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For some Geylang Lor 3 residents, leaving won’t be hard

SINGAPORE — For some residents living at Geylang Lorong 3, it will not be hard for them to leave their homes when the leases expire on Dec 31, 2020.

Of the 191 units at Geylang Lorong 3, 33 are owner-occupied, 143 have been let out to foreign workers and 31 are used to host religious activities. Photo: Jason Quah

Of the 191 units at Geylang Lorong 3, 33 are owner-occupied, 143 have been let out to foreign workers and 31 are used to host religious activities. Photo: Jason Quah

SINGAPORE — For some residents living at Geylang Lorong 3, it will not be hard for them to leave their homes when the leases expire on Dec 31, 2020.

There have been illegal dumping, illegal parking and general cleanliness issues at the 2ha private housing estate, so much so that government agencies have received more than 400 of such complaints since 2010 from residents in the vicinity.

There has also been a certain disconnect with the community living in the terrace houses there.

Retiree Yeu Chai, 80, and his wife, 79, who have been residents since 1961 when the estate’s 60-year lease started, have seen neighbours leave by the dozens over the last 20 years. Moving in to take their places are construction workers and temple owners.

Madam Tan Whay Seok, 69, a hawker and long-time resident in the estate, said that the influx of foreign workers has made the place “more complicated”. Illegal dumping takes place every day, she said, pointing to an unsightly pile of rubbish by the kerb. People living in the two public housing blocks at Upper Boon Keng Riverview have to pass through the estate to reach home, and they told TODAY that the poor upkeep of the area has also caused mosquitoes to breed.

As it is, the value of the properties at Geylang Lor 3 will plummet now that there are only three-and-a-half years more to go before the lease expires.

There will be no compensation for homeowners, but many are still hoping that there would be, or that they would be given alternative housing. Some have no inkling what it meant for a lease to run out, and few have made plans to relocate.

Madam Lim Chye Huat, 77, for instance, received letters of the lease expiry from SLA officers yesterday. The widow, whose husband died about 40 years ago, said: “I don’t know what to do. Maybe, I will tell my five children and see if they will buy me a one-room flat.”

Like many other homeowners along the stretch, her family was given the inexpensive housing after a major fire in July 1953 gutted more than 240 attap houses.

The SLA’s records show that only 33 out of 191 houses there are still owner-occupied. In terms of use, apart from the tenants living there, 143 units have been let out to foreign workers, while 31 units are hosting religious activities.

Ms Serene Loy, 46, bought a unit for S$100,000 some 10 years ago to house a Taoist temple, which now serves more than 200 regular devotees. Moving elsewhere will be a headache, and Ms Loy said she would have to pay more than five times the price to relocate to an industrial site.

For Mr Low Hoe, 60, the estate’s impending demolition will mark the end of his construction business, Shao Tiling Co, which was set up in the 1980s.

About 20 years ago, he took up two units for S$100,000 each to house up to 16 foreign workers from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China. “The Government should at least compensate us for the one to two months we will be out of business if we were to move,” he said, estimating that he would need at least S$30,000 to relocate. “This is the third time I am being ‘chased out’ of a property, and I don’t think I have the energy to (set up shop) again.”

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