Queenstown’s rejuvenation — and what it might mean for the National Day Rally

18/08/2023

Stroll through Queenstown these days and you will see that it is a place where the past meets the present.  

It is a neighbourhood where trendy cafes sit alongside old-school mamak shops. Young families walk through its streets to enrichment classes, along the way greeting seniors playing evening games of chess. A stunning stretch of Stirling Road has some of Singapore’s earliest Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks on one side and new SkyOasis @ Dawson Build-to-Order (BTO) ones on the other, reaching splendidly into the sky — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Message in the SkyOasis gardens this year. 

How did Queenstown get rejuvenated this way? 

A town of many firsts 

Queenstown is a town of many firsts.  

In the 1950s, the British started building it as Singapore’s first satellite town, self-sufficient with its own amenities like schools, shops and places of worship. The plan was to fill 500 acres with 11,000 homes across five neighbourhoods and a town centre; these would draw people away from Singapore’s crowded city centre. 

It was the HDB which successfully completed this plan. It recruited en masse local staff with little formal training to fill the manpower shortages while the British made their languid exodus from Singapore leaving a half-finished Queenstown behind.

Source: National Archives of Singapore  

These pioneering locals would learn on the job. They built good and affordable flats for their fellow Singaporeans, who needed houses urgently, particularly including the thousands of low-income squatters left homeless by the great Bukit Ho Swee fire

So, together with the PAP government of the day, the HDB worked hard to make Queenstown a reality, finishing it in the early 1970s. Queenstown eventually housed 150,000 people comfortably, more than double initially thought possible by the British. Other satellite towns followed its model. 

Moreover, it was Queenstown where the government built Singapore’s first polyclinic, public library, flatted factory and sports complex, bringing subsidised healthcare, public education, jobs and leisure within easy reach of Singaporeans.    

Source: National Heritage Board 

“Here in Singapore, in ten years, Geylang Serai will be another and better Queenstown; all the shacks will be demolished,” said founding PM Lee Kuan Yew in 1965 (Sept 12) — and so they were, letting even more Singaporeans enjoy an uplifted standard of living, despite those first few difficult years of nation-building. 

Adjusting Singapore’s housing scheme for a new era

Fast-forward to the turn of the millennium, with Singapore firmly a First World nation. The Government’s ongoing efforts to rejuvenate Queenstown started then.  

Source: My Nice Home by HDB 

These efforts are comprehensive. They include approximately 60 blocks of flats undergoing the HDB’s Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme, conserving heritage buildings like the library, wet market and hospital even while upgrading them, creating green spaces for the neighbourhood, creating new job centres like Fusionopolis and one-north for the knowledge economy — and, yes, those skyward-stretching BTOs around Dawson.  

“Dawson is now one of our most attractive HDB estates, a shining example of the Singapore housing story,” said PM Lee in his National Day Message there this year. 

He noted too that home ownership is a major aspiration for Singaporeans today and that more and more flats will be built in existing estates already full of amenities like Dawson — the demand for, and prices of, these flats will reflect that.  
 
 “But even amidst this changing landscape, we must still ensure public housing is accessible and affordable for Singaporeans of all income groups. We must also keep our housing schemes fair and inclusive for all,” said PM Lee.  
 
“We will have to adjust HDB’s housing schemes to achieve these goals. We have some ideas on how to do so, which I will share at the National Day Rally,” he added. 
 
Petir.sg is excited for this sharing: These will be adjustments from a party with the track record of forward thinking which made Queenstown an excellent first foundational chapter — as well as a very successful ongoing one — in our national housing story.   
 
Additionally, it looks to be our government taking another concrete step to help Singaporeans own that dream home. It is essentially a leg up for different sections of society, for an easier start to their next big chapter in life.  
 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will deliver the National Day Rally 2023 speech at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central, Ang Mo Kio, this coming Sunday, August 20 from 6.45pm.