Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why smaller isn't the way to go

BY MAKING flats smaller ('Sizes of HDB flats are shrinking'; last Saturday), the Housing Board is working against several government initiatives: encouraging married couples to have kids; encouraging children to live with their parents; and encouraging more women to return to the workforce.

Married couples will be hesitant to have more children if they have space constraints at home. With a more educated and affluent population, most parents will want to provide a good study environment for their children - with their own beds, study tables and some storage space.

Unfortunately, nowadays, parents are hardly able to put in a single bed and table in the same room. Things get more challenging when there is more than one child in the family.


Little space

'This is one reason why my husband and I will be keeping our family size small.'

MS KAREN LEE: 'When I was growing up in a 4A Housing Board flat in Tampines, my bedroom had a wardrobe and a book cabinet that ran along one side of the room. My parents were also able to fit in a single bed, a study table and an electronic organ into my bedroom. With the smaller flat sizes now, I can barely fit in a single bed, let alone a study table, after factoring in the wardrobe. And this is one reason why my husband and I will be keeping our family size small. I don't want my children to grow up doing their homework on the living room coffee table. With housing prices shooting through the roof, there is hardly any budget for custom-made furniture. Smaller household sizes do not mean we need less space. Period.'

We are not even taking into account the parents' need for their own study room, particularly when they are required to keep upgrading themselves to be employable in the market.

The 'sandwiched class' find themselves having to care for both their parents and their young ones. Living together may sometimes be more manageable for such households. But this can be done only if there is enough space in the flat for both grandparents and the young ones.

Working mothers may find it necessary to have a domestic helper to cope with both family and career demands. Reduced space means these working mothers may think twice about employing a helper. And even when they are hired, these helpers may end up having little private space, thereby denying them proper rest.

As forstay-at-home mothers, they may find it difficult to return to the workforce if they are not able to employ a helper due to space constraints.

I hope HDB will stop drawing comparisons between Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Each place is different. Perhaps we should just focus on what Singaporeans need for their lifestyle and for improving their quality of life.

Lim Wan Keng (Ms)