As the managing agent for public housing estates in Singapore, town councils need to understand residents’ perceptions towards municipal service delivery in Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates. Therefore, since 2016, a year-long Municipal Services Perception Survey (MSS) has been conducted by the Municipal Service Office (MSO) to gather feedback from public housing residents about common municipal issues, which include maintenance on greenery, recreational spaces, drains and cleanliness, among others.
The annual survey has switched to a six-month result finding. The latest Q32021 Municipal Information for Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JRTC) revealed that more than two-thirds of the residents living in the town are satisfied with the overall maintenance of the estate.
Nevertheless, the latest survey also predicted several hotspots that could reveal dissatisfaction among residents in the next quarter. These hotspots include cleanliness, bird nuisance, noise caused by neighbours, animal nuisance, pest control problems and smoking.
BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOUR MEANS BEING CONSIDERATE
Most of these issues are common and part of communal living in Singapore, where hundreds of residents live together in a common block. For instance, in late October last year, a couple was stuck listening to the same piano music played by her next-door neighbour daily from 7 am till 11 pm. The couple said they have tried several different ways to resolve the issue, including reaching out to the neighbour. But the woman was “quite adamant” that she could continue what she was doing and that it was “her right to play the piano”.
There is also concern about pigeon-related issues as the population of pigeons continues to grow in Singapore. In 2017 alone, the AVA received 5,500 pieces of pigeon-related feedback across Singapore, up 34 per cent from 4,100 in 2016.
The new Wildlife Act was introduced last June to deter poaching and feeding of animals and better protect our wildlife. Under the act, first-time pigeon-feeding offenders will be fined $5,000, which will double for second-time offenders.
As pigeons’ droppings could stain homes and public amenities as well as spread diseases, residents are advised to not feed pigeons and cover all open-top rubbish bins in their premises to prevent pigeons from getting to food waste.
And in high-rise dwellings, dripping laundry continues to be a common complaint among neighbours. Earlier this year, a resident took to Facebook to share his neighbour’s habit of leaving dripping laundry to dry. So as a gesture of consideration, residents should squeeze their laundry thoroughly before hanging it out to dry.
RESOLVING DISPUTES AND COMMUNITY MEDIATION
In September, the Ministry of National Development also provided a parliamentary reply to what action could be taken towards unruly HDB residents who create persistent problems for their neighbours. These problems may include noise pollution, hoarding, cluttering public areas, poor environmental hygiene, and peace disruption.
If the issue is over obstruction of the common corridor, residents can approach the Town Councils. If it is a case of smoking or littering, residents can seek enforcement from the National Environment Agency. Hoarding issues can be referred to HDB, and its officers will step in to carry out inspections. If the hoarding is excessive, HDB will ask the residents to remove the unwanted items that can also be a safety hazard.
Sometimes, the anti-social behaviours may not be regulatory breaches but involve private disputes between neighbours. In such cases, individuals should first speak to each other and strive to resolve the matter amicably. If the parties involved cannot resolve the issue, they can seek help from a neutral third party, such as a grassroots leader, to facilitate resolution. Such intervention or informal mediation goes a long way to prevent simple conflicts from escalating further.
Should informal mediation be unsuccessful, the case can be referred to the Community Mediation Centre (CMC) for mediation. The aggrieved parties can bring a claim to the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals as a last resort if the cases involve long-standing and unresolved disputes between neighbours.