26 January 2014
The Chinese called Queenstown Bo Beh Kang (no tail rivers), for they were unable to locate the source of the stream which ran through two burial hills in Queenstown.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of HDB’s Home Ownership Scheme. The critically acclaimed public housing scheme, which enables Singaporeans own “a stake in the country” is introduced in the Commonwealth district in Queenstown. Various accounts over the years flesh the familiar narrative of Singapore’s success under the incumbent government where HDB flats are greatly valued as shelter and material asset by Singaporeans.
From Boh Beh Kang to Queenstown
After World War II, the British returned and floated the idea of building a new town to tackle overcrowding woes in Chinatown. Bounded by Ridout Road, Tanglin Road, Alexandra Road, Holland Road and the Malayan Railway, the self-contained estate in Queenstown would comprise of 11,000 apartment flats, housing 70,000 people, and cost some $80,000,000.
Nevertheless, the kampong found itself increasingly entangled with the formal political and economic life of Singapore City. From late 1953, when the first flats in Princess Estate appeared, both spontaneous and organised resistance broke out against the resettlement of the squatters.
The social contestation slowed the colonial housing project, and the British built only two neighbourhoods before the PAP assumed office. The dual names of Queenstown testified to the social struggle between planned modernity, exemplified by neatly-aligned public housing slab blocks, and the semi-autonomous culture of kampong dwellers.