This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

'No aircon, no hot water, cannot build anything': Black-and-white house renter seeks to debunk rumours in wake of Ridout Rd review announcement

The Ridout Road bungalows rented by Cabinet Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan have been under much scrutiny lately, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong asking Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean to lead an independent review into the rentals.

One man on Facebook who claims to rent such a property has thrown his hat into the ring, attempting to clear up inaccuracies surrounding black-and-white houses on Ridout Road.

The man, going by Yishen Kuik, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Friday (May 26) that has since been shared over 200 times: "Much of what has been written on Ridout and the black-and-white houses is incorrect — and understandably so as very few members of the public live in one."

Kuik felt justified to write about the matter as he claimed to have looked at "maybe 30 units" before renting his, and also grew up in the Hooper and Marketpeace roads cluster.

Shanmugam's bungalow should, in his opinion, have been in the range of $20,000 to $35,000 when it was leased in 2018, "nothing like the $200,000 or more bandled around by those with an agenda to enrage".

He explained: "The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) lease process is designed to prevent corruption. If the situation is competitive, you submit a deposit to register your interest and then you drop off your blind bid at SLA by a deadline. The next day all the bids will be published."

Every bid is in the public record "before you can decide yes or no," Kuik wrote, and even if someone bids double the next person's, they cannot change their bid after making it.

"If this process is not circumvented there should be no reason why anyone cannot bid on it, even the Minister," he wrote.

'No A/C, no hot water, no cabinets, no facilities and no appliances'

Kuik added that the public's inaccurate perceptions of the properties were due to the fact that, among the 500 or so houses managed by the Singapore Land Authority, only a few hundred were available for residential leases.

The rest, he wrote, are under reserved leases, for "American military in Sembawang, British Council in Dover", commercial leases or educational leases.

"Renters tend to stay for a long time so turnover is low," Kuik continued. "There might only be a few dozen opportunities to rent a year, so public interaction is minuscule compared with the private market.

"Nonetheless, there is always a stock of dilapidated black-and-whites waiting to be restored for when demand is strong. Units often stay vacant for years. Why? The pool of renters is niche."

Yet, Kuik noted that the houses were not as glamorous as they are made out to be.

"The houses are old, come with no air conditioning, no hot water, no cabinets, no facilities and no appliances — exactly how they would have been in 1920-1940," he wrote.

The land area may be large, Kuik wrote, with the bungalows coming with large fields, but renters are not permitted to build anything on the land or enlarge their houses.

"This is why [price] per square foot methods of valuing them don't make any sense," he wrote. "The land is not yours to do as you please. The plot ratio is not usable."


Why preserve black-and-white houses?

This brought Kuik to the next argument — if demand is so low, why even have black-and-white houses instead of building HDB flats or condominiums?

He pointed to the fact that there are only a few of the colonial-era buildings left when Singapore used to be "full of them" back in the 1920s.

"Without the SLA's conservation effort the current portfolio [of black-and-white houses] would be wiped out by each owner's desire to maximise living space, monetise plot ratio or break into pieces to distribute upon death," he postulated.


In his opinion, the SLA has been "creative" about maximising the utility of the black-and-white estates, "by making them relevant as beautiful residential estates that double as a sort of historical park for the public, F&B and lifestyle spaces like Seletar and Dempsey and universities like UBS at Command House."

For Kuik, the houses "serve as an extension of the National Museum," playing a soft role in nation-building and tourism.

However, he also conceded that "you need people to occupy and maintain them for otherwise they will fall apart," as when tenants leave black-and-white houses, they must take apart the facilities — air conditioning, hot water, fridge and so on — and return them to their old state.

The plus side to that, for Kuik, was that tenants essentially became custodians of the houses "even as you enjoy the surroundings of a bygone era, a win-win conservation solution".


One comment read: "Good that such information is released, otherwise even open tenders will be watched only by the few who know what's going on."

Some were more critical.

Another Facebook user wrote: "We [should] only conserve only some of them. 500 is too many in land-scarce Singapore. Conserve only those which are accessible by the public e.g. the restaurants."

"But which public?" Kuik countered. "The drinking public goes to one place, the eating public goes to another. The dog-walking and hiking public goes elsewhere.

"Most people only see their own habits and their own lifestyle, but in a society, there are many kinds of habits and lifestyles you must consider."

ALSO READ: 'I have nothing to hide': Shanmugam calls allegations regarding rental of Ridout Road state property 'outrageous'

[email protected]

No part of this article can be reproduced without permission from AsiaOne.