Urban planning, place management and the role of residents : a case study of public housing in Singapore

  • Choi Heng Tan

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The purpose of this research is to describe, document, explore and explain place management or the process of making places better for the benefit of end-users in public housing development in private ownership in Singapore. This thesis critically examines the theories of urban planning and participation as movements towards improving the living environment of people. By incorporating place meanings from the field of environmental psychology as an extension to the planning and development of housing developments, an analytical framework of place management is developed to answer the research question; ‘What is the model process of place management relating to public housing in private ownership in Singapore?’ Public housing in Singapore has evolved from a housing provision for the resettlement of the poor in urban slums and rural squatters to a housing option for the majority of the population. Planned and developed by the national housing authority, Housing and Development Board (HDB),flats are sold to and owned by the low and middle income class of the population on 99-year leases. The focus of this thesis is on the consumers of housing with an analysis of their contributions towards the improvement of their living environment. An epistemological-social-constructivist-interpretivist approach is adopted for this qualitative, exploratory and inductive research study and empirical data is collected through documents, individual and group interviews, and participant observations. A macro-analysis of community experiences on the implementation of twelve development proposals spatially located throughout the island interpreted place management at a national policy level. A micro-analysis of residents’ experiences in a housing estate, Compassvale Green where incremental and progressive addition of amenities and facilities were implemented affords a more intimate understanding of the contributions of residents in the planning and development process of public housing in private ownership at the local level. Instead of a straight-forward spatial-social-relational process to place transformation, the process of place management involves uncertainty,emotions,contests,challenges,engagements,negotiations,mediations,situations,assertions,creations,claims,connections and defences that through dialogues, conversations and debates traverse the physical, social and relational networks. Underlying the process are connections, interactions and linkages among local planning, place meanings and participation that lead to a process of making a place better for the benefit of the end-users with place transformation. Reflecting voices and choices of residents, this research study finds that with their in-depth local knowledge and through expressing place meanings, residents contribute to the planning and development of their housing estate. This is through the creation of places that are made, maintained and marketed by the community. The outcome is quality places imbued with liveability and sustainability. The results of this research study suggest that there are possible gaps in the conventional local planning practices and local development contexts of public housing in private ownership in Singapore. Drawing together critical engagement with theories in urban land use planning, environmental psychology and participation as well as empirical evidences, this thesis contributes to an integrated model process of place management. Further research questions are posed to indicate how the research findings could be further developed as part of a future of place management. The research findings seek to make a contribution to the theory and practice of place management through the process of making places better for the benefit of end-users for present and future owners of public housing in Singapore and elsewhere.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBarbara Norman (Supervisor), Richard Hu (Supervisor) & Byron Keating (Supervisor)

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