Tropical Urbanisation and the Life of Public Housing in Singapore

Adrian T.H. Kuah


The rapid pace of urbanisation in the tropics is astounding. By 2050, 2.5 billion people will be added to the world’s urban population, with nearly 90% of this increase taking place in tropical Asia and Africa. Cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Manila, Lagos, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Jakarta and Singapore have witnessed sharp increases in their populations. Housing this population is a critical concern of contemporary cities of the tropics. This paper highlights the case of Singapore, which has managed to provide housing to almost every person in the country through its public housing policy. Singapore’s public residential concept illustrates a successful approach to executing an urban development concept plan that optimises the use of limited land in a small country. Although such an achievement may not be easily replicated, this paper highlights three lessons that may be applicable to tropical urbanisation: implementing a sustainable housing development and urban planning policy; creating social cohesion through a public housing program; and potentially, enhancing social mobility through home ownership.


urbanisation; urban planning; public housing; Singapore

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