The population of Singapore lives mostly in apartments. The majority of these apartments are built by the government: essentially, the nation’s public housing.
Public housing here is unlike public housing elsewhere in the world. Far from the run down, poorly built, semi-slums that the term evokes in imagination, Housing Development Board (HDB) apartments provide homes for all socio-economic levels of the resident population, investment in block and apartment design is made by the government so they evolve through the years, and individual apartments are frequently renovated to suit one’s class and income. Singapore is possibly the most expensive nation on earth to own a car – at the time of this post, purchasing just the right to buy a regular 1.6cc vehicle will set you back about $75,000 (USD conversion) – but the car parks are full, and some of the residents in our working class segment of this suburb, own luxury European sedans that cost half a million dollars or more.
The picture above was taken in a void deck – the empty ground floor of most post-1970s blocks. They are the communal spaces for each block. Above you see the beginnings of temporary decoration for a Malay Muslim wedding. This is what it could look like once it’s done:
Void decks also provide sheltered spaces for funerals, community events, parties, friends to hang out, a measure of privacy (ironically!) for dating couples, and play. I’ve played football, learnt to ride a bike, played cops and robbers (or “catching” as we called it) rollerskated, rollerbladed, and played roller hockey in these spaces. Because they exist wherever HDB blocks do, they provide shelter from the elements for intrepid suburban explorers.
Part of the Suburbia series