3 things that might surprise you about Geylang

Last week’s news that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is seeking to stop the development of more housing projects in certain areas of Geylang to prevent potential conflict between the growing number of residents and local businesses, has put a spotlight on the notorious red-light district.

But if you think Geylang is synonymous with sleazy brothels, Bangladeshi workers dormitories and durian stalls, think again. Today, Geylang is fast transforming into a bustling town at the city fringe. Its speed of transformation can be seen in the many construction hoardings and new property showflats that have sprouted up in the area.

Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about Geylang.


The second Chinatown

Geylang is quickly becoming the second Chinatown of Singapore. While the “official” Chinatown in Outram is very touristy with souvenier stalls, night markets and tea shops, the Geylang area is transforming into a second Chinatown complete with TCM clinics, supermarkets and sundry shops selling imported China-made foodstuffs and products, as well as restaurants serving Northern Chinese cuisine such as dumplings and handmade noodles.

There are also numerous RMB money changers with bright LED signboards, Chinese clan associations, Chinese temples, and a significant increase in the number of Chinese expats in recent years. It is understood that while the “official” Chinatown has gone upmarket because it mainly caters to tourists, Geylang is the Chinatown for the masses.


Geylang property economics

Geylang is one of the very few regions in Singapore that defies market forces and economic logic. It’s an unspoken rule that most banks severely restrict or do not issue home loans for properties in Geylang, especially along the even-number lorongs (particularly those below 20) due to its red-light district stigma (although most banks are also relaxing the rule due to increased demand and the cleaning up of Geylang’s image in recent times). This was already a market practice even before the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) was introduced.

And yet, Geylang has never failed to attract developers, investors and home buyers from swarming in because its fundamentals remain strong: proximity to the CBD (especially with the improved Nicoll Highway and new Marina Coastal Expressway), high density of amenities as well as vibrancy. A well-known fact is that the most TDSR-defying home buyers can be found in Geylang as the majority forked out the bulk of the purchase price in cash.

Additionally, Geylang is a hotspot with expat rentals. Many expats, especially the Chinese, are inclined to live in Geylang due to its growing status as a second Chinatown and also its good network of transport infrastructure. The nearby Sports Hub is also providing more lifestyle, retail and entertainment options to dwellers in Geylang.


Hipster spots

The Mountbatten-Guillemard area is quickly emerging as a hipster enclave with the mushrooming of indie cafes and eateries due to the increase of expats in the area as well as relatively cheaper rentals. Brawns & Brains (Old Badminton Hall), Maple & Market (Cassia Crescent), Char, and Tuckshop (Guillemard Road), are some of the trendy hangouts that are rapidly changing the F&B and retail scene in Geylang.


Romesh Navaratnarajah, Singapore Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories email romesh@propertyguru.com.sg