SINGAPORE: The Government’s immediate priority is to help the construction sector restart “safely and smoothly, as quickly as possible”, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Thursday (Aug 27).
The sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, with waves of infections in dormitories housing migrant workers – who form a significant part of the sector’s manpower – and delays in many construction projects due to the “circuit breaker” period and safe distancing measures.
The Government has been working to help construction and renovation firms restart and has provided “significant financial support” to help firms tide over this period, said Mr Lee in the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) addendum to President Halimah Yacob’s address at Monday’s opening of the 14th Parliament.
“To help the construction sector to get on a stronger footing post-COVID-19, we will step up the pace of industry transformation to improve productivity,” Mr Lee said.
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This means adopting advanced building technologies for cleaner, higher quality and less manpower-intensive construction, he said.
In addition, the ministry will push for research, innovation and digitalisation across the industry, and create new and better jobs for Singaporeans.
It will also help Singapore's construction and consultancy firms grow to become “industry leaders”, both locally and overseas.
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MINIMISING DELAYS FOR BTO FLATS
Delays in the completion of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats have affected families waiting for their new homes, and the Government is working to minimise these delays, said Mr Lee.
Households facing financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 crisis will also get more flexibility in mortgage repayments.
“We will also monitor the housing market closely and take measures where needed to keep it stable and sustainable,” Mr Lee said.
Public housing will remain accessible and affordable, especially for young families seeking to buy their first home, even as more flats are built in and around the city centre, he said.
MND has kept public housing inclusive through support schemes for seniors and lower-income families, Mr Lee said. Seniors can tap on expanded and enhanced schemes to use their flat’s value to supplement their retirement funds, and there will be new assisted living flats for seniors with care needs.
Lower-income families are getting support to buy their own flats. But for those unable to, there are “highly subsidised” public rental housing, said Mr Lee, adding that the ministry is also looking to support multi-generational families, singles and single parents through regularly reviewing its housing plans and policies.
The Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme will keep older towns "vibrant", and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will plan and design estates for the well-being of residents at different life stages.
Residents are invited to contribute ideas and plans for community spaces, Mr Lee said.
The Government remains committed to greening the island and transforming Singapore into a “City in Nature” over the next decade, he said.
This includes more parks for recreational activities, protection of nature reserves, conservation of native flora and fauna, more natural landscapes and water bodies in gardens and parks, and integrating nature into urban areas and pathways.
Urban infrastructure will become greener as part of Singapore's climate change efforts, with the ministry aiming to green 80 per cent of buildings by 2030.
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MND is currently working on the next Green Building Masterplan, raising building sustainability measures and encouraging adoption of best-in-class energy performance solutions with the Super Low Energy Buildings programme.
HDB towns will also become more sustainable with “plenty of green spaces”, said Mr Lee, noting that the Government aims to reduce energy consumption in HDB towns by 15 per cent by 2030.
In Tengah, Singapore’s first smart and sustainable town, there will be a comprehensive cycling network. It will also have Singapore’s first “car-free” HDB town centre, with roads running underground.
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The HDB Green Towns Programme will improve sustainability in existing towns through initiatives like rooftop solar panels on more HDB blocks, smart LED lighting in common areas and more greenery in some multistorey car parks.
In addition, Jurong Lake District will be developed as a model sustainable mixed-use district. It will have smart infrastructure and planning to optimise resources and reduce the carbon footprint. It will serve as a potential platform for urban solution trials and new opportunities, said Mr Lee.
“We are never done improving Singapore,” said Mr Lee. “Each generation builds upon the efforts of the previous one. We will work with Singaporeans to build a better home for our generation as well as future generations of Singaporeans."