These are some of the views expressed by Mr. C. W. A. Sennet ex-Commissioner of Lands in Singapore and Chairman of the Housing Committee formed in 1947 to investigate into the housing problems confronting the Colony.
The Committee reported that in 1947 an average of 18 persons shared a "building" in the Municipal area. All these buildings are not dwelling houses; some are godowns, stores, workshops and factories.
But overcrowding is at its worst in the town area of Singapore. According to the 1947 census Singapore had a population of 940,756. Of these 679,953 (about 73o/o) live within the Municipal limits. About one third of the population is concentrated on 1,000 acres of land in the heart of the city. In places the density is 1,000 per acre. Singapore has an area of 200 square miles.
These appalling figures point out the acute housing shortage in Singapore. A number of new houses have been erected since, but the rate of building can hardly keep pace with the population increase.
Chinatown has a good percentage of destitutes. The more fortunate ones live in slums.
Their homes are above the shops. Dark interiors without adequate ventilation are partitioned into as many tiny cubicles as there are families to live in them. Pestridden wooden partitions, their filthy condition cleverly concealed by bits of old newspapers pasted over them, are a regular spectacle in Chinatown homes.
But what is more lamentable is the fact that hundreds are without any form of accommodation at all. Walking through Chinatown late one night, I counted scores of people sleeping on the pavements, exposed to the rigours of the weather.
Such filth, squalor and poverty reflect on our society. We feel no qualms in seeing houses long overdue for demolition standing as they are, an eyesore to the passer-by. Thousands of our fellow citizens are denied a decent living because of the lack of houses. They are condemned to live in degradation and insanitation. There are many ways of solving the housing problem. Mr. Sennet thinks that by building satellite settlements the congestion could be improved.
These satellite towns should be self-sufficient. Each satellite town should contain neighbourhood units of 10,000 inhabitants. Each should have its own social amenities, shopping centres, cinemas and amusements, as well as religious institutions and schools. Facilities should be provided for recreation.
Such work could be undertaken by public and private housing societies run on a co-operative basis. The government, said Mr. Sennet, should encourage such enterprises by granting them loans. The greatest advantage of such a scheme is that it helps the middle-class worker to have a home of his own, even if he has to pay for it over a period of say twenty years. He will feel secure as well as being able to enjoy a full home life.
Mr. Sennet told me that his firm, The Sermet and Realty Co., plans to build a satellite town on the site of the Alkaff Gardens.
Work on the project will begin early next year.
Asked on his views on Birth Control (or Family Planning), which its many advocates in the Colony claim could prevent the present situation from becoming worse, Mr. Sennet replied:
"It is the wrong way round to say that, because we have not enough houses, we must prevent more children from being born. The fact is that we have FAMILIES and we must therefore FIND THEM THE HOUSES TO LIVE IN."
By STEPHEN SIM