The Ethnic Integration Policy was implemented on 1 March 1989 to promote racial integration and harmony in Housing and Development Board (HDB) estates.
Then Minister for National Development S. Dhanabalan first highlighted the emergence of ethnic enclaves in HDB estates in his speech to community leaders at a New Year’s gathering held at the People’s Association auditorium on 6 January 1989. To illustrate his point, he drew on the examples of neighbourhoods in Bedok and Tampines housing estates where Malay households made up more than 30 percent of the estate population, and Hougang where more than 90 percent of the households are Chinese. In a bid to address the growing issue of communal clustering, Dhanabalan announced that the government would adopt policies to maintain the ethnic balance as a means to foster social and racial cohesion.
Dhanabalan officially introduced the Ethnic Integration Policy in parliament on 16 February 1989. To ensure a better racial mix in HDB estates, the government established ethnic quotas for HDB neighbourhoods and blocks. The permissible proportion of flats in each neighbourhood for Malays was 22 percent while the permissible proportion of flats in each block was 25 percent. For Chinese, the permissible proportions were 84 percent and 87 percent respectively, and for Indians and other minority groups, the figures were reduced to 10 percent and 13 percent respectively.
The new policy only affected the sale of new and resale flats from 1 March 1989, and it was carried out on a first-come-first-served basis. Owners were free to sell their flat to a buyer of any race as long as the racial limits were maintained. Dhanabalan also assured parliament that none of the existing HDB owners would be asked to move or to sell their existing flats and that the constitution was not breached because no one was being discriminated against.
Based on the HDB’s analysis, 35 out of 125 neighbourhoods across 25 HDB new towns were affected by the policy changes in 1989.
1. Singapore. Parliament. Parliament Debates: Official Report. (1989, February 16). Better racial mix in HDB housing estates. (Vol. 52, cols. 650–651). Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN; Wee, A. (1989, February 17). Racial limits set for HDB estates. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Ministry of Communications and Information. (1989, January 6). Speech by Mr S Dhanabalan, Minister for National Development, at the 1989 New Year Gathering for community leaders at the People’s Association Auditorium on Friday, 6 January 1989 at 7.30 pm [Press release]. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from National Archives of Singapore website: http://archivesonline.nas.sg/; Wee, A. (1989, January 7). Racial enclaves forming – Dhana. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 16 Feb 1989, Better racial mix in HDB housing estates, Vol. 52, cols. 650–668.
4. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 16 Feb 1989, Better racial mix in HDB housing estates, Vol. 52, cols. 650–668.
5. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 16 Feb 1989, Better racial mix in HDB housing estates, Vol. 52, cols. 650, 655.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.