By Elias Tan

Stepping into Yung Kuang Residence is like  stepping into a ghetto.

The group of four diamond-shaped   blocks of HDB flats along Yung Kuang   Road in Taman Jurong offers a glimpse into the lives of the city state’s   poor. The minute you set foot onto the compound, you are   greeted by the stench of waste. Bird  droppings can be seen almost everywhere. Clothes are strewn all over the   compound. Garbage chutes  are left uncleared. People sit  around the compound’s quadrangle square, staring straight into the open sky. During rainy days, rainwater pours in from  all directions.

Once a pinnacle of urban architecture  in Western Singapore, the diamond-shaped block of flats pales in comparison to its  cleaner neighbours. It is now   occupied by foreigners and low-income Singaporean families under the HDB’s Interim Rental Housing scheme.

The first two blocks, 63 and 64, are used to house low-income Singaporean families who are either waiting for their Built-to-Order flats to  be ready, or have no place to stay.   And rental does not come cheap; families pay S$300 each a month.   

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At least three Singaporean families  are squeezed into a two-bedroom apartment that measures 678 square metres, while some units house more than five families.

The remaining blocks, blocks 65 and  66, are rented out to foreign workers  between S$1,600 and S$1,800 per unit per month.

Surprisingly, some white-collar  foreigners holding ‘S’ and ‘EP’ passes who are working in the vicinity choose  to call the Yung Kuang flats home.

That is the plight of Singapore’s poor – they live in cramped state-owned rental  apartments that are also inhabited by foreign workers, and it seems that they have long been forgotten, in  part because affordable housing means having a roof over their  heads. 

And with more than 80 per cent of the  population living in HDB flats, it seems like everyone is pretty well to  do. But if you were to look beyond the brick and cement walls, you will find poor people.   

A Malay  Singaporean resident told  The Independent Singapore that her family have been living in Yung  Kuang for the past five months and do not mind the squalid living  conditions. “What can we do? We have no choice,” said the 50-year-old  housewife and mother of five whose husband works as a welder in a nearby  factory.

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Yung Kuang Residence 2

Interior of an apartment at Yung Kuang Residence

Yung Kuang Residence

For Singapore’s poor, having a roof over their heads is a priority. Without a place to stay, they cannot move on in life.   

But having a house to live in does  not mean they are free from trouble. The same resident also worries about  safety issues, saying that she worries a lot for her daughter who frequently returns home late from school. “There’s a lot of people workers loitering around   the compound. Some sit around the stairwell chit-chatting on their phones. I’m frightened that she might get  molested or robbed.”   

According to a representative from LHN Group, the  leasing agent appointed by HDB to manage and look after the four blocks of   flats, there are about over 210 low-income Singaporean families living among  some 150 foreigners at Yung Kuang. 

We rent  these units only  to ‘S’ pass holders, Singaporean PRs and Singaporeans.”   

When asked how often cleaning is  conducted in the compound, the group representative initially declined to comment  before saying that the management is not responsible for cleaning.   

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It’s the job of the Town Council. We  don’t provide cleaning services. We go door-to-door to repair things and mend faulty   air-conditioners only when a resident calls us for help.”   

What left The Independent Singapore  team aghast was the A4-sized flyer their representative handed to us, which portrayed Yung Kuang as a cosy and liveable area. What we saw was  something very different.