100 in a house

100 in a house


The tenants, all foreigners, moved in late last year and are packed into 17 rooms carved out with partition boards


By Jamie Ee


IT IS a house of 100 tenants in Geylang.


No, that’s not the title of the latest drama serial on TV but an extreme case of overcrowding in a three-storey terrace house in Geylang Lorong 28.


Understandably, the neighbours are upset over this.


Take the case of taxi driver Chan Kok Chuan, 46, who lives just next door. When his TV set could not receive any transmission last month, he checked the antenna and found that it had been tampered with. The TV signals were being redirected to the neighbouring house, which had been converted into a workers’ dormitory.


Furious, Mr Chan, who lives with his wife and two children, informed the police.


On another occasion, he had also called to complain about the littering outside his house.


His neighbours – some 100 foreigners – moved in late last year.


The house had been rented to a couple from China. They then sublet it to workers and students from China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia. Most are men.


They pay about $150 a month for a bed space in one of the 17 tiny rooms carved out using partition boards. The balcony on the second storey has also been converted into a bedroom.


Neighbours, alarmed by the big influx of tenants, alerted the authorities.


In January, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) issued a warning letter to the owner of the house who, neighbours say, is a Singaporean man in his 50s.


Private homes are not allowed to be turned into workers’ dormitories because of the inconvenience that the tenants might pose to the neighbours, the URA said.


Over the last 12 months, it had received 20 to 30 complaints a month on this matter. Offenders can be fined up to $200,000, face up to 12 months in jail, or both.


The owner of the Geylang house has since submitted an appeal and this is under consideration, said the URA.


The Sunday Times could not reach the owner or landlord for comment.


Neighbours voiced concern that the unkempt condition of the house could provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and that the makeshift kitchen on the front porch might pose a fire hazard.


When The Sunday Times visited the house last Friday, the kitchen, hidden from view by a large blue-striped tent cover, was littered with food remains.


Rubbish had collected in a dried-out pond and empty cigarette boxes and even a broken gas canister had been discarded beside a drain.


During the time that The Sunday Times was there, two National Environment Agency officers also dropped in to inspect the premises.


One tenant, a Chinese national who wanted to be known only as Mr Hua, said it was not the first time that government officers had paid a visit.


Just days earlier, Singapore Civil Defence Force officers had gone down to instruct the tenants to remove the gas canisters used for cooking. They now use electric steamboat pots instead.


Tenants said they were also unhappy with the living conditions, but complaints to the landlord had fallen on deaf ears.


Some said they had no choice but to stay on because their company had arranged for their accommodation there.


Without a proper kitchen, some were forced to cook their meals outside their bedrooms. Every day, there is a rush to use the communal bathroom on the ground floor, with waits of up to one hour not uncommon. There is another toilet on the third floor.


There are times when groceries go missing from the only refrigerator in the house. Some tenants also take their girlfriends to the house despite the overcrowding.


But there is happy news for some tenants.


A 40-year-old construction worker from China said his employer was relocating him and 14 of his colleagues to another place.


He said in Mandarin: ‘This is worse than where I live in China.’


Source: Straits Times

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