Exploring the Oldest HDB Flats in Singapore

One of my biggest investment was in housing and one topic that intrigue me recently is finding government HDB flats that are reaching the end of their 99-year lease. As there was no publicly available information, there was several digging at HDB data like

With the country's rapid development, it's easy to forget the humble beginnings of public housing. But understanding the history of HDB flats can provide insight into the evolution of Singapore's housing policies.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) was established in 1960 to address the severe housing shortage in Singapore. Over the years, HDB flats have become an integral part of the Singaporean identity, with more than 80% of the population living in them. But which HDB block holds the title of being the oldest?

Tiong Bahru Estate: A Glimpse into the Past

Completed as early as 1937, step into the oldest "completed" HDB estate in Tiong Bahru around the MRT. However, upon checking their lease, it somehow started in 1973 (instead of 1937) and it was not the oldest estate that I could find. (read further for the estate with the shortest lease left).

As we trace its roots, we'll discover the rich historical tapestry that has made Tiong Bahru an architectural gem. Explore the estate's unique characteristics and the charm exuded by its HDB flats, offering a glimpse into the past while standing tall amidst modernity.

The units are located at Tiong Bahru Rd, Eng Hoon St, Seng Poh Lane, Eng Watt St, Seng Poh Rd, Guan Chuan St, Moh Guan Ter, Yong Siak St, Chay Yan St, Tiong Poh Rd and comprised of 1 to 3 story units.

Dakota Crescent: Redeveloping Around Dove Playground

Completed in 1958 by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), Dakota Crescent showcases an intriguing blend of architectural styles that reflect the era it was built.

In 2015, Mr. Lawrence Wong announced the redevelopment of the units and also the iconic dove-shaped playground:-

So we intend to retain the central cluster of buildings around the courtyard area (including the Dove Playground), and repurpose them for civic and community uses.

"The refreshed Dakota Crescent can therefore be an interesting mixed-use area, with attractive new HDB flats; adaptive reuse of some of the old buildings; convenient amenities, as well as vibrant community spaces."

We’ve looked into the various possibilities for the estate, and have decided to redevelop it for public housing. This will provide more public housing options near the city, and allow another generation of Singaporeans to build their own memories of the place.

Jalan Bahagia: 1.268m unit sold in 2021

Completed in 1959, 38 to 50 Jalan Bahagia (Whampoa) was also developed by SIT. HDB renewed the 99-year lease when HDB took over from SIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the owners of these terraced units. 

The area was famously known when an HDB terraced house was sold for a record S$1.268 million for such a 49-year-old unit, promising a unique "landed" home style of living for an HDB, beating even the newer iconic Duxton@Pinaccle project.

Queenstown: Pioneering HDB Living

Known as Singapore's first satellite town, Queenstown (named after Queen Elizabeth II) played a pivotal role in HDB's early years. Stirling Road was one of the first few blocks of flats completed by HDB in October 1960.

With the lease starting in 1968, Stirling Road is the 2nd oldest HDB known in terms of lease left. It is also likely the first HDBs to reach 99 years lease unless there is SERS or VERS. As there are no known plans for the units, Ms Karen Chan, who lives in a 48-year-old three-room flat at Stirling Road with her parents suspected that VERS might kick in (since SERS had yet to kick in). There are still hopeful buyers paying over $900,000 in 2022 for units in the area. 

"I am quite surprised because I thought there would be no chance for us to be part of these schemes," Ms Chan said. "I believe for the older generation - it would be good for them to have different options."

As these are "landed" style houses, many suspected that HDB is waiting for the units to be over 70 years old when market value will drop fast before offering SERS or VERS. 

Bukit Ho Swee: Havelock Phoenix After Fire 

The fire on 25 May 1961 provided an opportunity for a significant transformation to create a modern and vibrant housing estate next to the Havelock MRT now. Completed in 1962, the lease of the units start in 1971.

Tanglin Halt: Largest SERS 

Tanglin Halt in Singapore has a rich history that dates back to its days as a British Army Tanglin camp. Tanglin Halt was first developed by the SIT, and subsequently by the HDB in the 1960s. Almost all the blocks built by HDB during that period were ten stories tall. Hence, Tanglin Halt estate was also known among the locals as chap lau (十楼; “ten stories” in Hokkien).

On 27 June 2014, HDB announced the latest SERS project for the Tanglin Halt district with 31 residential blocks and 8 commercial blocks scheduled for demolition by 2021, this is the largest SERS project announced since 1999.

Jalan Batu: Short Quarry Lane

Jalan Batu, located in Singapore, has a fascinating history that traces back to its origins as a quarry town. With the decline of quarrying, Jalan Batu underwent a transformation into a residential area. We'll delve into the redevelopment efforts undertaken by the government and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to repurpose the land.

With the lease starting in 1969,  Jalan Batu is probably the tied in 3rd oldest HDB known in terms of lease left. There are still many optimistic buyers paying over $300,000 for 3-bedroom units, perhaps hoping for a similar SERS like Tanglin Halt. Similar to Tanglin Halt, many of these units are 10 stories tall.

Jalan Dua: Old Airport Road

With the lease starting in 1969 too, Jalan Dua is probably the tied in 3rd oldest HDB known in terms of lease left. There are many hopeful buyers of the units given its prime location paying over $300,000 for 3-bedroom units and also $600,000 for a 4-bedroom unit. 

Jalan Satu, Jalan Dua, Jalan Tiga, Jalan Empat, Jalan Lima, and Jalan Enam (“one” to “six” in Malay) are a small set of roads connected to Old Airport Road. Surrounded by new projects like Dakota Breeze, Dakota One, and its proximity to the MRT, it left many wondering about the plans for Jalan Dua.

Jalan Satu, Jalan Dua, Jalan Tiga, Jalan Empat, Jalan Lima, and Jalan Enam (“one” to “six” in Malay) are a small set of roads connected to Old Airport Road. Surrounded by new projects like Dakota Breeze, Dakota One, and its proximity to the MRT, it left many wondering about the plans for Jalan Dua.

Circuit Road and Balam Road: Expired Lease

With the lease starting in 1967 too, 34 and 65 Circuit Road and 20 Balam Road estate are the oldest HDB flats known in terms of lease left. Seeing the successful SERS of 81 to 83 Circuit Road, many buyers are probably buying or keeping this area for the SERS potential and also the nearby hawker food center.

As time was limited, I didn't explore Toa Payoh and Commonwealth Close which seems old too.

In this article, we took a closer look at the oldest HDB in Singapore and its significance. From its humble beginnings to its current state, it was interesting how the landscape of public housing in Singapore was shaped. 

Sky Hoon. Read Full Bio
Website Owner, Twitter-er
He has been trading since 2008. He started this blog to share the journey about option trading. He dabbled in stocks, bitcoin, ethereum (in Celsius Network), ETF (lazy Dollar Cost Averaging) and also built websites for fun. He used this as a platform to share my experiences and mistakes in trading, especially options which I just picked up.

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