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    Jul 25, 2014

    Dakota Crescent to make way for new developments

    DAKOTA Crescent, one of Singapore's oldest public housing estates, is making way for new developments under Mountbatten's estate renewal plans.

    Residents of the 17 low-rise rental blocks off Old Airport Road must leave by the end of 2016. But those who choose to buy a new flat anywhere else will get a new relocation grant of up to $15,000.

    Only about 400 of the 648 units, built by the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1958, are occupied and about two-thirds of the households have at least one member aged 60 and above.

    Retiree Lee Choong Hian, 68, who lives alone in a two-room rental flat, will miss the estate where he has lived for 20 years: "The environment here is good. At night it's peaceful, and transport is convenient."

    Those who want to keep renting will get priority at the same rates for one- or two-room rental flats, including those in a new block at nearby Cassia Crescent, to be completed by the third quarter of 2016.

    They can also choose to buy a new flat from the Housing Board. Eligible first-timers will get a Central Provident Fund relocation grant of $15,000 for families or singles jointly buying a place, and $7,500 for lone singles.

    This grant is being offered for the first time in this relocation exercise. All tenants will also get a moving allowance of $1,000.

    The estate was named by experts as a piece of public housing history that should be saved. It was also one of the sites deemed "sacred" by readers in a Straits Times poll.

    "Purely from a heritage point of view, I think it certainly has value," said Yeo Kang Shua, conservation architect and secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society, but agreed the state has to balance competing needs.

    Said Mountbatten Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan: "Those who like the heritage mostly don't live here."

    Even residents who do not welcome the move acknowledge that it has been a long time coming.

    Said Yap Boon Hoo, 59: "We've lived here so many decades, we knew it was just a matter of time."

    Neighbours have become friends. Rahmatbe Abdul Kuthus, 54, plans to move to Cassia Crescent with her neighbours. "We'll stick together."

    The HDB said it would "take cognisance of the social memories of the area when redevelopment takes place in the future".

    The estate's landmarks include an old-school playground with a blue mosaic-tiled dove design, and a provision shop dating back to 1959, revived as a cafe last month.