Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A sense of ownership

I was speaking to committee member Liang Tong the other day before the meeting yesterday and we were discussing matters such as feeding cats upstairs. We were discussing how this seemed to be a pretty uniquely Singaporean complaint though perhaps it did happen overseas, and we didn't know about it, but then it occurred to me that it didn't even happen as far as we knew, in condominiums here. Now granted, some of the condominiums have very fancy security and the cats would not be able to get up, but in others, it is possible for the cats to get upstairs if they wanted to. So why is it that people in condos don't feed cats upstairs? These are condos obviously where there are feeders, but if they want to feed, they tend to do so downstairs.

Liang Tong came up with a very interesting theory - that some people living in HDB estates tend not to think of the corridor and public areas as really being 'theirs'. As such, these people have no qualms about bringing cats upstairs or littering for that matter. During the occasions I've visited, condos seem to have less litter in the void decks as well which could very well validate Liang Tong's theory. I don't think they necessarily have more cleaners - I tend to see more cleaners in HDB estates. And of course some condos are quite massive projects with thousands of people living in them as well so it doesn't necessarily mean that there are fewer people living in them. Condo residents - perhaps you can share your views on whether this is true.

If this is the case, perhaps it reflects the attitude some people take to their environment -that it really isn't their home. Their own units are their homes, but not the void deck, or the public areas - and that's sad, because without a sense of ownership, littering for example will never stop. Right now it seems as if the problem is being tackled by sending in more cleaners - but not stopping people from littering. It's kind of like the community cat problem - the cats are being trapped and killed, but nothing is being done to prevent abandonment.

Granted it IS difficult - how does one make people feel like this is indeed home? Maybe by letting them take a more active role in their estates - and community cat caregivers are really at the forefront of that. Pandering to complainants for example who don't like cats by removing them doesn't make them more community minded - it makes them less so. If they were actively involved in working towards a solution with caregivers, it would not only improve neighbourly relations but give them ownership of their own estates. It might also make them realise that trapping and killing is not a solution - right now, it's done so 'efficiently' by the TCs that many complainants don't even realise the cats were removed and killed so when new cats move in because of the vacuum effect, they don't even realise something was done, nor in most cases is their problem solved. And most people I still believe, do not want cats killed - they just want the problem solved. So getting neighbours to work with other neighbours is the best way to promote neighbourliness as well as to create a true community.

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Anonymous mr giggles said...

Yes, Condo owners have a greater sense of ownership to common areas as they know it ultimately affects them, their property prices, as well as their spending of pooled maintenance funds. And, they have a direct say on what is spent with that pool of money.

Whereas, HDB flat dwellers have absolutely no sense of ownership as they deem common areas to belong to the HDB, or is the responsibility of the TCs, and anyway, they do now have a direct say over how their monthly conservancy fees are being spent. They are never consulted on it, except on which colour scheme out of 3 pre-selected ones that they like to see their blocks painted.

If HDB residents are gathered in a meeting to discuss TC spending, I'm pretty sure the majority will be against spending any amount on the killing of cats.

The problem is where there is no such consultation. Residents' committee don't do much in this respect. They are given budgets for certain community events and are more engaged in how to spend that budget than to tell the TCs how to managed theirs.

If HDB residents only realise that ALL their money is polled and some of it is being used to kill cats, then I'm sure more will speak up against it.

29/5/07 10:48 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

mr giggles - that's a good point.

29/5/07 10:50 AM  
Blogger budak said...

HDB residents are also reminded from time to time that the common corridors are public areas and to be kept clear, although in practice a good number use it as a high rise garden at best or furniture dump at worst. Both are not allowed although town councils probably can't be bothered with these practices unless there are complaints or obstructions.

29/5/07 11:11 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

That's a good point too budak - that in a sense, people are told it's a public area. That does make people less likely to be responsible.

29/5/07 11:13 AM  
Anonymous e_cat said...

I read somewhere before that it is precisely the typical mentality of Singaporeans (that public area ain't their problem) that leads to HDB Flat Ownership. In fact, this proposition by MM Lee was lauded by Queen Elizabeth.

Corridors tend to be dirtier in older estates and areas where more lower SES (Social Economic Status) folks concentrate e.g. old Jurong West, Boon Lay, Bukit Merah, etc.

Interestingly, some newer estates with younger Singaporeans sees the same problem as nowadays people mind their own business and litters about the corridor ain't their problem.

The only thing that remains stagnant is the hardworking HDB estate cleaners we have that have to deal with all the rubbish people throw in the public areas.

29/5/07 12:22 PM  
Anonymous ace said...

i hope my estate cleaners are as hardworking as yours. I have seen some shattered glass on the same ground for weeks, nothing done! That may also explain why some people just litter since everybody is doing it..

29/5/07 12:47 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

All good points - and again, TCs and cleaners deal with the end result (littering) but not the source of the problem, which is the people. And this in turn is due to a lack of ownership of the area.

29/5/07 1:13 PM  
Anonymous e_cat said...

Hello Ace,

Might want to call TC. They are usually reactive than proactive. They will send folks to come clean up the glass before a cat or a person cuts himself or herself.

I lost a few cats to vehicular accidents in poorly lit carparks (many spoilt lite remained unfixed). I called TC and they fixed in almost immediately.

29/5/07 2:39 PM  
Blogger Mezzo said...

**puts on architect hat**

I agree with the idea that condo owners have a greater sense of ownership.

However, with regards to the cats - I think design plays a role as well. Condos are usually built as point-block, with a shared lift landing rather than a corridor. HDBs are often slab-blocks (although there are more point-blocks nowadays). In addition, condo lift landings are built small and narrow - becuase the emphasis is on privacy, not community.

Result - Condos don't have those common areas at upper levels that cats find so much fun! You'll also notice that condo owners don't put anything in the corridor, except perhaps a shoe-rack.

In addition, condos have better security - such as closed doors for stairs, etc., or closed lift foyers. Cats can't walk through doors.


30/5/07 2:16 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I like that Mezzo :)

Design definitely plays a role - as I mentioned, some condos have so much security practically no one can get up :))

However in some of the older condos, or even HUDC flats, it doesn't seem to be that much of an issue somehow. Also in terms of litter downstairs, I definitely see more in HDB blocks too.

30/5/07 2:27 PM  

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