News: Government to build new dormitories for 100,000 foreign workers 'in the next few years'

Jun 3, 2020

Unused state properties, including vacant factories and former schools such as the former Bedok North Secondary School building and the former Anderson Junior College Hostel, will temporarily be fitted out to house around 25,000 workers. Photo: Facebook.com./pritam.eunos

In a bid to reduce foreign worker dormitories density to make them more livable, the government has revealed plans to build new dormitories as well as refit unused state properties to make them suitable for workers’ accommodation.

In a joint release, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of National Development (MND) said there would be additional space to house around 60,000 workers by end-2020, reported Channel News Asia.

These include quick build dormitories which can be built “quite quickly” with low density. To house around 25,000 workers in total, these dormitories can last for around two to three years.

Unused state properties, including vacant factories and former schools such as the former Bedok North Secondary School building and the former Anderson Junior College Hostel, will temporarily be fitted out to house around 25,000 workers.

For its longer-term plans, the government intends to construct new purpose-built dormitories in the next few years to accommodate up to 100,000 workers. These dormitories will house barber services and minimarts, and will replace this year’s temporary accommodations.

The release said around 11 purpose-built dormitories are expected to be ready over the next “one to two years”. Workers staying in these dormitories will enjoy access to medical care and support.

“With these additional purpose-built dormitories in place, we will also have the capacity to decant workers from the existing dormitories, and to undertake major upgrading to these dormitories to ensure that they meet the new standards,” said the ministries.

MOM and MND also revealed that government agencies are also developing a set of specifications for the new dormitories.

The specifications will look into the facilities, design, management and regulation of dormitories, while factoring in disease response and social interaction needs.

“We aim to make dormitory living and design more resilient to public health risks including pandemics, with improved living standards that are benchmarked both domestically and internationally,” said the ministries.

“We will take on board lessons learnt from the current COVID pandemic, and also seek feedback from relevant stakeholders.”

A pilot programme at new quick build dormitories sees the living space per resident improve from at least 4.5 sq m (including shared facilities) to at least 6 sq m (excluding shared facilities).

Each room will have a maximum of 10 beds. Currently, there is no limit on the number of beds in each room, although dormitories usually have around 12 to 16 beds per room.

The new set of requirements ditched the double-decker beds mostly used in dormitories today in favour of single-deck beds, with 1m space between each bed.

At least one bathroom, toilet and sink will be provided for every five beds, compared to the current practice of every 15 beds.

There will also be more sick bay beds at 15 for every 1,000 bed spaces. Currently, dormitories provide one sick bay bed for every 1,000 bed spaces.

Meanwhile, the government is also looking at the possibility of developing the new dormitories on a different model from the present system, where land is released for commercial operators to bid, develop or operate.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said one way could be a “build-own-lease” scheme in which the government builds and owns the dormitory but leases it out to another organisation to run.

The ministries noted that the new housing plans are intended to “keep the workers safe and allow Singaporeans to continue benefitting from their contributions”.

And with some of the dormitories located near residential areas, the ministries also called on Singaporeans to “reject the Not in My Backyard mindset and instead appreciate these workers who keep Singapore going”.

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg

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