Ridout Road Saga: K. Shanmugam & Vivian Balakrishnan Explain Why They Rent the Colonial Houses


K. Shanmugam & Vivian Balakrishnan Revealed in Parliament Why They’re Renting Colonial Houses at Ridout Road

For many of us, no one would bat an eye if we rent a big house; in fact, we’d be filming multiple house tours so that we can humblebrag about our luxury lifestyle, and even when no one ever asks, we’ll still explain why we rented the house.

But of course, when people realised that two ministers, Home Affairs & Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, were renting big colonial houses, people raised an eyebrow instead.

And so, in today’s Parliament sitting that’s all about the Ridout Road saga,, four ministers gave prepared speeches before the debate started: Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean spoke about his review, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong spoke about the rental of colonial houses and the two key ministers, Minister K. Shanmugam and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, spoke about why they rented the colonial houses and how the process went.

So, why did K. Shanmugam rented?

Shanmugam Explained Why He Rented 26 Ridout Road

Mr Shanmugam said that as he neared his sixties, he realised that an undue proportion of his savings was tied to his then family home. He had originally purchased the property through his prior earnings as a legal professional before transitioning into his ministerial role.

He elucidated, “When I purchased my family home, I anticipated a continuous income stream mirroring what I was receiving in the private sector.” However, following his shift into the political sphere, his income underwent significant changes, leading to an over-reliance on his home as a financial asset.

He noted, “After I became a minister, my income changed, and thus I found that too much of my savings was tied up in one house.”

Lest you’re not aware, he had actually earned more in the private sector

This realization was bolstered by advice cautioning against the concentration of savings in a single asset, thus prompting him to list his family home for sale.

Mr Shanmugam addressed several questions concerning his decision to rent 26 Ridout Road, acknowledging the private nature of these inquiries. He commented, “Many will appreciate that the choice of a person’s home is typically a personal and private matter. But I am mindful that as an elected official whose authority is conferred on me by the trust of Singaporeans, the lines between what is personal and public may not always be clear.”

Regarding his choice of the rented property, he explained his fondness for black-and-white style houses led him to view multiple rental properties before settling on 26 Ridout Road in 2018. He moved into this property in preparation for the sale of his family home.

In reference to his approach to renting, Mr Shanmugam stressed that he was unaware of the guide rent and instructed his agent to formulate an offer based on the rates of neighbouring properties. He insisted, “I told my agent that I should not be paying less than what my neighbours paid.”

During this time, he temporarily rented out his family home as he deliberated over the sale. “It took me a while to decide to sell. And then COVID intervened. My family home was put on the market in November 2021,” he said.

He also emphasised that in no way was he regretting his decision to be in the public sector despite the lower income.

Now, how about Minister Vivian Balakrishnan?

Reason why Dr Vivian Balakrishnan Rented 31 Ridout Road

His reason is simple: to unify his extended family under one roof while his grandchildren were still young. Dr Balakrishnan has four children, who range in age from 17 to 34.


Dr Balakrishnan and his wife conducted initial research using the resources provided by the State Properties Information Office (SPIO) website. He recounted, “In September 2018, my wife was visiting a friend and drove by the property at number 31. A conspicuous ‘for lease’ sign was posted, displaying a contact number.”

Upon contacting the listed number, they were connected with a property agent from Colliers International Consultancy and Valuation. The agent presented multiple black and white properties in the surrounding area, quoting an asking rent of S$19,000 for the house at 31 Ridout Road.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that the property had remained vacant since 2013 and had significantly deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. He detailed the conditions of the house, which included a leaky roof, holes in the floor, a decaying staircase, severe termite infestation, uprooted trees around the property, a broken fence, and the presence of snakes both inside and outside the house.

“Extensive renovations would have been mandatory to render the house habitable,” he stated, adding that he invested over S$200,000 in various property improvement projects.

The tenancy agreement for the property was officially signed in October 2019 and was subsequently renewed in 2022.


You can watch this video on a the results of the review conducted by SM Teo and CPIB: