From HDB flats to student hostels

This is an en bloc conversion of a HDB public flat into a student hostel, located on Woodlands Street 13. From the external physical look of it, one can never tell it is a student housing, as it blends into the surrounding HDB estate in a similar faint yellow and orange paint-work.

But if one does look carefully, the corridors are barely decorated with potted plants, shoe racks, individualised colored painting of door grilles, which is much typical of a flat populated by longer term residents. There is a sense in which the habitat is meant to be kept as a transient space; a space that is not consumed as a long term “home”. As I made this mental note, the sound of a wooden door slammed, followed by a grille crashed closed. A young lady dragged a huge suitcase down the steps and headed for the main road to get a taxi.

The surrounding area was exceptionally quiet during the time I visited between 4 and 5pm. A young female happened to be walking towards the block lift, with a NTUC plastic bag filled with grocery. I approached her. She was friendly, yet appeared to be suspicious of my awkward presence in the neighbourhood. I asked her if the block is indeed a student housing, to which she confirmed. I then asked if it is for international students. She nodded. OK, she appeared to be displaying signs of discomfort speaking to a stranger, and so I stopped “interrogating” her.

En bloc conversion of public housing to student hostel is something that has happened since early 2000s (or perhaps even earlier?). For instance, three blocks of HDB flats near the Singapore Management University’s city campus were converted into hostels in end 2006. Located between Short Street and Prinsep Street, these are able to accommodate up to 268 students in total. A year later, in 2007, it was announced that two blocks along Boon Lay Drive nearby the Nanyang Technological University, formerly home to foreign workers, were turned into a hostel for students. The 200 three-room flats built in the 1970s would mainly cater to international tertiary students as well as some low-income Singaporeans.

More recently in 2012, SUTD took over several HDB blocks nearby its campus along Dover Drive that were undergoing en bloc, as a solution to provision of student accommodation.

Know of any other cases whereby HDB flats have been en bloc converted into student hostels? Leave me a comment!

Why am I blogging about this? See:


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