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Sengkang resident: No big deal living next to columbarium

His home is a stone's throw from Puat Jit Buddhist Temple at Sengkang.

The temple is next to Nanyang Thong Hong Siang Tng Temple and Chee Hwan Kog Temple, both of which have columbariums.

But Mr Jamal Sulaiman, 45, who lives on the third storey of Block 318D Anchorvale Road, did not think it was a big deal.

The temple was built about two years after he moved into his four-room flat 12 years ago.

He said: "I was worried that it would be noisy at first and that there would be incense burning.

"But so far, it hasn't really been an issue."

When The New Paper spoke to residents at Sin Ming Avenue, located next to Bright Hill Crematorium and Columbarium, and Yishun Street 21, next to Yishun Columbarium, they also had few complaints.

Their sentiments are a contrast from the furore among some future residents of the build-to-order project Fernvale Lea in Sengkang over a columbarium that will be built next to the estate.

On Sunday, about 400 people attended a three-hour closed-door dialogue with Dr Lam Pin Min, MP for Sengkang West.

Several have even asked for a refund of their flats, which are expected to be ready by early next year.

One of the concerns raised was the proximity of the columbarium affecting the future resale value of the flats.

The Singapore Real Estate Exchange analysed properties around 10 columbariums islandwide and noted that there could be a negative impact on prices if they are located less than 250m away.

OTHER FACTORS

But the impact may be offset by amenities such as MRT stations or popular schools.

A check of Housing Board transactions last year showed that in Sin Ming Avenue, a smaller flat near the columbarium fetched a higher price than a flat of a similar age further away.

There were no transactions for flats near the columbariums in Sengkang and Yishun last year for comparison.

Most of the residents in Bright Hill and Yishun raised the issue of noise and traffic jams during the annual Qing Ming festival but said that their daily lives have not been affected otherwise.

Madam Koh Guat Ngoh, a part-time cleaner, 59, who lives a five-minute walk from the Yishun Columbarium, did not think that her neighbours are too affected by its presence.

She said: "I think it depends on the individual as some might see the location as being inauspicious.

"I might mind it if the columbarium was directly opposite my block, and I have to see it every time I open the door. But I am fine with my current location."

Housewife Tam Ai Nai, 70, who lives in a five-room flat at Sin Ming Avenue, next to Bright Hill Crematorium and Columbarium, thought that it all depends on an individual's beliefs.

"I'm a Buddhist and the ashes of my ancestors are at the crematorium. So I don't mind."

Although Madam Tam is not thinking of selling her flat, she does not think the price will be adversely affected.

"This flat is rare nowadays because of its size," she explained.

Mr Jamal of Anchorvale is also not thinking of selling his flat, and he does not think that prices would be affected because of his flat's ideal location.

"This is a good place to live in. My son's school, Springdale Primary, is just a short walk away," he said.

"Anyway, Singapore is a multiracial and multi-religious country. We'll just have to close one eye sometimes."

The administrative officer at Nanyang Thong Hong Siang Tng Temple, who wanted to be known only as Mr Ho, is surprised about the outburst over Fernvale Lea.

He said that Anchorvale residents have not complained about their temple and columbarium.

He said in Mandarin: "Everyone has his own opinion but from a Buddhist point of view, everyone has to go through death and helping someone on their last journey is a good deed.

"Besides, the ashes allow those who are still alive to have memories of their loved ones who have passed away."

Anyway, Singapore is a multiracial and multi-religious country. We'll just have to close one eye sometimes.

- Mr Jamal Sulaiman, 45

SENGKANG

Most residents are not affected by the three temples at Anchorvale in Sengkang (see above), said Mr Fendy Lee, group director of real estate firm Huttons Asia.

"They will ask me about the noise and activities at the temple, but most of them will still consider the location as a priority," he said.

"It's a good location as there are schools like Nan Chiau Primary nearby."

SIN MING

Properties located within 250 to 500m of Bright Hill Crematorium and Columbarium (above) are more expensive than those 1 to 2km away, according to property information exchange SRX.

"Sin Ming is located at the 'tip' of Bishan and considered a blessed area after the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery was established," said Mr John Ong, senior sales director at property firm DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

The private properties in the area could also push up prices, he said.

"It is near the Upper Thomson eateries, the upcoming Bright Hill MRT station and Ai Tong Primary School."

YISHUN

Properties located within 250 to 500m of Yishun Columbarium fetch a lower price than those farther away, according to SRX.

This is because the more expensive flats are closer to Yishun MRT station.

Sometimes, flats closer to the columbarium may fetch a higher price compared to another slightly further away, according to HDB resale flat prices.

Said Mr Norman Lim, associate director at Dennis Wee Realty: "Some of these flats are nearer to amenities like the market at Block 292. They are also closer to the main road at Yishun Ring Road, making it more convenient for residents to take public transport, especially the buses that travel towards Northpoint Shopping Centre and Yishun MRT."

Buyers should consider the 'big picture'

SRX analysis shows there is a negative impact on the rental and resale price of HDB properties that are less than 250m away from a columbarium.

The negative impact of being near a columbarium disappears if the property is further than 250m away, said its spokesman.

But there are exceptions, such as property at Sin Ming Avenue, situated next to Bright Hill Crematorium and Columbarium, because of its proximity to popular school Ai Tong Primary.

For example, the per square foot (psf) price is $495 for flats 250 to 500m from the columbarium, while that of the flats 500m to 1km away is $476.

The spokesman said: "There may be a psychological distance threshold as to how near a columbarium should be.

"It's (a case of) out of sight, it's also out of mind."

But Mr Fendy Lee, group director of property firm Huttons Asia, thinks buyers should look at the "bigger picture".

He said: "Besides the columbarium, (Fernvale Lea) is also near the new Seletar Mall and the upcoming Sengkang General and Community Hospitals.

The nearby Jalan Kayu area has also been identified as an identity node in the Urban Redevelopment Authority's master plan, he added. This means that the Government will improve access and visitor experience to the area.

"Imagine living near a place like Holland Village in the future. The area has potential. You cannot allow one bad point to cover all the good points," he added.