Ridout Rd Saga: Black-&-White House Renter Debunks “Rumours with Agenda”


With all the buzz about the Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s rentals of two black-and-white bungalows along Ridout Road, it is not surprising that many people are starting to voice out their opinions on this divisive issue.

Are the criticisms levelled against the ministers fair, or are some of the speculations going overboard due to a lack of information?

One netizen recently took to Facebook to clear up certain misunderstandings about renting a colonial bungalow, calling some of the accusations regarding this saga “bandied around by those with an agenda to enrage”.

Here is what this netizen has to say about renting colonial bungalows.

The Cost of Renting the Bungalows May Not Be as High as Estimated by Some

Earlier this week, a Facebook user going by the name Yishen Kuik made a lengthy post to weigh in on Minister Shanmugam and Minister Balakrishnan’s rentals of No. 26 and No. 31 Ridout Road. In his post, he appears to defend some of the rumours or allegations floating around regarding the rentals, even going as far as to state outright that much of the discourse on this matter “is incorrect”.

One of the rumours he “debunked” was about the cost of leasing the colonial bungalows. For those unaware, there were several allegations that the two ministers should not have been able to afford to rent these expensive bungalows based on their current ministerial salaries. That is, including taking into account how much their spouses may earn, any inheritance they received, as well as any nest egg they may have built before they joined the political fray in Singapore.


In particular, there were estimations that the rentals of each bungalow could be up to $4.5 million or $7.5 million a year. That works out to about $375,000 to $625,000 a month in rent.


However, it appears that these numbers may be quite far removed from the actual reality of renting such a beautiful black-and-white condo situated on a vast space of land.

In his post, user Yishen Kuik references that he estimates the lease to be in the “20k to 35k range”, which is a far cry from the “200k or more” figures that others before him have suggested. The user also takes a mocking attitude towards those spreading such pricey rumours, labelling them speculations which are “bandied around by those with an agenda to enrage”.


That is quite a strong retort.

If you’re wondering how this user knows the cost of renting a colonial bungalow, it is because user Yishen Kuik was drawing on his knowledge from looking at “maybe 30 units before leasing [his own bungalow]”.

We guess this lends some credibility to the figures that he drops, assuming that inflation rates and any annual increases in rents were accounted for in his estimation.

The Units Are Likely to Have Been Vacant for Some Time Before Being Occupied and for Good Reason

Another juicy rumour that has been going around is how a previous occupant may have been “squeezed out” by a minister wishing to rent the bungalow instead. An expose written by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam alleges that an “expat hedge fund manager” had been “squeezed out” by “unreasonable terms imposed by [the Singapore Land Authority]”, which then “freed up the property for the senior Ministers” to rent.

This stands in direct contradiction to what one of the ministers has publicly stated, which is that both the properties they rented had been “empty for years” when the ministers put in their bids for the properties.

Some had said that the properties were empty for about four to six years before the ministers moved in between 2018 and 2020.

What the ministers have said appears to be corroborated by user Yishen Kuik, who writes that “there is always a stock of dilapidated Black and Whites waiting to be restored for when demand is strong” and that there are units that “often stay vacant for years”.

User Yishen Kuik attributes this to a “niche” pool of renters who are interested in such bungalows.

What is the truth on this matter?

The SLA Lease Process for Such Bungalows Are Designed to Prevent Corruption

Interestingly enough, the user Yishen Kuik also touches on the impartiality of the SLA lease process for the coveted housing. This is in response to jabs and jokes that Minister Shanmugam, by virtue of the public offices he holds, is the “boss” of the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and, therefore, may have been able to sidestep some measures to obtain the winning bids for the bungalows.


The possibility of such under-the-table transactions is vehemently denied by the user Yishen Kuik. He writes passionately that the “SLA lease process is designed to prevent corruption”.

If there is a “competitive” situation involved in bidding for a bungalow, someone who wanted to rent the house would have to “submit a deposit to register [their] interest” and then “drop off [their] blind bid at SLA by a deadline”.

The bids would then “be published”, and the person who submitted the bid would receive a call if they “won” and “[agreed] to honour [the] bid”. There would also be a “top bid…published as the winner”.

If this top bidder rejects taking up the house, then there is a possibility that SLA will “confiscate your deposit and talk to the second bidder”.

There is also supposed to be a strict policy in place where one “cannot change [their] bid”, with every bid being “in the public record” well “before” the bidder can decide whether to accept or reject their allocation of the bungalow.

Everything is then “archived after a few months” to wrap up the stringent bidding process. Not an easy process to go through if one is not genuinely interested in the property.


The Facebook user Yishen Kuik purports that “there is no reason why anyone cannot bid on [the bungalows they want to live in]”, including ministers, assuming that “this process is not circumvented”.

There Is Good Reason to Preserve the Bungalows Even Though They May Be Empty and Take up a Lot of Space

In the post, the user Yishen Kuik also argues why these bungalows should be preserved even if they may sit “vacant” and take up a substantial amount of land space in land-scarce Singapore.

He argues for the need to “keep these B&W estates alive by making them relevant as beautiful residential estates that double as a sort of historical park for the public, F&B and lifestyle spaces like Seletar and Dempsey and universities like UBS at Command House”.

The houses are not just houses. They are also instruments to achieve more, such as being an “extension of the National Museum” and helping to “play a soft role in nation building”. There is also a possibility that the bungalows can help to build a “shared identity as Singaporeans”.

We appreciate that standpoint but wonder how true these words are, given that the average Singaporean may never be able to afford to live in such a house before they pass away. Also, given that the user has also acknowledged the fact that “very few members of the public” live in such colonial bungalows, can they really help in “nation building”, or are these bungalows more to bond the wealthy and affluent who can afford to stay in a bungalow?


The user Yishen Kuik makes other fair points that these bungalows may play a “role in tourism” and could be “what international visitors takeaway in their minds about Singapore”.

If tourists visit areas like Dempsey Hill or take a trip to these areas to snap a shot of the beautiful black-and-white colonial bungalows, there may indeed be a tourism-boosting effect in Singapore. Though, if those bungalows are occupied, we are not sure how keen the residents will be to have (rowdy) tourists flocking to their residential area to snap a quick picture.

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Does This Person Have Any Authority to Speak on the Matter?

Finally, and curiously enough, apart from purportedly living in a colonial bungalow himself, the user Yishen Kuik appears to have a keen interest in these black-and-white structures from the past. This could lend his debunking arguments some measure of credibility if he has been involved in this field for some time.

Some old pictures posted on Facebook in 2020 reveal what looks like a replica of some colonial bungalows which we see in Singapore, in the form of a gingerbread house.

It seems like this user has had a keen interest in these bungalows from a long time back and is not just abruptly expressing his opinions without basis.

What is your take on this rumour-debunking exercise from user Yishen Kuik?

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