Everyone these days has a smart phone, a smart TV, and a smart house…but what about a smart void deck?
Yes, you read that right. ‘Smart Void Decks’ is an initiative proposed by Mr. Yacob Ibrahim, former Communications and Information (MCI) minister.
During his Budget 2019 speech, Mr. Ibrahim mentioned the need to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit among other Singaporeans. His first step? Creating an accessible space that connects residents with start-ups right below their homes.
He said, “I am proposing that we convert these spaces into maker spaces for our heartlanders. A comfortable place where anyone can go to tinker and fix things, to create, to meet and discuss new ideas and solutions for the community.”
But wait, how is that conducive for anyone?
We have to admit, having a ‘smart void deck’ is a great idea for start-ups. It elevates their exposure and awakens the sleeping creativity of most Singaporean residents. Both parties benefit, right?
Not really. Other HDB residents who are uninterested in this initiative, and will remain so no matter what, may suffer more than they’ve bargained for.
Tinkering and fixing things, as Mr. Ibrahim said, generates a lot of noise. As do creative discussions and brainstorming sessions. And directly above these ‘maker spaces’ are families with children and probably elderly as well.
A conducive environment for start-ups and interested residents may not be so conducive for families just trying to live their lives.
Smart void decks can be good for family-owned businesses
However, mom and pop stores may gain more customers due to the smart void decks initiative.
More than the usual amount of residents will be around. And they will, at some point, want some snacks and refreshments. Even the start-ups need to stock up its pantry as well.
Mama shops may not be the only businesses to thrive in the envisioned start-up scene in HDBs. The elderly and stay-at-home moms can earn a little extra, too.
Cleaning uncles and aunties will not have to travel far to get to their workplaces as it will just be in the neighbourhood. Less hassle for them, more help for start-ups.
Once their kids are in school, stay-at-home moms can also venture out of their homes and into the maker spaces. There, they may find a new side-job or learn something new.
It may be harder to find parking, though
Not so bad, right? Until HDB residents try to find parking and most of the spots are already occupied.
In the first place, parking spaces in HDB lots are limited. Having start-ups added to the tenant mix may mean that most of the parking spots will be occupied by them.
Parking rates aren’t that cheap, either.
It may seem like a non-issue to some (probably commuters), but HDB residents with cars may find this a bit of an annoyance.
HDB void decks may not build a good image for start-ups
Start-ups are usually comprised of young men and women hungry to see change in the world. They are not restricted by usual corporate demeanour and are more free-spirited.
However, no matter how liberal they like their work setting to be, HDB void decks may not be the most suitable look for them. First, void decks are usually near garbage chutes, metal bike racks, and kids’ playgrounds.
Even after some cleaning up, the residential community’s behaviour will not change. Not even for some fancy start-up.
Second, setting up shop in an HDB void deck may lower the value of the company in some investors’ eyes. Why? Because – third – it may also make them look cheaper or less formidable.
There could be less space for community activities, too
As a shared space, void decks are commonly used for community activities.
Residents’ Committees organise joint activities with different HDB blocks. Neighbourhood kids kick a game of soccer or two around, sometimes playing hide and seek or tag.
The elderly are also privy to the benefits of void decks. A Senior Citizens’ Corner has been partitioned for their own special use.
Today, many of them and their retired friends gather in these shared spaces to play mahjong or have chit-chats in the afternoon.
Not only that, but void decks are often the reception or venue of Malay weddings. It’s also where Chinese wakes are as well as Chinese funerals.
Hence, the community’s recreational activities may get disrupted if void decks become too commercialised.
Of course, start-ups invading HDB void decks may be better controlled if new rules were to be imposed that both residents and businesses can agree with.
Although we’re not sure how well this initiative will play out, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Do you think the smart void deck initiative will take off? Voice your thoughts in our comments section or on our Facebook community page.
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