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Cityscape: Volume 11 Number 1: Chapter 1


Lessons for the United States From Asian Nations

Volume 11 Number 1

Reinventing Highrise Housing in Singapore

Belinda Yuen

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. government at large.


Singapore is a city-state with limited land and a growing population. Within its land area of 700 square kilometers, it has to meet the needs of the city, nation, and population. From an initial population of about 150 at the time of its British founding in 1819, Singapore grew through immigration and net natural change to 4 million inhabitants by 2000. The population of Singapore is projected to grow by 1.5 million or more in the next 40 to 50 years. The challenge is how to plan for the growing population while supporting economic growth and quality of life as Singapore strengthens its development as a dynamic and distinctive global city-state. This article addresses the principles, directions, and outcomes in a "planning for more with less" scenario. In particular, it focuses on the housing strategy and how Singapore has housed 84 percent of its resident population in highrise public housing and improved residents' living conditions in the process. Using empirical data from residents' perception research, the article explores the realities of highrise living and the factors that ground the celebration of highrise housing in Singapore. The manner in which Singapore turns its highrise housing concept into action offers lessons for other cities, especially because the housing literature is peppered with negative discourses on highrises and an emerging revival of highrise housing is occurring in many cities throughout the world. With more than one-half of the world's population living in urban areas, the unambiguous trend is toward a more urban-style development with taller buildings included as an inevitable housing solution.


image of city buildings