烈,他指出,提供公共住房是"非常重要的社会福利"。

But he says housing has become a political tool – a social contract between Singaporeans and a government obliged to keep providing homes for them. “It is a millstone because the government is now ‘responsible’ – it can’t reduce benefits without [political] cost.”


And Tan is worried for the future. He fears some people are over-extending on housing, leaving few retirement savings. He also feels older people are becoming isolated, even though HDB blocks were designed to encourage neighbourliness.


In Pasir Ris, Ashari says she chose her current estate because it has a garden, fitness area, basketball courts, four playgrounds and activities like Zumba and badminton. Such design features encourage people to come together, but Tan believes the kampong spirit is eroding amid a new mindset in younger generations.


“We are not a very gregarious people,” he says. “We tend to keep to ourselves, so the government has a lot of concerns about reaching out to people and getting them involved in activities.”


Tan also feels that future generations – better educated than their parents, with higher incomes and fewer children - may want different things from their housing.


One thing they may not be happy about is that all HDB flats come with a 99-year lease. Once it runs out, the government can reclaim them. Singapore’s a young nation and what happens when the first leases run out is a hotly-debated topic.


It is also often said that in Singapore the question popped is not “Will you marry me?” but “Want to get a flat together?”.


Angela Oh, 29, bought her new four-room HDB with the man who is now her husband in 2012 and just moved in this year. The system allows partners to put their names down for new flats, but you must be married by the time it is built.

29岁的胡女士(Angela Oh)在2012年和现在的丈夫买了一套三室一厅的新组屋,今年才搬进来。政策允许恋人先登记上名字,但必须在新公寓建成前结婚。

“The long time that BTOs (Built to Order) take to build really spoils the joy of the proposal,” she says, because marriage becomes about practicality. If you break up during the waiting period, you lose money and are barred from applying for another BTO for a year.


Oh, who grew up in an HDB, says she and her husband “are content to make a forever home out of our BTO”. But she says her generation think differently to their parents.


“Our parents probably believe that an HDB flat is the be all and end all,” she says. “The current generation has more to think about than just having a roof over their heads… global citizenship has redefined the way we view and think about the location of a home.”


For former kampong-dwellers like Lam Chun See and Chuck Hio Soon Huat, there will always be a pull to the past.


“We had nature at our doorstep,” says Lam. “Here, what doorstep? [In your] HDB flat, you don’t have a doorstep!” he laughs. “But the fault is not with the HDB,” he continues. “It’s urbanisation.”


Hio nods his head. “It’s the price you pay for progress,” he says. “But I feel proud that we played a part in it.”