Yishun (Part 2)

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete - The Freeman

A good friend from UP-Diliman, Dr. Regin Regidor, commented on last Sunday’s piece, “Lived in Sg for a while and the HDBs really make sense when related to commuting.”  He was referring to the Housing Development Board of Singapore, the one agency which transformed the city-state’s utter lack of housing when it gained independence in 1965 to the icon it is now.  With a doctorate in transportation, Doc Regin, as we fondly call him, was former Director of the UP-National Center for Transportation Studies.  He knows what he’s talking about.

Two things we immediately deduce from Doc Regin’s short statement:  1) that it “makes sense,” and 2) that it “makes sense” when related to “commuting.”  In fact, Yishun seems to be the perfect example of what we expounded in two columns we wrote last December 2011 about Land Use and Transport.  Not just Yishun but the rest of Singapore.  It’s as if everything seem to fall in place.  Only that they don’t “fall in place,” they were deliberately planned.  Yishun is actually the 2,108-hectare Yishun Planning Area under the 1996 Land Use and Urban Design Planning of Singapore.  They planned Yishun more than 15 years ago.

How does it really differ and why is it unique?  Let’s look at the stats first.  The Yishun Planning Area is 2,108 hectares, with a population in 2000 of 176,000 residents.  In comparison, Lapu-Lapu City is 5,810 has. with 350,000 in 2010, or about twice that of Yishun in area and population.  Both are approximately 15 km. from the metropolitan center.  But that is where the similarities end.  Lapu-Lapu is a highly urbanized city on its own, with all the functions a city wants to have while Yishun is a residential suburban town, although it looks more citylike than most cities here.  Not to mention more modern and sophisticated.

Yishun is a residential town/city.  It has nine neighborhoods and each is composed of clusters of housing blocks (Doc Reg calls them HDBs).  My friends, the couple “Neal” and “Joyce” work in different construction firms which makes these HDBs all over Singapore.  A typical block, like the one where they live and where I stayed for a week, has 12 floors and 111 units, that is, 10 per floor, but the ground floor has a common public area.  Each unit has 3 bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen/dining area.  And everything is clean and orderly.

There are hundreds and thousands of these HDBs all over Singapore, clustered mostly in suburban centers.  Mostly of similar design, they differ only on size and number of bedrooms, as there are blocks of only two bedrooms and some with only one (studio type, for singles).  You can’t just buy any type; it all depends on your level of family income.  When you increase your family income, you may be entitled to buy a bigger unit but you have to sell the old one.  In Singapore, a family can only own one housing unit.  You cannot have more than one.

So Yishun has all these housing blocks, but beautifully laid out in an orderly and efficient manner.  Plus, it has shopping/commercial areas, medical facilities, country clubs, community centers, parks, gardens and other recreational facilities, 11 primary schools, 9 secondary schools, and a junior college.  It has an industrial park, too which offer some employment opportunities, although most residents work somewhere else.  In other words, it’s a place one can live and enjoy life without having to go to other places for anything else, except work.  Regular bus services run through the city starting and terminating in either Khatib or Yishun MRT stations.  Or you can simply just bike around too.

The main shopping mall is right across Yishun MRT Station, which is, undeniably, convenient.  But smaller commercial/dining outlets are clustered conveniently among the clustered housing blocks, too, which make it also, convenient.  In fact, it seems I have not yet seen anything which is inconvenient in Singapore.  I thought, maybe a foot spa which proliferates here in Cebu. But I found one at the 4th floor of Northpoint Shopping Center across Yishun Station.  Only it’s a bit expensive …

Next Thursday, we revisit the concept of land use and transport as it applies to Yishun. (To be continued…)










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