Toa Payoh New Town

Singapore Infopedia

by Han, Jamie


On 20 June 1966, tenants moved into the first blocks of flats in the new Toa Payoh satellite township. The Toa Payoh tenants were renting 840 one-room units in four blocks of flats at a monthly rental of $30.1 In October that year, the first 720 flats were sold to the first homeowners in Toa Payoh.2

Toa Payoh was the second satellite town to be built after
Queenstown but it was the first to be conceived and built solely by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).3 Queenstown had been initiated by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), HDB’s predecessor, but a major part of the project had been completed under the HDB’s first five-year building programme.4

Although Toa Payoh Town was announced when HDB was first set up in 1960 and expected to be built during the first five-year building plan (1960–1965),5 it was actually built during the HDB’s second five-year programme (1966–1970).6 Located about 5 miles (8 km) from the city centre, the 600 acres (243 hectares) of land earmarked for Toa Payoh Town was on slightly elevated land which had been populated by some 3,000 squatter families while the more low-lying areas along Braddell Road were under cultivation by vegetable farmers.7

The new township was projected to house a population of 150,000 to 200,000 people in 30,000 to 35,000 units. This was slightly less than the population of Queenstown. Some 40 percent of the flats were to be one-room rentals while the remaining were to be made up of 40 percent three-room units and 20 percent two-room units for sale to first-time homeowners. Designed to be a self-contained town, Toa Payoh would have neighbourhood precincts, a town centre with shops, sports complexes, a town park, and schools.8

HDB set up to deal with housing shortage
The HDB had been established on 1 February 1960 to deal with the housing shortage in Singapore. At the time, “about a quarter of this population lived on the city fringes in the most unimaginable squalor; another 250,000 crammed into crumbling shophouses in the oldest part of the city”.9
Singapore’s population was growing at about 2.5 percent per year.10 To tackle this growth, it was estimated that the HDB “had at least to produce 11,500 units each year”.11 Then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye who was also serving as the Acting Minister for  National Development noted that the SIT had been building only an average of 1,700 flats a year, much lower than what was required to meet population growth. He then announced that the government would spend $230 million in the next five years in housing construction, and one of these new towns was Toa Payoh.12

By early 1961, Howe Yoon Chong, then HDB’s executive officer, unveiled the ambitious plans for Toa Payoh. Howe announced that construction would start later that year and that he expected the first families to move into their new homes by the middle of 1962. Howe envisaged a town of 50,000 HDB units for a population of 300,000 people.13

This plan ran into difficulties early on when it proved difficult to reach an agreement on the terms of resettlement with the squatter families that had occupied the Toa Payoh site.14
Negotations dragged on as the squatters demanded more compensation.15  

Job creation

The HDB promoted the development of Toa Payoh by releasing information on the jobs that would be created with the construction of the town.16 In addition to providing much-needed housing for about one-sixth of Singapore’s population, there would also be jobs to be had in the town’s 100 shops, four markets, 20 primary and secondary schools, community centres, theatres and other public amenities. There would also be work for some 4,000 during the construction of the flats in addition to work for another 4,000 employed in brick-making factories, sand pits, timber yards and transport companies.17

By 1963, the government announced that work on Toa Payoh would start. A HDB spokesperson reported that “surprisingly and most unexpectedly, well over half of the attap dwellers in the area, who were in the past reluctant to move out, have now suddenly accepted the offer”.18
This, he speculated, was due to the cessation of intimidation tactics by the communist-front organisations of the Barisan Sosialis, such as the Rural Residents Association and the Country People’s Association. Shortly after this, the squatters were relocated, with some moving to terrace houses in Kim Keat Road.19

Then Minister for National Development
Lim Kim San attributed the end of the organised resistance movement by “the anti-nationalist, pro-communist group, who instigated the peaceful squatters in Toa Payoh to resist clearance work...for nearly two years” to the success of the referendum on merger with Malaysia in September 1962. This made it possible for the government “to break the back of organised resistance”.20

With the resumption of plans, the government set aside $120 to $150 million for the construction of the town.21
Toa Payoh Town was to be the centrepiece of the HDB’s second five-year plan.22 Construction of the first 1,425 units began in end-1964 and the flats were expected to be ready by 1966. In February 1966, the first contracts for 840 one-room rental units were handed out.23 In June 1966, the first tenants moved in.24

Also announced in early 1966 was the news that the first 1,872 units in 10 blocks of nine- storey flats would be put up for sale under the Home Ownership Scheme.25
The sale was restricted to Singapore citizens with an income not exceeding $1,000, and open only to families without restrictions on family size. Eligible applicants had to deposit $1,500 for the three-room flats and $1,000 for the two-room flats to qualify for the balloting.26 The first six blocks of flats, costing $5.3 million and consisting of 690 three-room units and 30 two-room units were balloted out on 1 October 1966. Two-room flats were sold at $6,000 and three-room flats at $7,500.27 Tenants and homeowners were in their new homes by October 1966.

Continuous development
Toa Payoh continues to be developed until today, one of the many HDB towns that have been built since 1966.
In 1995, Toa Payoh underwent an extensive renewal programme that saw many of its original flats being replaced by newer ones. The town centre was also rejuvenated with better facilities so that it was comparable with the town centres of newer housing estates.28

As at 31 March 2013, the town has 36,617 dwelling units.29 This is higher than the original projected number of 35,000 units.30 However, it houses an estimated population of only 109,300 residents,31 far short of the original projected population of 250,000 residents.32 This is despite the newer flats being larger than the original two- and three-room units. Only about 3 percent of the present flats are one-room flats and 10 percent are two-room flats. Nonetheless, Toa Payoh Town still houses a significant proportion of the 82 percent of Singaporeans living in HDB flats today.33

Jamie Han

1. Toa Payoh Town: The First Tenants Move In,” Straits Times, 21 June 1966, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “The Lucky 720 Get Their Flats,” Straits Times, 2 October 1966, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69 (Singapore: Housing and Development Board, 1970), 26. (Call no. RSING q301.54 HOU)
4. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 18.
5. “Govt. to Spend $230 Mil. on Homes in the Next Five Years,” Straits Times, 10 August 1960, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 26.
7. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 26.
8. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 26.
9. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 8.
10. Aline K. Wong and Stephen H. K. Yeh, eds., Housing a Nation: 25 Years of Public Housing in Singapore (Singapore: Housing and Development Board, 1985), 95. (Call no. RSING 363.5095957 HOU)
11. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, First Decade in Public Housing, 1960–69, 8.
12. “Homes in the Next Five Years.”
13. “Work on Satellite Town to Begin at End of Year – Ready By 1966,” Straits Times, 22 February 1961, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Toa Payoh Satellite Runs into a Problem – Squatters,” Straits Times, 12 July 1961, 5; “Telling the People Satellite Town on the Way,” Singapore Free Press, 27 July 1961, 6; “A Compensation Snag Delays ‘Satellite’,” Straits Times, 5 October 1961, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Compensation Rate for Toa Payoh Folk ‘Fair and Reasonable’,” Straits Times, 21 October 1961, 24; “‘Absurd’ Rates Are Asked,” Straits Times, 13 March 1962, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Jobs, Homes for Thousands in Toa Payoh,” Straits Times, 11 March 1962, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Jobs, Homes for Thousands.”
18. “Toa Payoh Go Ahead,” Straits Times, 10 February 1963, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
19. “Smiles as Nine Squatter Families Move into New Homes,” Straits Times, 28 February 1963, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Work to Start Now on $150m. Satellite Town,” Straits Times, 27 November 1964, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “More Homes for the People,” Straits Times, 21 July 1965, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “60,000 More Low-Cost Flats Planned for Singapore,” Straits Times, 27 August 1965, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “Island’s Newest Satellite Town,” Straits Times, 23 August 1965, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Toa Payoh Town: The First Tenants Move in,” Straits Times, 21 June 1966, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “A Home Ownership Plan for Toa Payoh,” Straits Times, 28 January 1966, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Toa Payoh Flats to Be Sold By Ballot,” Straits Times, 8 September 1966, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
27. “Toa Payoh Flats to Be Sold By Ballot.”
28.  Koh Buck Song, Toa Payoh: Our Kind of Neighbourhood (Singapore: Times Media for Housing & Development Board, 2000), 59–60. (Call no. RSING 307.76095957 KOH)
29. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, Annual Report 2012/2013 (Singapore: Housing and Development Board, 2013), 6. (From BookSG)
30. “Work to Start Now.”
31. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, Annual Report 2012/2013, 7.
32. “Work to Start Now.”
33. Housing and Development Board, Singapore, Annual Report 2012/2013, 7.

The information in this article is valid as of 12 June 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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