Looking for a room to rent? Try ex-army camp

Looking for a room to rent? Try ex-army camp


Two former barracks redeveloped as hostels to meet housing crunch caused by surge in number of foreigners here


By Mavis Toh


WHEN rent for engineering student Wu He Kun and his three friends got too high, they turned to a former army camp instead.


From paying $1,600 a month for a three-room flat in Commonwealth, the four China students now shell out just $1,000 a month for a two-room hostel in the former Singapore Civil Defence Force camp in Jalan Bahar.


The housing crunch in Singapore, due to a boom in the number of foreigners living here, has caused the Singapore Land Authority to open up two former military barracks in the last six months to be used as hostels. The number of foreigners here went up from 798,000 in 2005 to 875,500 in 2006.


Highlighting his problem, Mr Wu, 24, said: ‘I viewed so many flats online but the rents were all more than what they offer here,’ he said.


Property developers are also seeing the potential in making money from such alternative homes.


Last week, five hostel operators made bids for the former Ulu Pandan camp and the winning company, E M Services, won only after a bid which was 60 per cent above the valuation.


E M Services, which bid $122,725 of monthly rent, is planning to pump $5 million to transform the camp into a full-facility student hostel. The lease is renewable on terms till 2017.


When the Ulu Pandan hostel starts operations in June, these two former camps will house up to 1,800 foreign students in total.


For the Jalan Bahar site, Jian Yu Construction spent $7 million to spruce up the place including repainting and landscape works.


There are 360 units each between 420 and 500 sq ft, with a kitchen, toilet and living room. The rent ranges from $700 to $1,100.


The hostel opened last July and now houses close to 900 foreign students.


Vietnamese student Tho Nguyen, 16, is now paying $500 for a unit he shares with two others. The Informatics student has been here since last September.


‘I like the fresh air and open space here,’ he said. ‘This is something I don’t get back home.’


The third camp tenanted out was the old police hostel in Cantonment which was converted into Pearl‘s Hill Hostel in 2004.


Vita Group pumped in $1.5 million on renovations, alterations, retrofitting and furniture to turn the old building into a hostel.


With its central location, 85 per cent of its 142 units were snapped up by foreign students in the first six months of operation.


Bangladeshi trainee doctor Fetama Yasmin, 39, pays $650 monthly for a room she shares with another. She works at the Singapore General Hospital nearby.


‘Sometimes, I even take a 20-minute walk to work and save on transport,’ she said.




Source: Straits Times


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