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En bloc bid stirring emotions at Mandarin Gardens

SINGAPORE — Its fresh bid to go en bloc has only just started but passions are already stirring at Mandarin Gardens, where the last collective sale attempt a decade ago resulted in acrimony.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Its fresh bid to go en bloc has only just started, but passions are already stirring at Mandarin Gardens, where the last collective sale attempt a decade ago resulted in acrimony.

Days after the estate appointed a sale committee, disagreement has brewed over whether all residents — including those who oppose the sale — should foot the bill for drinks during last Sunday’s (Jan 21) five-hour extraordinary general meeting (EGM), as well as the venue for subsequent meetings held by the committee.

About 400 owners attended the EGM to discuss reviving an en bloc bid.

Among the residents dead set against a collective sale is lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, who put herself forward to be part of the sale committee last Sunday.

The 54-year-old, who was vocal in opposing the last en bloc bid in 2008, was however one of four who failed to secure more than 50 per cent of votes to be part of the committee.

Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, who currently sits on Mandarin Gardens’ management council, told TODAY that en bloc laws in Singapore are pro-investor and hinder nation-building as they “(legitimise) the betrayal of neighbourliness and community goodwill” and “(open) up the floodgate of temptation of seeing more money”.

The resident of 25 years, who is also an opposition politician, said an en bloc sale would only result in “more high-priced luxury condos, beyond the reach of the original residents who gave up their home there”.

“It calls for us to think nomadic... and move to where the money is. No sentimentality and no allegiance, except to money,” said Mrs Chong-Aruldoss. “Those who refuse a price for their home are made to bear the guilt of obstructing the profit-making opportunities of others.”

She tried to get on the sale committee as she felt only those who were pro-en bloc stood to be nominated.

Asked if she would be doing more to resist the bid, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss said she is ultimately helpless as “once a majority 80 per cent agree, the remainder is bound”.

Another resident has slipped anti-en bloc flyers in others’ letter boxes.

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“Can you find another condo anywhere else so delightful a place as Mandarin Gardens? Wherever and however long you look? Please reflect on Mandarin Gardens’ special aspects and its quality of life. We hope you do not support the proposal to set up a collective sales committee,” stated the unsigned letter in capital letters.

The flyer was to counter another flyer that urged residents to get behind the formation of a sale committee.

The pro-sale camp has also been active in galvanising support. Residents were urged via WhatsApp to attend Sunday’s EGM or hand in proxy forms if they could not make it.

One of eight messages, which TODAY saw, read: “I believe (we should) give the (committee) a chance to do their job and seek answers for us (on how much each of us will get and if any developers are interested) ... Hope you can attend. I am attending.”

The resident also said: “I hope the atmosphere will not ‘boil’ over among the pro and against enblockers (sic).”

Most residents approached on Wednesday (Jan 24) did not want to identify themselves for fear of being linked to either camp. They remember shouting matches that ensued during the previous en bloc attempt and said two cars – one belonging to a member of the former collective sale committee – were scratched in the heat of a spat, incurring a bill of S$800 for one of the owners.

The new sale committee, which has at least three members from the last committee, is wary of a repeat and is appealing for residents to be rational rather than emotional.

One of its 11 members, who declined to be named, told TODAY it will “learn from past experience” and try not to drag out the process.

The last committee only went as far as appointing a marketing agent before disbanding in 2009 after a three-year en bloc fever had fizzled out.

Committee members will split the cost of collective sale meetings among themselves, he said.

Defending its intentions, he said: “We are not people who only lived there for one, two years... Most of us have lived there for more than 10 years. We are veterans of the estate. Half of us have been here for 20 over years. We will face the same difficulties in vacating the place.”

The resident of more than 15 years described the mood on Sunday as generally cordial.

The EGM was held under a tent and only took about 30 minutes to pass the vote to form a collective sale committee. The rest of the time was spent deciding on the number of committee members and electing them.
 

RESIDENTS TAKING ‘WAIT AND SEE’ APPROACH

Most residents told TODAY they are taking a “wait-and-see” approach and are curious about the money they stand to gain.

Some are excited about potentially earning 50 per cent more than current transacted prices, which hovered around S$919 per sq ft in the last quarter of 2017. Others wanted at least S$1,900 per sq ft to let go of their units, taking into account costs involved in buying a new apartment, which will include a 7 per cent additional buyer’s stamp duty.

Mr Andre Vaz, 55, a manager at Hewlett-Packard who bought a 1,000 sq ft apartment for about S$900,000 seven years ago, said he is seeking about S$1.5 million.

“That’s half a million more than if I were to sell it today,” he said.

“If that happens, I will be sad to leave this place and it’ll be difficult to find a place like this, but I am more concerned about the money in the bank. But I am also okay if nothing goes through,” said Mr Vaz, who voted in favour of the setting up of the committee.

A 78-year-old retiree living in a 1,800 sq ft unit said he recently rejected an offer of S$1.7 million, estimating he could get S$2.5 million from a collective sale.

He spent S$180,000 to renovate his apartment, guessing it would take some time to get 80 per cent of homeowners on board.

Another owner in his 60s, who has lived there for more than 30 years, said: “At the end of the day, we love this place. If the price is right, we will (go) en bloc. If not, there is no issue.”

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