Located within the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) planning area of Paya Lebar Central, residential property prices in Geylang Serai have performed relatively well over the past two quarters.
By Khalil Adis
Every year, Geylang Serai will come alive with its vibrant street bazaar.
This year is no different but with a slight twist.
Following complaints last year that the bazaar has lost its appeal due to the invasion of many hipster food vendors, the organisers have set stricter guidelines in keeping with the spirit of Hari Raya and Malay culture.
This is certainly good news that will keep the unique culture of Geylang Serai alive for generations to come.
Since its establishment in the 1960s, Geylang Serai has become a cultural icon that is synonymous with Malay culture and customs.
Every year, Malay families will congregate here to partake in the festivity leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
With Hari Raya Aidilfitri just around the corner, we decided to check out the vibrant street bazaar at Geylang Serai to find out what makes this place tick.
Here are the six places that have shaped Geylang Serai to where it is today.
#1: Geylang Serai Bazaar
Stretching from Sims Avenue, Tanjong Katong Road, Geylang Road and parts of Changi Road, this year's bazaar features over 500 stalls which are significantly less than previous years.
This will allow for more open spaces for the public to enjoy when breaking their fast or just for a place for the entire family to sit down after a day of shopping.
If you are looking for delicious Malay kueh and other traditional dishes, you are in for a treat.
This year, the organisers, Wisma Sri Geylang, has put a guideline requiring 60 per cent of food vendors to sell food that will appeal to Muslim visitors while the remaining 40 per cent may offer "contemporary" or "hipster" options.
In addition, these stalls are also required to be either Muslim-owned, certified halal by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) or fulfil halal criteria set by consultants engaged by the bazaar organisers.
From carpets to baju Melayu, the street bazaar is awash in bright neon lightings when night falls.
For the best deals, come during the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri where most goods are sold at a deep discount from vendors eager to clear their stocks.
#2: Wisma Geylang Serai
Wisma Geylang Serai is the latest addition to the streetscape here. Launched in January 2019, this community civic and cultural centre is located in the heart of the Geylang Serai precinct housing the Geylang Serai Community Club, the South East Community Development Council, the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery Family Service and Child Care Centre, Senior Care Centre, and cultural arts group and social/community-related facilities.
The building draws its inspiration from traditional Malay houses with balconies (“serambi”) as well as lemongrass (where Geylang Serai takes its name from) and ketupat. The architecture features a double-pitched roof and columns that look like stilts to give Wisma Geylang Serai its own unique character.
Aside from community care, Wisma Geylang Serai is also home to eight Malay Muslim organisations and agencies to provide one-stop service to the community. They include Association of Muslim Professionals, Creative Malay Arts and Culture, Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud, Muhammadiyah, Pergas, Tabung Amal Aidilfitri, Berita Harian and Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu.
#3: Tanjong Katong Complex
Home to anchor tenants like First Lady and Giant, Tanjong Katong Complex is known for its loud and colourful carpet auction shows located just outside the building that has helped to draw curious tourists and locals alike. Inside, however, there are many stores selling traditional Malay wears, home decor, gold, jewellery and other accessories.
Over the weekend, the shopping complex is a known haunt among Indonesian maids who would often camp outside the venue. Meanwhile, locals tend to congregate outside Giant supermarket in the evening to break their fast. To avoid jostling with the crowd, it is best to come early for your Hari Raya shopping.
#4: Joo Chiat Complex
Known for its wide variety of textiles and garments, Joo Chiat Complex is a treasure trove for those who need to hunt for ready-made traditional Malay wears for both ladies and men. Established in the 1960s, Joo Chiat Complex is still going on strong today and is one of Geylang Serai’s enduring icon.
Aside from textiles, the complex boasts a number of fabric vendors selling curtains and upholstery by the metre. There are also a number of jewellery shops that are popular among Malay ladies who are eager to show off their latest bling collections. Although the shopping complex is a little run down, it is still worth checking out due to the sheer number of shops that can be found here.
#5: Sri Geylang Serai
Sri Geylang Serai is home to the Geylang Serai wet market and hawker centre. Located just opposite Joo Chiat Complex, the wet market is a popular destination among Malay households from all over Singapore as the goods are fresh yet slightly more affordable.
In addition, the hawker centre above houses a number of famous Muslim stalls that have made Sri Geylang Serai popular among those looking for authentic Malay food. Some of the notable hawkers here include Cendol Geylang Serai, Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang and Haji Mohd Yussof Warong Nasi Baryani. Be warned though that you would most likely need to share a seat as the hawker centre is always packed.
#6: City Plaza
City Plaza is the birthplace of Arnold’s which is famed for its fresh, succulent and well-marinated chicken. This fast food restaurant began its humble beginnings from a corner shop located on the second floor here and still continues to maintain its presence there for three decades. Even today, Arnold’s continue to be packed especially during breaking fast time.
Aside from that, there are a number of thrift boutique stores selling sandals, bags and fashionable clothes. City Plaza is also a popular hangout among Indonesian maids over the weekend as there are a number of remittance outlets here.
According to HDB’s first quarter of 2019 data, the median transacted price for 3- and 4-room HDB flats in Geylang was S$265,500 and S$518,000 respectively. In comparison, its fourth quarter of 2018 data showed that they were transacted at S$280,000 and S$480,000 respectively. This represents a price decline of 5.2 per cent for 3-room flats while 4-room flats have strengthened to 7.9 per cent.
Meanwhile, according to the URA’s first quarter of 2019 data, the median transacted price for apartments/condominiums in the area was S$1,157.40 per sq ft. In comparison, its fourth quarter data of 2018 showed that they were transacted at S$1,137.32 per sq ft. This represents an increase of 1.8 per cent.
On the overall, the upcoming rejuvenation of Paya Lebar Central as outlined by the URA has had a positive spillover impact on residential properties here. Some of the completed projects in the area include Paya Lebar Square and Paya Lebar Quarter 1, 2 and 3 which are all connected via link bridges. Upcoming developments that are currently being constructed are Paya Lebar Quarter Mall, Paya Lebar Quarter and Park Place Residences at Paya Lebar Quarter.
Under the Draft Master Plan 2013, Novena is currently being transformed into Singapore’s single largest healthcare complex called Health City Novena.
By Khalil Adis
Known for its iconic Novena Church, Novena falls under the prime district 11 and is home to shopping malls, healthcare institutions, offices, apartments, condominiums and landed homes.
Over the years, Novena has been transformed into a bustling healthcare hub called Health City Novena with the addition of three new MRT stations to better serve commuters.
Here are six things to watch out for:
#1: Health City Novena
The Ministry of Health has set a target completion date by 2030 for this sprawling 17-hectare modern integrated healthcare complex that now physically links Tan Tock Seng Hospital, its medical school and all public and volunteer healthcare facilities into one.
In the next 10 years, Health City Novena will see the addition of more facilities and services which will double its built-up area from 250,000 sq m to 600,000 sq m.
#2: Novena Medical Center
Meanwhile, a new mixed-use development comprising a hotel, medical suites and retail shops at the junction of Thomson and Irrawaddy Roads is now open.
Called Novena Medical Center, this privately run medical facility offers a wide range of quality health care services ranging from medical aesthetics to dental surgery.
It is also linked directly to Oasia Hotel Novena for the convenience of overseas private patients to recuperate.
#3: Three new MRT stations under Downtown Line 2
To offer residents enhanced connectivity to the rest of Singapore, three new MRT stations namely Newton, Stevens and Botanic Gardens, were opened in December 2015.
Comprising 16.6 km of train line that runs from Bukit Panjang to Bukit Timah Road, residents can hop onto the North South Line at Novena before transferring to Newton MRT interchange station to get to the downtown Singapore in 14 minutes flat via Downtown MRT station.
By 2021, residents can look forward to the addition of two more MRT stations at Mount Pleasant and Stevens via the Thomson-East Coast Line.
Stevens MRT station will be upgraded to an interchange station where commuters can hop onto the Thomson-East Coast Line towards Woodlands North or Sungei Bedok.
#4: Velocity @ Novena Square
Located directly above Novena MRT station, this sports-themed mall offers shopping, dining and beauty options as among some of its offerings.
Home to an outdoor basketball court, sports lovers can look forward to sporting events that are held here from time to time.
Some of its anchor tenants include UOB, World of Sports, Cold Storage, Starbucks and Toast Box.
#5: Zhongshan Park Integrated Development
The Zhongshan Park Integrated Development was conceived by its architect as a unique opportunity to rejuvenate the Balestier Conservation Area which has more than 160 years of history.
Located at Balestier Road and adjacent to the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Zhongshan Park has now been integrated as a sprawling 39,100sqm mixed-use development comprising Zhongshan Mall, two hotels and an office tower.
#6: 35 Gilstead
In anticipation for Novena’s rejuvenation, a new condominium development will be developed at 35 Gilstead Road.
Called 35 Gilstead, this upcoming freehold condominium development will comprise three blocks of 5-storey residential apartments with an attic and basement, swimming pool and communal facilities.
Offering 70 units ranging from one- to three-bedroom plus penthouse, 35 Gilstead will likely appeal to parents with school-going children as it is located very close to good schools such as Anglo-Chinese School Barker Road, Catholic Junior College, Singapore Chinese Girl’s Primary and Secondary School and St. Joseph’s Institution.
The federal government mooted project had promised to build 1 million affordable homes by 2020. However, the project was from the beginning mired in controversies.
By Khalil Adis
Just last week, it was announced in the media that Perbadanan PR1MA Malaysia, a public housing agency which was established under the Barisan Nasional government may be dissolved as it is in a “mess”. The final decision on whether PR1MA projects should be continued is pending a due diligence report, which is expected to be completed end of this month.
For years, the PR1MA initiative has received lashbacks from various stakeholders and the general public for its inefficient implementation.
I recall researching about PR1MA when I was writing my second book.
The 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme or PR1MA was launched in July 2011 and incorporated under the PR1MA Act in 2012. It became operational in March 2013 and to qualify, applicants will need to have a single or combined household income of between RM2,500 to RM15,000 per month.
I couldn’t help thinking how the hoopla around an announced PR1MA initiative usually fizzles out after some time, with no proper project updates disseminated to the public.
For instance, under Budget 2016 that the government promised that it will build 5,000 units of houses under PR1MA and 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme (PPA1M) in 10 locations in the vicinities of light rail transit and monorail stations, including in Pandan Jaya, Sentul and Titiwangsa.
However, a quick check on PR1MA’s website does not show any such projects except for one in Brickfields, Fraser Business Park and Bukit Jalil respectively.
In addition, my interviews with young Malaysians while taking Grab and Uber show a great mismatch in what the government is saying – where many had said they had applied for the housing scheme, but they have yet to receive any official reply from PR1MA.
Here are some circumstances that may have led to PR1MA’s failure
#1: Lack of single housing agency to manage the affordable housing market
Unlike Singapore which has the Housing & Development Board (HDB) to oversee the affordable housing segment, in Malaysia, there are many agencies rolling it out under the federal and state umbrellas.
From federal-led initiatives like PR1MA and Residensi Wilayah (RUMAWIP) to state-led schemes like Rumah Mampu Biaya Johor (RMBJ) and Rumah Selangorku, this not only confuses the public but leads to inefficient use of public resources competing for the same market.
What would work in my opinion is to have a single housing agency to streamline the entire process across the nation.
This could also allow the agency to gauge demand from the public via available government data.
In addition, this will allow them to allocate land according to demand to ensure that they are successfully balloted and fully taken up like the Singapore model.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government had studied the HDB model last year and is reportedly looking to emulate it.
#2: Federal versus state government complicates matters
While on paper this may sound ideal, it is not so easy in reality as land is a state matter.
As such, federal-initiated programmes like PR1MA will likely face bureaucratic red tapes and are less likely to receive priority when applying for the release of state land.
YB Zuraida Kamaruddin, Minister of Housing and Local Government (KPKT) recently shared that it is the responsibility of the state governments to offer up their spacious lands for the development of affordable housing. However, as of end-2018, only 27 plot of lands out of the total 127 for affordable housing projects around the country, were supplied by state governments.
Let’s not forget that the state and federal governments may have different objectives which can further complicate matters.
#3: Costly to acquire land
Considering the challenge in securing land from respective state governments, the federal government would have to acquire them from private parties at a hefty cost.
As land cost takes up a significant percentage of a project’s cost, this will inevitably drive up the cost of building affordable homes.
Thus, it is hardly surprising that previous PR1MA projects were mostly built in undesirable locations, where homebuyer demand is low.
#4: Far-flung location with sub-par connectivity
Hence why, one of the common grouses about PR1MA is the project’s far-flung location away from the city.
With the exception of the homes within KL mentioned above, most of PR1MA’s housing projects are inaccessible and will require applicants to own a car.
This then defeats the purpose of building affordable homes as most of the applicants will be financially burdened with the double whammy of a car and home loan.
Given Malaysia’s patchy connectivity and lack of seamless connection to public transport, this thus makes some of PR1MA’s projects highly unpopular.
#5: Some applicants were left in the dark
The applicants are the most important stakeholders for PR1MA.
As such, communication ought to be done more diligently.
Many young Malaysians I had spoken to said they did not receive any form of acknowledgement on the status of their application.
Some have been waiting for more than five years and are still waiting.
I had highlighted this at a panel discussion but a representative from PR1MA replied that this wasn’t true.
Perhaps, she had reasons to as this was during Najib Razak’s era.
Looking back, if this wasn’t the case, surely PR1MA would not be in its current position right now.
In addition, it would certainly help if PR1MA were to address these issues head-on to assure applicants.
Whether or not PR1MA will be dissolved remains to be seen.
However, PR1MA is already costing Malaysian taxpayers more than RM8 billion.
Three reasons why speakers are paid a fee while agencies earn a commission
By Khalil Adis
Recently, I was approached by a real estate agency in Singapore for an upcoming launch event.
I generally work directly with developers and try as much as possible to avoid working with a real estate agency as they have a very unrealistic expectation.
It turns out I was right.
During the first meeting, I had asked if their client has a budget. They said no. However, they said they can pay me a commission. That itself was a huge red flag.
Nevertheless, I continued with the meeting to see where it was going.
However, I still wasn’t sure what the deal was.
I do know they needed a speaker and someone to conduct their agent training.
They subsequently asked for a copy of my presentation slides and samples of my editorial work.
A second meeting was then requested but I made it clear that I do not operate on a commission with zero marketing cost as that would be unfair to my paying clients.
They then requested I do up a marketing proposal and the costing for their client to consider.
The second meeting was supposed to be a conference call with the developer but it was delayed and subsequently cancelled.
They did inform me that the client will contact me to ask me further questions.
However, I never heard from their client nor received any confirmation about my proposal.
With nothing signed off, I am therefore not legally bound to provide any form of services.
It got me thinking about the potential conflict of interest when working with real estate agencies and why I generally avoid working with them.
#1: Developers leverage on the speaker’s expertise
I have been very blessed that developers look for me when it comes to launching their projects in Singapore and Malaysia.
It is because they see the value in the research, books and analysis that my company had done over the years.
We provide unparalleled insights into the property market from a Singapore perspective.
They also understand that consumers generally trust an unbiased point of view which will thus act credibility to their project.
On the other hand, an agency operates solely based on commission.
They also justify paying a referral fee for any closing.
As a business owner, this does not make any sense as the risk and marketing cost is totally on me.
In addition, it does not justify freeing up my time at the expense of other clients.
#2: A speaker has marketing missiles
When I do events with developer clients, I would put together a strategic marketing communications plan to ensure the client gets its bang for its bucks.
From public relations, social media content, book signings to a dedicated electronic direct mailer campaign, this helps to ensure the desired communication strategy is achieved when communicating with the public, consumers and shareholders.
Having a book signing and giveaway also helps to attract the public to come to the developer’s event.
This helps the agency to do their closing.
A recent Singapore event saw a client closing eight units.
#3: A speaker should not be involved in sales
In the life of a journalist, we must declare any potential conflict of interest that may impact the credibility of our story.
It is how journalists are able to write the truth and earn the trust of the public.
Likewise, a speaker must not be involved in any property sales as it impacts their credibility in the market.
In the past, developers and agencies had tried to exploit this to their advantage.
This is one reason why I decided not to renew my real estate agency licence.
In closing, I would like to remind real estate agencies that there is a service fee for any form of work and that their client should respect someone else’s time.
It also is an insult to the speaker when you request them to do a dry run presentation when they had spent many years conducting research, writing books and honing their skills.
And that is what separates a good speaker from the average.
An independent analysis from yours truly