Smaller space, better place

Posted on: 07 July, 2009 | Tagged as:

Singapore is a small city with a big problem — most space here is in the hands of just a few people. In late June, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong lamented how residents still regarded the maintenance and management of housing estates as the sole responsibility of Town Councils instead of theirs. Yesterday, a Straits Times (ST) special report looked at how over-regulation of small spaces in public housing town centres deterred small-time retailers from setting up shop.

In both instances, the regulation of every inch by just one entity — the Town Council — has made these public spaces inaccessible to residents and retailers. The solution: break space into smaller pieces.

Responding to SM Goh’s comments, ST’s Aaron Low wrote an op-ed called for a more micro-level of residential space management so as to get residents involved. For instance, small committees could be formed to look at how to improve the estate environment they live in. Indeed, reducing the scale of things not only brings home the message that the public housing space is owned by the residents, it encourages involvement because space is carved into a more manageable size.

As for the over-regulation of the little red boxes outside the shopfronts of town centres, the rules should be re-looked in favour of smaller retailers. Disallowing tenants of such small spaces from selling different things as the main shops makes little sense to retailers and shoppers. For one, such small spaces allows people to get in and out of business easily — those with little skills and capital can earn a decent living and people can experiment with retailing new products and services. Consumers stand to gain too as there will be a more diverse mix of retailers and lower prices due to cost-savings from rent such retailers enjoy.