Singapore’s public housing a model for social integration

Singapore’s experience with fully-integrated public housing can help other countries struggling to achieve inclusivity and equality, suggested Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

He made the statement at a specially-convened symposium in Washington that comes at the end of a year of ethnic and racial tensions in various key American cities, reported Channel NewsAsia.

Hosted by The Brookings Institution, the day-long symposium aimed to find ways of improving opportunity and equity in some of the most impoverished and polarised neighbourhoods in the US.

In his keynote address, Mr Tharman shared that Singapore avoided the pitfalls that plagued many other developed countries through careful design of public housing and ongoing rejuvenation.

“The secret sauce is our neighbourhoods, the composition of them and the way they are designed so as to maximise interactions and give us the best chance of achieving an integrated community. They are designed for that purpose.”

Housing assets in the city-state appreciate in value via careful stewardship which does not only promote flats, but also parks, schools and tolerance of all faiths, he said.

Moreover, public housing, which avoids any kind of segregation, can be found at the core of social policies that promote economic vitality and cohesion in Singapore.

Mr Tharman noted that a country such as the US is now paying the price for housing policies which are disconnected from any form of social integration.

“You either do something upstream that is meaningful and provides the right incentives, or you deal with the problems downstream – which are typically more costly to individuals, as well as to the public purse,” he added.

Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories email