Land Acquisition Act 1966

The Land Acquisition Act was introduced on 17 June 1967 to provide the government with the legal framework to acquire private land compulsorily at market prices.1 The key objective of the act was to make land available readily and cheaply for the housing, commercial and industrial projects of public agencies such as the Housing and Development Board (HDB), the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC).2

Pressing needs for land
The legislation was passed at the time when the government was carrying out numerous public development projects to meet the changing needs of the people and the economy. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the population had increased substantially and the government had to relocate the growing population from overcrowded squatter villages to new HDB housing estates. Land was also required for industrial development, and construction of roads, schools, community and recreational facilities.3 

Prior to the Land Acquisition Act, the government’s ability to acquire private land was governed by the Land Acquisition Ordinance, 1955. Although the Land Acquisition Ordinance empowered the government to acquire private land compulsorily for public projects, it did not prevent landowners from increasing the prices of their lands in an area earmarked for such projects.4 As a result, this raised the land acquisition cost and made low-cost public projects difficult or impossible.5

To prevent landowners from making unreasonable profits out of land to be acquired for public development, the government introduced the Land Acquisition Bill, which was approved by parliament on 26 October 1966.The Land Acquisition Act came into effect on 17 June the following year. Any dispute over the compensation amount was referred to an Appeals Board.7 The act also widened the government’s powers of acquisition to meet various situations arising from the ongoing urban renewal and industrialisation programmes as well as in cases of extreme urgency.8

Biggest landowner
The 1967 Land Acquisition Act enabled the government to step up its land acquisition programme. Between 1959 and 1984, the government acquired a total of 43,713 acres of land, which constituted about one-third of the total land area of Singapore at the time.9 The bulk of this land bank was acquired under the Land Acquisition Act after 1967.10 The government became the biggest landowner by 1985, owning 76.2 percent of land in Singapore, more than double the 31 percent in 1949.11 

Between 1963 and 1985, the HDB constructed over 500,000 flats to provide accommodation at affordable prices for over 80 percent of Singapore’s total population.12 The JTC was able to establish 20 industrial estates, including the 6,500-ha Jurong Industrial Estate by the end of 1985. In total, there were some 3,070 factories in the estates employing about 217,000 workers or 70 percent of Singapore’s manufacturing workforce.13

Besides allowing the construction of affordable housing and industrial estates, cheaper and more effective land acquisition also permitted better urban planning. This benefited the redevelopment plans of the URA and its predecessor, the Urban Redevelopment Department, in the central area, leading to the growth of the commercial and business district in downtown Singapore.14

Shaun Oon & Lim Tin Seng

1. “New Land Acquisition Law Comes into Effect,” Straits Times, 17 June 1967, 7; Ngiam Tong Dow, “Taking Over Private Turf for Public’s Good,” Today, 2 February 2007, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Ngiam, “Taking Over Private Turf.”
3. N. Khublall, Compulsory Land Acquisition: Singapore and Malaysia (Singapore: Butterworths Asia, 1994), 9–10. (Call no. RSING 346.5957043 KHU)
4. “Govt Move to Curb Land Profit in 'Boom' Areas,” Straits Times, 27 October 1966, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “PM Gives Details of New Land Bill,” Straits Times, 17 December 1963, 7 (From NewspaperSG); “Govt Move to Curb Land Profit.”
6. Govt Move to Curb Land Profit.”
7. “New Land Acquisition Law.”
8. “New Land Acquisition Law”; Tommy Koh et al., eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Heritage Board, 2006), 290. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
9. Ilene Aleshire, “Land Acquisition Act to Be Amended, Says Ministry,” Straits Times, 18 October 1986, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Aline K. Wong and Stephen H. K. Yeh, eds., Housing a Nation: 25 Years of Public Housing in Singapore (Singapore: Maruzen Asia, 1985), 44–45. (Call no. RSING 363.5095957 HOU)
11. Philip Motha and Belinda K. P. Yuen, Singapore Real Property Guide (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1999), 7–8. (Call no. RSING 346.5957043 MOT) 
12. Wong and Yeh, Housing a Nation, 498–01.
13. Ministry of Communications and Information, Singapore, Singapore Facts and Pictures (Singapore: Ministry of Culture, 1985), 57. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SMCFFS)
14. Chua Beng Huat, The Golden Shoe: Building Singapore's Financial District (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1989), 15–16. (Call no. RCLOS 711.5522095957 CHU)

The information in this article is valid as of 8 April 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.

Politics and Government