Farewell to Old Tanglin Halt

A total of 31 blocks – Block 24 to 32, 33 to 38, 40 to 45, 55 to 56, 58 to 60 and 62 to 66 – at Tanglin Halt Road and Commonwealth Drive was placed under the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) in 2014. This is the largest SERS program till date, as Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) aims to rejuvenate the aging housing estate that is already more than half a century old.

Almost eight years after the SERS announcement, Tanglin Halt’s mass shifting has finally happened, affecting as many as 3,480 flats, 200 hawker stalls, shops and eateries.

By September 2022, majority of the residents have vacated their flats; many of them have moved to the new flats at the nearby locations, such as Margaret Drive, Dawson Road and Strathmore Avenue. Likewise, the former shopowners and hawkers continue their trades elsewhere. Some chose to retire after spending decades of efforts in their businesses.

One of Queenstown’s five neighbourhoods, Tanglin Halt was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1962. Queenstown – its name commemorated Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation – was Singapore’s first satellite town developed back in the early fifties. Its first two neighbourhoods were Princess Estate and Duchess Estate.

The first flats at Tanglin Halt were the low-rise flats (Block 57, 61 and 67 to 73) built by SIT. After its establishment in 1960, HDB embarked on the construction of low-cost high-rise flats in the vicinity. There were 47 blocks of HDB flats and nine SIT flats upon the completion of the new housing estate.

While some of the Tanglin Halt flats were sold (Block 50 to 54 had their 99-year leases began in 1964) upon their completion, most of the Tanglin Halt flats started off as rental units. One particular block, Block 35, was used temporarily as a dormitory for HDB workers.

In the late sixties, in order to extend home ownership to as many people as possible, HDB conducted comprehensive surveys to find out the demand, especially among the sitting tenants to see if they were willing or capable of purchasing the flats they were occupying.

The survey results showed that there were strong demands. Hence, between the late sixties and early seventies, the HDB started converting the blocks from rental units to leasehold residential flats (according to HDB Map Services, most of the old Tanglin Halt flats began their 99-year leases in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1973. Only a couple started as late as 1983).

In 1968, the Tanglin Halt flats were sold at about $4,900 (for two-room units) and $6,200 (three-room units) each.

In the mid-nineties, HDB introduced housing schemes to assist the lower income families to own their flats. For those with household incomes of not more than $1,000, HDB purchased the flats from the open market and resold to them. For example, several three-room flats at Tanglin Halt, after acquired by HDB in the $80,000 to $100,000 range, were resold to those families for $30,000 to $40,000. About 4,000 families benefited from such housing schemes.

In 2003, Block 50 to 54, 57, 61 and 67 to 73 were selected for SERS. At the same time, the sites of Tanglin Technical School and Tanglin Primary School were redeveloped to build the current Commonwealth View (Block 88 to 91), the designated Build-To-Order (BTO) replacement flats for the former residents of Block 50 to 54.

On the other hand, the 50-year-old blocks of 50 to 54 were torn down and replaced with new BTO flats, also numbered 50 to 54, completed in 2015. The low-rise SIT flats of Block 57, 61 and 67 to 73 are conserved to reflect SIT’s role and contributions to Singapore’s public housing history.

In 2008, another batch (Block 74 to 80), built in 1962 and were fondly nicknamed 10-storey flats (chup lau chu in Hokkien), came under SERS. All seven blocks were torn down by 2016. Its site is currently left vacant.

The Tanglin Halt Food Centre was closed on 31 July 2022, and its role as the provider of affordable local food in the vicinity is now taken over by the new Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, opened on 1 August at the revamped former Block 38 Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market building.

Most of the residents, shopowners and hawkers have shifted out of Tanglin Halt by September 2022, leaving behind their empty flats, fond memories and the unbreakable bonds with the home they called for many years.

A few former residents still come back to Tanglin Halt occasionally to gather and chit chat about the good old days. But even that may not be possible soon, as the old housing estate will likely be demolished next year. A new Tanglin Halt will rise again in a few years’ time.

A brief timeline of Tanglin Halt housing estate:

1962

Tanglin Halt was built as one of Queenstown’s five housing estates

1964

Tanglin Halt Industrial Estate was developed

1969-1973

Most Tanglin Halt blocks were converted from rental flats to leasehold residential flats with 99-year leases

1979

Upgrading works were carried by HDB out to install additional lifts for the flats

1985

Upgrading works were carried out by HDB to install aluminum flashings at the flats’ kitchen windows to keep the rain out

1992

Part of Tanglin Halt Industrial Park vacated for demolition/redevelopment

1993

Upgrading works for the park next to Block 50

1996

Upgrading works were carried out by HDB (at Block 24 to 32) to extend the flats’ bedrooms and add a toilet, after 88.5% of the residents voted for the upgrading program in 1993

1997

Clusters of flats at Tanglin Halt were named Tanglin Grove, Tanglin Halt Green and Commonwealth Green

2001

Tanglin Halt flats were repainted with fresh coats of vibrant colours

2003

Block 50 to 54 (old) were selected for SERS
Block 57, 61, 67 to 73 were conserved
Upgrading works for Block 55 to 56, 58 to 60, 62 to 66

2008

Block 74 to 80 were selected for SERS
Block 50 to 54 (old) were demolished
New Block 88 to 91 were completed

2014

Block 24 to 32, 33 to 38, 40 to 45, 55 to 56, 58 to 60, 62 to 66 were selected for SERS

2015

Block 50 to 54 (new) were completed

2017

Block 74 to 80 were demolished

2018

Partial closure of Tanglin Halt Close

2022

Majority of the flats at Block 24 to 32, 33 to 38, 40 to 45, 55 to 56, 58 to 60, 62 to 66 were vacated

Published: 24 October 2022

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