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Cluttered HDB corridors: Are town councils too soft on enforcement?

Cluttering in the corridors of Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks is a perennial problem, as a fire in a Tampines block earlier this week has shown.

Cluttered HDB corridors: Are town councils too soft on enforcement?

Letter-writer Francis Cheng Choon Fei asks if town councils have been perfunctory in managing the cluttering problem.

Francis Cheng Choon Fei

Cluttering in the corridors of Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks is a perennial problem, as a fire in a Tampines block earlier this week has shown.

The fire, traced to household items stacked along a corridor, resulted in four people being taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.      

It raises the question of whether town councils’ management of the cluttering problem has been perfunctory.

As town councils are led by Members of Parliament, who depend on their constituents for political support, are they being half-hearted in enforcing the rules?

If so, the authorities must act quickly to deal with the problem. Enforcement, for one, could return to the remit of the HDB.

Before town councils took over this function from the HDB, indiscriminate cluttering was rare. When it happened, the HDB acted decisively.

Alternatively, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) could enforce the rules. Presently, the SCDF can take action against owners of commercial premises who obstruct passageways and exit doors.

Obstruction of public housing corridors is no different and the law should be amended to allow the SCDF to take action quickly.

Two years ago, I sent photos to the SCDF of rampant cluttering in HDB corridors, rubbish chutes, staircases and lift lobbies. The SCDF referred the matter to the Tampines Town Council, but the problem persists.

Several weeks ago, I sent a photo to the Tampines Town Council of a pile of cluttered materials near the rubbish centre of my HDB block, but I did not get a response.

SCDF figures showed that discarded items in public and private residential estates were behind 401 fires in 2017 and 296 fires last year.

Awareness campaigns against cluttering the common areas will not work, as inconsiderate residents will ignore them. These advisories have no bite.

There have been other painful reminders of the hazard that cluttering poses.

In March this year, a fire that gutted a Bedok North flat was attributed to a “vast accumulation of combustible items within it”.

Neighbours had complained that the clutter spilled into the common corridor, and had put their concerns to the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council and the HDB.

Have the town councils taken a soft approach to the cluttering problem, preferring persuasion and flexibility?

Blocked corridors are a major obstacle to estate maintenance and town councils appear helpless in solving the problem.

Many residents occupy the common areas with flowerpots, shoe cabinets, laundry racks and furniture. Such irresponsible behaviour will hamper firefighting and evacuation efforts in an emergency and put other residents at risk.

Stricter enforcement is necessary.

 

Related topics

clutter corridors Housing and Development Board enforcement fire

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