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"I am a BLOGGER NOT an expert. This is a BLOG not a 'go-to' website for official information. I represent no one's view save my own. I have neither legal nor financial training, nor do I have anything to do with the real estate industry. My understanding of the Collective Sale Process is from a layman's position only. My calculations, computations and tables are homespun and may contain errors. Please note that nothing in this blog constitutes any legal or financial advice to anyone reading it. You should refer to your lawyer, CSC or financial adviser for expert advice before making any decision. This disclaimer is applicable to every post and comment on the blog. Read at your own risk."
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There is one thing worse than an Enbloc ----- and that is an Enbloc done badly. Since the majority have the necessary mandate to sell, then they owe it to all SPs to make a success of it. Minority SPs can only watch and wait, if they sell then lets pray it's at a price we can move on with, if they don't sell, then we are happy to stay for a few more years.

Enbloc and Good Neighbourliness

Three letters to the forum page of the Straits Times 20 March 2008 regarding enblocs:

"En-bloc sales eroding our 'sense of kampung"
"Right to hold property guaranteed by law"

Addressing the three letters in the forum page of the Straits Times, I find myself agreeing with the first two, in parts. The third , actually, I hold in reserve.

It is somewhat hyperbolic to say “enblocs erode our sense of kampung” when we all know that that original sense has long been absent in society. The early relocation exercises tried to keep communities together to maintain those nebulous ties but over the years, the old generation with their old ways gave way to the new generation with their vastly different lifestyles, education and expectations. A very big piece of kampung spirit rested on the shoulders of women and now those women have gone back into the workforce, children are kept indoors, and gates are locked (at least in the public housing sector). We all lament the loss of community spirit and some people at least try to address this problem by getting involved in community based projects. Unfortunately, they are a lot of work for very little return, but even that little return is better than none and so people soldier on. Community based projects work better when they are done on a small scale, for example a condominium can concentrate on the residents in the estate. And for Tampines Court, a community based group called the Tampines Court Neighbourhood Committee (NC) was established some time after privatization. The group comprises of 6 active members (all minority). Here is a list of some of the activities and events (since 2004) that this group of volunteers organized in their free time in order to foster good neighbourliness and community bonding.

Block Parties/Mini-bazaars/DeepaRaya Dinner/Christmas Parties/Gardening Talk /Calligraphy Contest/Egg Painting/Art Contests/FamilyDays/Magic shows/Balloon artists/Henna artists/Comedy Acts/Bingo/Tampines Court Idol/Lucky Draws/Sandwich Making Contest/Toddler races/Sushi making/Lantern festivals/Mooncake Making/ Lantern Decorating contest /Fiesta Nite at Riverview Hotel /Visit to the Lion’s Home for the Elders /Visit to the Jamiyah Home for the Aged /Visit to the Jamiyah Childrens’ Home /Trip to the Night Safari /Day trip to Ostrich farm, fireflies in Malaysia /and finally, their last effort was an Afternoon Tea & Chit Chat.

Tampines Court Neighbourhood Committee was voted the most active NC in Singapore in 2005.

So, what effect does en bloc have on the ongoing efforts of promoting community bonding within private estates? Good neighbourliness does not happen overnight, it takes familiarity and a fair length of time. Well, as evidenced in Tampines Court; it is decimated by it.
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Enbloc splits small communities into pro and anti groups. The anti-group members generally have a stronger sense of community than the pro-group and it comes as no surprise that it is in this group that you will find a greater number of community-based volunteers. The active members of our NC are all minority.
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NC activities saw a sharp decline in attendance after enbloc was announced and the signing began. All along, the NC had had an amicable association with the Management Committee (MC). It was altogether a mutually beneficial arrangement. When the old MC was swept aside at the 2006 AGM, the new MC ,with their strong pro-enbloc agenda, took on a completely different stance. They challenged the very existence of the NC and for a time they were forced to hold their monthly meetings at a venue outside the estate. After the 're-education' of the MC as to the function and role of the NC, the group was eventually allowed to return to continue their resident activities. But things were not as before. The fledgling community spirit that once existed had died. Event planning petered out.

So, what will the NC do in 2008? Well, another visit to an old folks home has been arranged where they shall bring food, music, fun (and Bingo paraphernalia!) to people far more deserving of their efforts. But perhaps, just perhaps, there will be a final attempt at a Mother’s Day event in May.
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The final letter was written by a lawyer who preferred to hone in on the legal and constitutional aspects to home ownership, but left it somewhat hanging in the air, unanswered. I believe the legal aspect was touched upon at the High Court by a minority owner of Lincolnsvale condominium, who claimed he had a 'fee simple title ' (that is, freehold) to his unit and that this was inviolable and therefore "should be immune against proceedings against their property". Justice Paul Tan gave his reasons why this was not so (85 to 90). High rise apartments are basically airspace, and the state "regulates property in thin air"(88). He talks about (89)" the law of property is not really about things but about people.." Owners have rights but with rights comes obligations etc. This is an oversimplification on my part, but read the decision if you can.
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And the constitutional aspect?- well, that's not for me to argue.
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TUESDAY, 25 MARCH
2 more letters today
"Be sensitive to each other": Straits Times 25 March
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"It's our kampung, Mr Lau": Straits Times Online 25 March
"I am saddened by Mr Lau Chee Kian's dismissal of our community at Gillman Heights in his letter on Thursday, 'Sense of kampung in condos overstated'.I am from America and my wife, from Japan. Our two children are both born in Singapore. Gillman Heights is the only home they have known. It has been the best home I could imagine. Mr Lau has obviously never lived in Gillman Heights as I have or, if he has, he has kept himself behind closed doors and locked gate with his curtains drawn and chosen not to be a part of the wonderful community here. Our children run from one house to another, playing with friends. We regularly drop in on neighbours and strike up conversations as we pass each other in the common corridors.Our children have been looked after by all the uncles and aunties here. We and several other families attended the wedding of a daughter of Pak Pandan, formerly a cleaner here. We gossip every day with cheerful Auntie Lim and others at her 'Come Again Minimart' in the basement of our block. Every year, we have been invited by our Malay neighbours across from us to celebrate Hari Raya at their house. We are moving out at the end of March, forced out by the collective sale. We are saddened by this move and will miss our friends and neighbours very much. We hope we will be able to keep in touch, but that is far from the same thing as having neighbours whom one can count on daily for help, advice, and friendship.Singapore has been a great place to live in. Safety, convenience, superb green open spaces and many other things make it a great place to raise children. But it is hard to put down roots when they can be torn up so easily. Communities are living, organic things. They cannot be engineered by governments but need to be cultivated by societies. If Mr Lau's attitudes are predominant in Singapore, then I am sceptical of our chances of finding another place to grow a new community on this island. I hope I am wrong."
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Eric Thompson
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To the first letter: largely poppycock. After considering all sides to the argument over a period of 1 year (the length stipulated by LTSA rules) one must come down to the decision whether to sign the CSA or not. Not signing means you have not been persuaded by the majority viewpoint and have taken a stand against it. You may be perfectly cordial with your majority neighbours, and understanding to a degree - but to meekly acquiesce?
"En-bloc sales at least give you some compensation" and what about those that don't? What about those that give a bare buy price - a buy price that could be 10 to 15 years old and wholly inadequate for toady's market? It all depends from which end of the telescope you are looking through.
"though for the minority who oppose it, it is of no consequence." minority objections are far more complex than a single issue, and encompass a whole variety of personal considerations! Emotional, financial, practical and political.
For the minority to think in "positives rather than the negatives … and respect the views of the majority, rather than accuse them of wrongdoing" The government has given a legitimate avenue for minority concerns to be heard in the form of a STB tribunal. Whilst many may say this has become woefully insufficient as it never seems to be enough to prove their case there - it is all we have got at present. Quite simply, if you view the majority as having done wrong, you don't capitulate, not until matters have been investigated and your concerns addressed and satisfied.
For the majority to "be sensitive to the minority and explain your stand with love and understanding" Ok, I should await someone pushing enblocto come to my door with all the love and understanding he can muster. 'Peace man, I come to sell your home with false promises and without regard to your personal position. Let me show you my love by volunteering my time to undersell your property to the first buyer in the shortest possible time, without doing a valuation. You understand I am doing this in your best interests, I want to relieve you of your burden of having to finance your mortgage and instead make you downgrade where I am sure you will feel much happier." I promise I won't hit him with a frying pan.
"in times of ‘war’ you can at least make your stand as a friend and not as an enemy" . Enbloc wars can be fought in a civilized fashion, perhaps that is what the writer meant. But pretending you are your adversary's friend is hypocritical at best. There should always be room for dialogue - even on this blog I post all comments (save about a handful of distasteful ones), even though they always seem to go round and round in circles :)
BTW: Tampines Court is very peaceful post-en bloc; long may it last.
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To the second letter:
" But it is hard to put down roots when they can be torn up so easily. Communities are living, organic things. They cannot be engineered by governments but need to be cultivated by societies. ". This echoes a previous post of mine about the shallowness of community if people are forced out on a 10 year cycle (see The Wait, November 07).

12 comments:

  1. the kumpung spirit is subjective but a successful and well organised enbloc sale sure adds $$$$ to the pocket of the owners. Look at the success of farrer court. The owners are laughing to the bank. The minorities did an excellent job in bringing the RP up and up. Same cannot be said of the TC minorities. The buyers are laughing to the bank.

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  2. Sigh, back to money again.
    I believe you mean to say that money is quantitative and that the 'kampung spirit' is qualitative. Of course that is true, and it is the qualitative aspect that many attach the greatest import. But if 80% plumb for the former, then it's goodbye community.

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  3. it's all about taking opportunities. Enbloc provides opportunities that does not come by everyday. So strike when the iron is hot. We are evolving to a global kumpung and if we take the effort, we can maintain the spirit within our tiny island or maybe beyond.

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  4. 'Global kampung' - now there's an oxymoron if ever I heard one.

    No such thing, Sir, no such thing.

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  5. look at the impact the minorities made in farrer court and other condos... they are well co-ordinated and helped push up the RP. In the end, they are well appreciated. TC? looks like a mess now.

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  6. The minority did not try to push the Reserve Price after there were many sessions of dialogue in TC I think at least 10. No interference from the minority till now when the deal is seal. All this jest should be made known when the enbloc is in process not when the tender is launched and sale is done then comes all the unhappiness of everything regarding the enbloc.

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  7. This post is not about the RP but how enblocs cause detriment to neighbour relations, government funded Neighbourhood Committee efforts and the overarching ideal of creating a 'gracious' society.

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  8. now now, we are all talking about this with the benefit of hindsight. I believe when the SPs sign the CSA, they are well aware that the deal was a good one AT THAT POINT IN TIME. With the sudden surge in property prices, many TC owners are caught off-guard. Period.

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  9. It's not just the price.
    It is empowering the SC to do all that is necessary to do the en-bloc including changing anything in the CSA except for the RP.
    This is not hindsight, its reading carefully before you sign.
    The CSA has a clause to change anything in the contract except the RP - of the collective sale not the individual unit!
    This is the "blank check" clause.
    Did they ask you in Jan 2007 that the RP was still relevant before they sold it at tht lowest possible price when indications in Dec 2006 was property was in the up trend? - No.
    Why? Because you empowered the SC to do all that is necessary to sell your nice home at their discretion.
    Its not about hindsight.
    Next time, read before you sign.
    Don't blame the minority for their foresight.

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  10. Not hindsight? What if the property prices collapse after the sale of TC. The minorities will be thanking the SC for their foresight.

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  11. Eunosville Resident13 April, 2008

    I'm residing at Eunosville, where we just had the qualifying 75% vote for privatisation. It is indeed very sad. And I must say I was angered by Mr Lau's letter to the forum. Like some people may feel, I think he has no idea what it is like for us. Eunosville is indeed like a kampung. Neighbours' children play with each other and even the adults will stop to chat with each other under the block and while washing their cars. I don't think money can buy you such neighbours, such community spirit.

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  12. Todate we have not receive a single letter from our lawyers officailly informing us that the enbloc sale is off. We obtained such information only from the media. The lawyer should write to inform us as to why the enbloc sale sale and why it is held to be done not in good faith. Such vital information from the lawyers to us as owners who engaged our lawyerts is vital and should be done

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