STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN COMPETING NEEDS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the way many of us work. Quite a number of us work from home.
As a result, peace and quiet is all the more important. However, there will be a need for renovation works to be undertaken too, especially those who recently purchased their homes and intend to move in asap.
I filed this PQ to ask the Minister for his assessment of this situation and what steps can be taken to strike a reasonable balance between competing needs.
Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for National Development (a) how many cases of breaches under the Housing and Development (Renovation Control) Rules have been reported since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) what action has HDB taken to ensure compliance with the Rules; and © whether HDB will set up a process to enable affected residents to lodge requests for deferment of noisy renovation works before HDB issues a renovation permit.
Mr Desmond Lee: Certain types of renovation work, such as the demolition of walls and hacking of flooring, require a renovation permit from HDB, and must be conducted by a contractor listed in the HDB Directory of Renovation Contractors (DRC). This is to ensure that the works will not damage the building structure or pose a safety risk to residents. Renovation works that will not affect the structure of the block, such as carpentry or installing light fixtures, are not regulated by HDB and do not require a permit from HDB.
The number of infringements committed by renovation contractors since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has remained largely the same as before. In 2019, there were 52 cases of infringements out of the 63,642 HDB renovation permits issued. In comparison, between the start of the Circuit Breaker in April 2020 and May 2021, there were 53 cases of infringements out of 76,340 permits issued. The infringements included carrying out unauthorised works in the flats, or contravening HDB’s renovation guidelines.
To facilitate compliance, HDB sends circulars to remind contractors listed in the DRC about HDB’s guidelines. In addition, HDB conducts audit inspections on flats, as well as investigations based on feedback from residents on possible infringements. Errant contractors can be penalised by HDB, for instance by the imposition of a financial penalty and/or demerit points. HDB can also debar contractors who exceed the threshold for demerit points, or who commit serious infringements.
There are processes in place to help manage dis-amenities from renovation noise. For instance, contractors listed in the DRC are required to inform households within a radius of two flats of the unit being renovated, including the upper and lower floor neighbours, at least three days in advance of the impending renovation works. Contractors who have applied for a HDB renovation permit are also required to put up a Notice of Renovation Works outside the flat entrance during the renovation period so neighbours will know whom to contact if they face issues. To expand outreach, we have also added the notices to the OneService App. From July 2021, HDB residents will be able to receive and view notices for upcoming flat renovation works at their blocks, that have been approved by HDB, through the App. The advanced notices will allow immediate neighbours who may be affected to make alternative arrangements such as returning to office for work if necessary, or to approach the contractors to adjust the renovation schedules for noisier works. We have seen instances where contractors or flat owners have found mutually agreeable arrangements when approached by affected residents.
We empathise with residents who could be affected by renovation noise. At the same time, new flat owners will need to renovate their flats, sometimes urgently, so that they can move in as soon as possible. In Singapore’s high density living environment, some amount of give-and-take will be necessary. Therefore, we seek residents’ patience and understanding as we adapt to new work-life arrangements and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic together. HDB residents with feedback on renovation works may contact HDB’s branch service line at 1800–225–5432 or the Essential Maintenance Service Unit after office hours.