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Singapore

Livability to start with the neighborhood – Singapore's urban practice (Part 1/2)

Xueman Wang's picture
For more than 30 years, Madam Toh has lived in Bukit Batok, a Singapore public housing town that accommodates more than 110,000 residents. Their flat was constructed by the Singapore Housing and Development Board – known as “HDB” – which provides public housing for 82% of Singapore’s residents.
 
While working at the World Bank’s Singapore Infrastructure and Urban Hub, I was fortunate to meet Madam Toh, who, together with her husband, raised their three children in their three-bedroom flat. When asked about her experience living in an HDB neighborhood, her immediate reactions were that it was both “convenient” and “comfortable” – “I can get everything I need within 10 minutes on foot.”
 
She is now 64 years old and takes a daily 10-minute walk to the metro train station (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) via a linkway – an activity she likes because the covered footpath seamlessly connects her home and the community’s amenities, making them excellent shelters from the rain or sun for pedestrians.
 
Covered walk pathways and multi-level bicycle racks
Covered walk pathways and multi-level bicycle racks. (Photo by Xueman Wang / World Bank)

After exploring several of Singapore’s neighborhoods, I found that they offer “down to earth” examples of livability and showcase excellent integrated urban design qualities.

5D Compact City Framework
 
A good method I’ve come across for explaining how Singapore has enhanced its livability is through the “5D” Compact City Framework:  

Livability to start with the neighborhood – Singapore's stories (Part 2/2)

Xueman Wang's picture
In the first part of this blog, I introduced the 5D framework and discussed the first 2Ds – Density and Diversity in the context of Singapore’s public housing neighborhood, i.e. HDB towns. In the second part of the blog, I will share the observations of how the HDB neighborhoods reflect the other 3Ds – Destination, Distance, and Design. 
 
To improve destination access, Singapore has increased neighborhood walkability and encouraged residents to use public transportation by putting in place the Walk2Ride program. This government policy ensures that public linkways are provided from MRT stations (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) up to a radius of 400m, or ¼ mile, to bus stops, public amenities, and public housing.
 
“Comfortable” and “walkable” access to public transportation is just one of the many examples that Singapore has done for its neighborhoods, and the total length of Singapore’s covered walkways has now hit 200km!
 
In order to decrease distance to transit, Singapore encourages people to cycle, which helps resolve the issue of the first and last mile connectivity to public transportation. Many MRT stations and bus interchanges provide multi-level bicycle racks as part of cycling infrastructure to make the city cycle-friendly. In fact, starting July 2016, any new constructions for schools, commercial, retail and business parks (up to a certain scale) must put in place a Walking and Cycling Plan to ensure the public space has adequately incorporated the design that facilitates walkability and cycling.
 
Neighborhood bicycle racks
Neighborhood bicycle racks. (Photo by Xueman Wang / World Bank)

For the last “D”, let’s explore Singapore’s various elements of urban design that create the city. I think neighborhoods are a key part of Singapore’s vision of being a city in a garden. Singapore is compact, but the government is making a tremendous effort to bring the natural environment to the residents. 

How do city leaders get things done? Learning from mayors in Japan

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: 日本語
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
Picture of the Competitive Cities Technical Deep Dive participants enjoying a walk through the Minato Mirai 21 area (with the Cosmo Clock in the background), which aims to concentrate high-value added activities and a high quality of life in an integrated urban core in downtown Yokohama. Photo Credit: TDLC
The task of mayors and city leaders is no longer limited to providing efficient urban services to their citizens. Job creation is at the forefront of the economic development challenge globally.

Cities need jobs and opportunities for their citizens and the means to generate tax revenues to fund projects that meet their populations’ growing demand for basic services. The WBG flagship report on Competitive Cities outlines how creating jobs in urban areas – urgently but also at scale– is essential.
 
In November, 2017, we spent a week with approximately 30 city and national government officials and policymakers from several countries, including Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. These leaders represented diverse cities across the world, all with a common objective – how to make their cities and regions more competitive?

Many were dealing with a fragmented institutional landscape, often with overlapping jurisdictions – necessitating clarity of institutional circuits and processes. Some struggled to coordinate economic development strategies with private sector. Lack of adequate sub-national socio-economic data to drive evidence-based policy making compounded issues. City leaders are not looking for a lesson in theory – but evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and practical, implementable examples of how to get things done.
 
We spent the week as part of a Technical Deep Dive, studying and living the experience of two exceptional Japanese cities - Yokohama and Kobe. These cities have dealt with:
  • population influx,
  • industrialized at a rapid pace,
  • responded to environmental challenges,
  • reached the technological frontier,
  • undergone a housing bubble,
  • and even went through a major disaster (the Kobe earthquake) and recovered from it.

都市のリーダーにできること:日本の事例から学ぶ

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: English
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
コスモクロック21を背景にみなとみらい21地区を歩く「競争力のある都市づくり」実務者研修会合の参加者たち。みなとみらい21地区は、横浜市の中でも付加価値の高い活動が集中し、生活の質の高さに重点をおいた地区となっている。 写真提供:東京開発ラーニングセンター(TDLC)
都市の首長たちの業務を考えるとき、市民に効率的な都市サービスを提供することに加え、雇用創出を行うことは、世界的な経済成長の最優先事項となっています。

こうした中、都市には、市民の雇用と、基礎的なサービスに対応する事業のための税収を生み出す手段が必要になっています。 競争都市に関する世界銀行の主要報告書(2015年発行)では、 早急に大規模な雇用を創出することが不可欠だ と指摘されています。
 
2017年11月 、アルゼンチン、チリ、クロアチア、エジプト、エチオピア、マレーシア、フィリピン、ルーマニア、南アフリカ、チュニジア、ウガンダ等から約30名の都市および国の政府関係者、政策担当者が1週間にわたる「競争力のある都市づくり」実務者研修会合を行いました。世界中の都市を代表する参加者にとって、それぞれの都市や地域が競争力を高める手法を探すことが目的でした。

多くの都市では組織構造の断片化や管轄区域の重複などが起こり、組織内プロセスの透明化が必要となっています。また、経済開発戦略を民間セクターと調整することが困難な都市もあります。根拠に基づく政策課題を推進するための適切な準国家社会経済データの欠如も挙げられます。自治体の首長は、理論上の教訓ではなく、実践的で実現可能な知見を模索しているのです。

日本の横浜市と神戸市で行われた本 実務者研修会合では、都市の競争力に関連し、日本の優れた知見を学ぶことができました。横浜市と 神戸市は特に以下について豊富な知見を有しています。
  • 人口流入
  • 急速な産業化
  • 環境課題への対応
  • 先端技術の取得
  • 住宅バブル
  • 大規模な災害(阪神淡路大震災)と復興

“But what about Singapore?” Lessons from the best public housing program in the world

Abhas Jha's picture
Also available in: Mongolian | Chinese
 
Photo of Singapore by Lois Goh / World Bank

 
As we approach the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next week, one of the essential challenges in implementing the New Urban Agenda that governments are struggling with is the provision at scale of high quality affordable housing, a key part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 of building sustainable cities and communities.
 
When I worked on affordable housing in Latin America, one consistent piece of advice we would give our clients was that it is not a good idea for governments to build and provide housing themselves. Instead, in the words of the famous (and sadly late) World Bank economist Steve Mayo, we should enable housing markets to work. Our clients would always respond by saying, “But what about Singapore?” And we would say the Singapore case is too sui generis and non-replicable.

[Learn more about the World Bank's participation in the World Urban Forum]
 
Now, having lived in the beautiful red-dot city state for two and half years, and seeing up close the experience of public housing in Singapore, one is struck by elements of the Singapore housing experience that are striking for its foresight and, yes, its replicability!
 
Singapore’s governing philosophy has famously been described as “think ahead, think again and think across.” Nowhere is this more apparent than how the founding fathers designed the national housing program, and how it has adapted and evolved over the years, responding to changed circumstances and needs.

It is hard to believe today but in 1947 the British Housing Committee reported that 72% of a total population of 938,000 of Singapore was living within the 80 square kilometers that made up the central city area. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, only 9% of Singaporeans resided in public housing. Today, 80% of Singaporeans live a government built apartment. There are about one million Housing and Development Board (HDB) apartments, largely clustered in 23 self-contained new towns that extend around the city’s coastal core.
 
How has Singapore succeeded where so many other countries have failed dismally? At the risk of over-simplification, there seem to be four essential ingredients to this astonishing success story:

There are otters in the city

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Photo by budak via Flickr CC

When a family of 10 smooth-coated otters appeared in Singapore’s urban downtown of Marina Bay last year, the city was ablaze with excitement and delight. Who would have thought that these otters would make a dense urban environment like Singapore home? After all, otters were thought to have vanished in the 1970s as Singapore rapidly developed into a dense metropolis.
 
Was this a fad? Probably. Was this a big deal? Absolutely. In a small city-state where land is considered a scarce resource, the tension between urban development and biodiversity conservation can be very pronounced. This was not the case in Singapore. Between 1986 and 2010, as Singapore’s urban population doubled from 2.7 to 5 million, its green cover also increased from 36% to 50%, all within the confines of just 710 square kilometers. The increase in green cover in urbanized Singapore was seen as a sign that the efforts by the urban planning agency, parks and water management boards had paid off, and a testament that the natural environment could be indeed be integrated effectively into the urban fabric of the city.
 
Today is World Environment Day. This year, it celebrates the theme of “connecting people to nature,” and invites us to think about how we are part of nature—and how intimately we depend on it.

A year of building sustainable communities in 12 stories

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
What are some of the key issues that will shape global development in 2017?

​From addressing the forced displacement crisis to helping indigenous communities, and from implementing the “New Urban Agenda” to enhancing resilience to disasters and climate change, one thing is clear: we must step up efforts to build and grow economies and communities that are inclusive, resilient, and sustainable for all—especially for the poor and vulnerable.
 
In the timeline below, revisit some of the stories on sustainable development that resonated the most with you last year, and leave a comment to let us know what you wish to see more of in our “Sustainable Communities” blog series in 2017.

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

World Cities Summit – A festival of ideas for an urban world

Abhas Jha's picture
Photo courtesy of Michaela Lohelt through a Creative Commons license.
Photo courtesy of Michaela Loheit through a Creative Commons license.
Here is a pop quiz – where in the world, over the course of five days, can you talk to the architects of the remarkable turnaround of the city of Medellin, have a conversation with over 100 mayors and city leaders from across the world on the future of cities, and have access to literally hundreds of companies operating at the cutting edge of urban technologies in areas like desalination, solid waste management, and urban analytics? If you answered the World Cities Summit in Singapore next week, you would be right.
 
The Summit is a biannual event that is one of the premier showcases of the state of urban development around the world. The fact that it is being hosted by Singapore – a city-state that epitomizes livability, inclusion and sustainability – is particularly fitting. The World Bank’s Infrastructure and Urban Development Hub team is proud to partner with the Center for Livable Cities in participating in several events during the World Cities Summit, such as the Mayors Forum, an ADB learning event on Cities and Middle Income Countries, and thematic sessions on culture, municipal finance, and innovation. One of the benefits of large global events such as the World Cities Summit is the opportunity to meet city leaders, counterparts, partner agencies, and colleagues from across the world to discuss ways and means on how the World Bank Group can continue to support them in their development objectives.

Can Singapore become a role model for quickly-growing cities?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
In the 1960s, Singapore was struggling with limited resources, a small domestic market, and high unemployment. Living standards were low, with most residents living in crowded, unsanitary slums.
 
Today's picture couldn't be any more different: in the span of just a few decades, the city-state has completely reinvented itself to become a model of urban innovation, consistently topping international rankings for livability and competitiveness.
 
But Singapore's transformation was no happy accident. This success story is the result of an innovative and carefully executed vision that looks at all aspects of urban development in a cohesive way. Singaporean leaders and urban planners have integrated land use, housing, transport, and natural resources management into one coherent, long-term strategy so they can work in sync and reinforce each other.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Abhas Jha take a closer look at the city's urban development approach, and describe how other countries can draw on Singapore's experience to build sustainable, livable cities.

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