Our author Loh Kah Seng on the history of public housing in Singapore April 22, 2015 09:00

NUS Press author Loh Kah Seng weighs in on Singapore's public housing policy and why it might not be advisable as a model for Taiwan over at Thinking Taiwan.  

Via Thinking Taiwan:

"Most Singaporean commentaries on public housing show a limited grasp of history. In the standard account, the pre-history is a caricature of insanitary slums and squatter areas. The 'housing crisis' is, then, vanquished by the HDB's success in building low-cost housing for the people. This narrative ignores, however, the larger historical context.

Public housing did not begin with the PAP but was shaped by global developments. The HDB's efforts drew upon ideas of state-planned housing from Britain and the U.S. after the Second World War. To the Western powers, state intervention in housing was crucial to make developing countries safe for decolonization and from communist subversion. The PAP's 1963 slogan of an all-out assault on the five 'ogres' of a 'subservient society' — poverty, disease, ignorance, squalor, and idleness — was lifted out of the pages of the foundational document of the British welfare state, the 1942 Beveridge Report. As the language of squalor made housing an arm of the state, so where one lived became a matter of national policy."

Pair this article with Loh's book Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore, which argues that the fire was a catalyst for Singapore's emergence as a modern state.