DBSS woes: Because HDB went flat out?

Jun 23, 2015 06.30PM |

By Wan Ting Koh

After it has happened so many times, you have to ask: What the hell is going on?

The latest DBSS fiasco to hit the Internet is Pasir Ris One, located beside the neighbourhood’s White Sands shopping mall. Residents are complaining that the common corridor – exactly 1.2m-wide – is too narrow, even if it is built to fire safety standards. Owners who picked up their keys over the last two months have formed a private Facebook group to discuss the issue. So far, more than 200 home-owners – about half of the 447 units available – have signed up. Members are required to present a letter or any official document that proves ownership in order join the group.

Residents who spoke to TMG complained about several building defects, including uneven ceilings and exposed pipes. The size of the flat and its rooms appear to have caught several by surprise, although the developer had stuck to the specified dimensions. The chief complaint was the dark and narrow corridors, which is “shocking, too small and with a ceiling that is worse than a factory and a car park”, as Ms Jynny Chew, 50, a soon-be-resident in Block 530C said.

Commissioned by the G, DBSS flats are designed and built by private developers. They typically come with better fittings and finishings than standard Build-to-Order flats, though unlike Executive Condominiums, these projects do not have facilities such as pools and gyms.

Pasir Ris One, launched in April 2012, was built by private developers SingHaiyi Group Ltd and Kay Lim Holdings. The last of the 13 projects offered under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme, an average four-room flat costs around $550,000 to S$670,000, compared to a reported S$350,000 for a four-room BTO flat around the area.

This latest spate of complaints follows a handful of other DBSS projects which have been under fire for shoddy workmanship despite the premium price such flats command.

Just last month, DBSS estate Trivelis in Clementi made headlines when residents told of shower room glasses that shattered easily, water seepage into units from floods in corridors and rusty lift doors.

Earlier in the year, Centrale 8 in Tampines was lambasted by residents over what they perceived to be the low quality of its finishes and fittings. Residents faced faulty balcony locks, toilets, and even bursting water pipes.

In 2013, The Peak in Toa Payoh was attacked for the dreadful state of its 1203 units, with inferior materials used, such as flimsy lamination, topping the list.

The woes of the DBSS residents have surfaced an issue: what are the responsibilities of the Housing Board and the private developer for the state of the finished product?

So far, HDB has remained in the background, preferring to let private contractors handle the matter while it monitors changes. The private developers, on the other hand, are falling mainly on the “one-year defects warranty” to placate residents who want the place spruced up.

In the case of Centrale 8, developer Sim Lian was adamant about not extending the defect liability period or provide financial compensation despite the impending expiry of the residents’ one-year “warranty”. This is even as residents maintained that defects were still surfacing.

Trivelis residents were told by developer ELD that contractors would continue to engage the Trivelis Residents Working Committee and see to their problems.

As for structural work that doesn’t quite constitute surface defects and which would require extensive work, it’s probably too hard a case to make.

Like common corridors.

Most of the 447 units in the four Pasir Ris blocks were unoccupied when TMG visited the area on Monday. What stood out immediately was the width of the corridor that ran along the units. At 1.2 metres across, the passageway is at the minimum width permitted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force. This means that residents aren’t allowed to place items along the passageway, as they would impede movement during an emergency.

Mr Ali, 42, who was at his four-room flat with his family of six, never expected the corridor to be so narrow. The police officer, who had moved in with his family a month ago, said that with the door grilles open, a person would have to edge past the grilles sideways to get through the corridor.

Photo By Shawn Danker
The corridors of Pasir Ris One are so narrow that the Fire reel doors on opposing sides will block each other if opened at the same time.
Photo By Shawn Danker
An open gate shows how much walking space is left in the corridors of Pasir Ris One after a resident opens their doors.
Photo By Shawn Danker
Mrs Chew pointed out that the ceiling pipes on her floor were all exposed and lacking a false ceiling to cover them up.

While another resident, Ms Vera Foo, 26, an administrative executive, didn’t mind the narrow space, her mother, on the other hand, was outraged. It was “ridiculous” that people had to pass through the corridor in a single file, she said. She recalled how a construction worker had to wait for her to pass into a wider part of the corridor before proceeding past her. “If others come to visit during the festive season like Chinese New Year, there might be a problem of congestion in there”, she said pointing to the passage.

One resident who was not too fussed about the corridor is Mrs Lynn Pang, 44, a housewife. Her four-room flat is situated at the end of a passage which widens into a lift lobby and staircase. “I am satisfied with my place but I don’t know how our neighbours are going to move in through that corridor”, Mrs Pang said.

There will be no more DBSS woes simply because this is the last DBSS project but it appears that even residents in new BTO flats have a problem with the quality of work. It makes one wonder if the push to provide more housing in quick time over the past few years is leading to some compromise of quality. A quick, but not very good, job done?


Featured photo by Shawn Danker. 

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