Singapore—Pritam Singh, the secretary-general of the Workers’ Party (WP) expressed his approval for the correction issued in the November 14 edition of the Straits Times (ST) as it concerned the powers that the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, which is held by the WP, over its residents.

On November 10, the ST had in both its digital and print editions carried a story, originally from Shin Min Daily News, about a 67-year-old woman who had reportedly been issued a warning by the Town Council for hoarding many items in her apartment, and that she needed “to clear the rubbish in her flat within a week, or risk having town council staff move her possessions for her.”

By November 14, ST published a clarification that read, “The town council has clarified that it only told the woman to move her possessions that were spilling any the shared areas of the block, such as the corridor outside her flat.”

ST also apologized for the mistake.

In his Facebook post, Mr Pritam clarified first of all that the Town Council has neither the powers for, and neither does it give notice to residents needing to clear items in flats that they own.

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He wrote, “The TC’s purview extends to items that are restricted to the common areas, such as common corridors.”

Mr Pritam wrote that clutter is not “uncommon” in HDB estates, and that the AHTC finds out about cluttered common areas through feedback.

Due to possible fire hazards or other safety concerns in cases of hoarding, officers from the AHTC then speak to residents or issue written notices of removal.

And when there are underlying behavioral problems that cause the hoarding, the AHTC taps community agencies to render assistance to the residents involved, and when needed, helps in clearing away hoarded materials.

The WP leader ended his post writing about the “delicate balance” needed in cases of hoarding in managing a resident’s private interests, as well as the Town Council’s part in taking care of common areas.

Here is Mr Pritam’s post in full.

Good The Straits Times carried a correction to its story from last Sunday on a hoarding case involving the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council in today’s print edition. The original story reported that AHTC had asked the resident to clear the items within her home. But AHTC does not have powers or give notices to clear what is within an owner’s flat. The TC’s purview extends to items that are restricted to the common areas, such as common corridors.

Common area clutter is not uncommon in HDB estates. The Town Council is alerted to such cases through feedback, for example, from neighbours or other residents or during routine inspections conducted by officers/conservancy cleaners.

In some cases, what appears to be a case of hoarding is dealt with over a period of time through different means because each case can be quite different. AHTC officers typically engage the resident through verbal advisories and written notices of removal, in view of potential fire and/or safety concerns.

Separately, we try to assess if the cluttering/hoarding cases are due to behavioural issues. In such cases, if it is ascertained that the resident is troubled or homeless or requires other intervention, we refer or work with community agencies, such as the local Family Service Centre (FSC) to assist the resident. Town Council officers also stand ready to arrange for help to clear the hoarded items in the appropriate cases, after a resolution or understanding is achieved with the resident or household concerned.

All said, a delicate balance needs to be managed in hoarding cases between the private interests of a resident and the TC’s role to manage the common areas as best as it can. The lines are not always clear but it certainly helps when neighbours and community partners work with us to tackle such issues, one case at a time.” -/TISG

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