Today residents of Chip Bee Gardens met at resident artist Ketna Patel's house to discuss the escalating rents here, in some cases by as much as 90%. For those of you who aren't aware, Chip Bee Gardens is a small enclave of about 350 terraced houses owned by the Singapore Government and managed by government agent JTC. The terraces were built in the 1960s to house the British Army officers, but are now marketed as the "Bohemian Heart of Singapore".
It is true; many artists, writers, film-makers, and dancers have lived in these few streets for years and have made it a truly unique place to live. But many are being pushed out by these unrealistic rental increases. There are very few areas like this in Singapore, and for many of us there is nowhere else we would rather live in Singapore. The area has a special communal feel, very relaxed and friendly which is ideal for raising kids.
Some of the residents have lived here for extended periods. My neighbours have been here for 32 years. Their two children grew up here. Their rent is about to go up from $2000 to $3500. In this time of economic recession this 75% increase is devastating. These people have lived here peacefully, taking immaculate care of their house, and they have been given a couple of months notice of this increase.
These people remember the 'good old days' when Premas was the managing agent of Chip Bee Gardens. In 1997 when the Asian economic crisis was happening, Premas actually decreased the rents by around 10%. This is a compassionate way to deal with the burden of economic hardship, something that seems to be lost in Singapore these days.
Around six months ago, when JTC started raising the rents, the market was strong and so they were raising rents to keep on line with market forces. But since then a recession has been declared and the market has plummeted. Many new inner city condos are slashing their rents because they cannot fill apartments.
JTC is actually the agent responsible for 'planning, development and management of industrial and business parks and facilities'. Chip Bee Gardens is not an industrial park, but full of real people with real needs. Perhaps JTC needs to remember this.
A petition was circulated around Chip Bee Gardens which 200+ people have signed. A residents' committee will be formed and we will petition JTC and the local Parliamentary member. They need to know that the residents of Chip Bee Gardens are serious about this issue, and that the very essence that attracts people to the area in the first place is being eroded by the lack of flexibility and compassion evident in the rental policies. The economic circumstances have changed dramatically in recent months and this needs to be taken into account.