SINGAPORE — A complaint by a Seng Kang resident about the mouldy facade of her HDB flat on Facebook has set the local media buzzing with how bad the situation is for the public housing estate at the Group Representative Constituency (GRC) run by the opposition party.

The resident, Jane Wendy, posted a series of images that showed the state of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) estate she lived in, which was described as a “haunted house”.

She complained that the town council is responsible for maintaining this area and asked if it is possible to have such a “mouldy effect”.

Jane noted that she has sent her feedback to the Seng Kang Town Council (SKTC), and their response was to wait for a new paint coat which will take place in two years or later.

Pointing out that there is no mould in the interior of her home, she lamented that she could not do anything to the exterior of the flat while her son is asthmatic and has chronic hives.

She said she could not accept how the SKTC told her to wait for another two years for the issue she had highlighted and closed her ticket.

Following a write-up from AsiaOne about the complaint, the other media outlets joined in the coverage, spurring much attention to the Facebook post.

As of the point of posting, the Facebook complaint has garnered close to a thousand shares.

For those who are unaware, the TCs manage the general Repair & Re-decoration (R&R) works, including repainting, for the residential blocks in their respective towns, which is conducted every seven years as part of R&R works.

As the Buid-To-Order (BTO) blocks were built in 2017, the HDB flats would be scheduled to be repainted in 2023 or 2024, which would be why Jane was initially told of the two-year wait.

However, the Workers Party-run Sengkang Town Council has told TODAY that the HDB estate is scheduled to undergo repair and redecoration works this coming financial year.

The TC noted that the call for tender for the repair and redecoration works at the neighbouring Anchorvale Cove cluster was closed on 31 Dec 2022 and a similar preparation for Anchorvale Parkview is ongoing.

“We are working to see if the process can be expedited,” it added.

In a comment posted on MustShareNews’ Facebook post on Friday, Associate Professor Jamus Lim made further comments on the issue.

The WP Member of Parliament for the Seng Kang GRC noted that he could not comment on Jane’s post as commenting seemed to be turned off for him and that she had previously contacted him via the SKTC’s hotline.

He agrees that the state of the block is poor and that it is this disappointing.

“It does not look appealing, and for a block that is only 5 years old, it does look older than it should.”

However, Assoc Prof Lim, while qualifying being not a building expert, noted that one contributing factor could be the choice of paint.

“Many new builds do not utilize the most anti-mould paint available. During the first R&R exercise, these are often upgraded. That will be the plan for the cluster, as it has been for other clusters that SKTC has overseen R&R works for.”

He then pointed to another factor which could be the location of the building, as It is located beside a river, and receives a fair bit of direct sunlight.

“The condition described is mainly for the C and D blocks, but not A and B (which are less exposed). Since the cluster was built at the same time and is maintained by the same team, it suggests that the source of the problem lies beyond simply the quality of development by HDB, or maintenance by the town council,” wrote the WP MP.

“All that said, it’s fair to ask if there is anything that we can do to help address the issue. I’ve been in communication with the town council, and we are working out a plan to accelerate the R&R works for this cluster, so that it will occur sooner than the usual 7-year cycle. This will be subject to approval, and there are the usual necessary procedures—designing the project, calling for open tender, and the like—that mean that the issue might not be addressed instantaneously.”

“But rest assured that we’re working on it, and we will be keeping residents updated on the status in the meantime, and request their patience.”

It should be noted that Jane’s photos, other than showing the HDB flats being mouldy, also show that the estate’s Multi-Storey Carpark (MSCP) is mouldy on its exterior. HDB is the entity managing the R&R works for all HDB MSCPs, and generally adopts a seven-year cycle for such works, similar to that of the TCs.

Photo of carpark from Jane Wendy’s Facebook post.

A netizen, Steven Soo asked, “I have always thought that exterior paintwork done for HDB Flats, including BTOs, all carry a five-year warranty against the paintwork from peeling plus fungus/algae growth. So, something is really wrong here. Why has no claim been filed against the Main Contractor who built this HBD Block during the warranty period?”

This is true based on the parliamentary reply by the Minister of National Development in October last year.

According to the reply, New BTO developments come with a 6-year warranty period for the external paintwork.

This warranty is provided to the relevant TC when the blocks are handed over to the TC for maintenance. The warranty covers defects and imperfections such as paint peeling, discolouration and algae growth.

The Minister added that, beyond the warranty period, TCs are responsible for the maintenance of the paintwork on the walls and facades of HDB blocks.

So given that the HDB flats were built in 2017, the warranty will only expire in 2023.

One should also note that WP only won the newly created GRC in July 2020.

TODAY interviews residents of estate

According to interviews conducted by TODAY, five residents out of the ten whom it spoke to said they were not disturbed by the mould on the exterior walls.

All but one have lived there since the Build-to-Order housing development was completed.

In some cases, though, mould is persistently appearing indoors as well.

A resident said that the mould in her master bedroom was so bad that she had repainted it twice in fewer than five years, with dampness felt on the wall and mould growing within a year after repainting.

She said that she has exhausted all ways to minimise the problem, such as by frequently ventilating the room, using anti-mould paint and by not using the air-conditioner to prevent possible water vapour condensing on the cooled walls.

She has heard of a few other neighbours who have had mould in their flats.

“I think it might be a structural thing, not just an exterior paint maintenance issue,” she suggested.

Two other residents also have mould forming on the walls within their homes.

Mr Alvin Mah, 36, said that HDB assigned a worker to help him repaint the house one time after he complained about it, while Mr Mohd Ramadan, 33, said that he repainted the walls himself.

In any case, one can note the rapid build-up of mould on the exterior of the buildings at the estate based on past photos of the estate in Google Map.

Netizens chime in to question the cause of mouldy exteriors and share same experience with PAP wards

Jane posted on AsiaOne’s Facebook post, noting that the corridors have been cleaned thanks to its report.

However, netizens on the same post noted that the issue goes beyond mere maintenance and that they, too, experience the same problem at their HDB flats inside Seng Kang GRC and outside.

Wee-Ling Chew wrote, “To be honest, too many of such housing units being touted favourably as near ‘rivers’ and right at the edge of the sea, without paying heed to practical concerns in humid Singapore of mould. Proximity to dense vegetations worsen the issues. Mould pose serious health risks.”

Eddie Loo wrote, “Honestly, it just shows that the quality of the paint used & the design for the building, where water can easily be trapped. It means no experienced consultant handling the projects.”

Engjoo Chua wrote, “Algae. Greenery meant many morning dew and forest kind of atmosphere.” “believe me, if you go to the northern western of the island.”

Murani Loh wrote, “Indeed true. The quality of cement material used to build new bto like my Sembawang crescent are already mouldy. I was just staying for 3 years and I’ve emailed to town council to ask when are they painting the blocks as the paint used for bto blocks @sembawang crescent is different from Canberra new bto blocks. My blocks area just turned 5 years this year.”

Roger Ong wrote, “Same thing also happened to my flat. Paint peeling off and wall crack to my block at Bedok North Street 4. .Jan 2023 MOP.”

Han Wong wrote, “Tampines newly TOP flats already mouldy lah. This has nothing to do with the parties governing the town.”

Galvin Ryan Chng wrote, “My estate in Punggol also.. many people commented look like Amber Court in Genting.”

Eunice Tan wrote that she has been waiting for my block to be painted for 7 yrs now and is still waiting. She pointed that she is living in Ang Mo Kio GRC.