Singapore

Cleaner Geylang may be more 'bankable' Geylang

In 2015, the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced that it will rezone areas bounded by Geylang Road and Guillemard Road, between Lorong 4 and 22, from Residential/Institution to Commercial/Institution.

This means no new residential premises can be built there.

Many residents feared this would lead to a greater proliferation of vice activities, but instead, the red-light district has mostly been cleaned up.

A Lorong 12 resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, a civil servant, said this was a good development, particularly for his wife and young child.

He hopes the level of enforcement will be maintained.

"Once the authorities go away, they will be back in business," said Mr Tan.

Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Madam Lim, 55, a housewife, said her family knew what Geylang was like when they moved into their condominium in Lorong 26 a few years ago.

"We have learnt to live with it. They don't bother us, but we won't say no to having less vice in our neighbourhood," she said.

Property experts TNP spoke to had mixed reactions to the commercial future of Geylang.

Right now, there is still reluctance for offices to operate in Geylang. Not many want to be seen operating in a red-light district, and not many women will want to work there. Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at real estate firm ZACD Group

RISE

International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said property prices could rise in the long run as demand for the area increases.

He said: "If the police can clamp down on a substantial number of vice activities, perhaps 99 per cent, banks will start to treat the location as a good, bankable location and be more likely to give loans (to those who want to buy property there).

"Since Geylang is near town, property at its location should be worth $2,000 per square foot, but it is currently around $1,200 per square foot."

But Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at real estate firm ZACD Group, said the stigma of the red-light district will be hard to erase.

"Right now, there is still reluctance for offices to operate in Geylang. Not many want to be seen operating in a red-light district, and not many women will want to work there.

"It will be a slow process for people to accept Geylang as they would other areas," he said.

Yet, amid the stepped-up enforcement and the popularity of online prostitution, the faint red glow of brothel lights still shone onto the streets in Lorong 16 and 18.

From businessmen in smart suits to taxi drivers who pulled up by the roadside and groups of Japanese tourists, Geylang still has its supporters.

And as seen from the men who from time to time hover outside brothels, peering in before entering rooms with a woman of their choice, Geylang's sex industry is not going to give up without a fight.

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