In 1960, a year after Singapore became self-governing, almost 70% of its population were either squatters or slum dwellers. By 1985 it had become a modern metropolis with more than 80% of its residents living in public housing.
This globally unparalleled transformation was achieved through compulsory, often controversial, land acquisition and resettlement. The policy remains central to Singapore's urban planning and development.
The Land Acquisition Act (LAA) was passed in 1966, the year after Singapore became independent. It gave the government sweeping powers to acquire vast amounts of private land at below-market rates. Spaces for public housing, industrial parks and infrastructure were obtained quickly as the state's decisions could not be challenged in court.
Early acquisitions were primarily for public housing built by the Housing Development Board (HDB). They went hand in hand with resettlement, which was largely accomplished without serious public backlash.
The policy dovetailed with founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's emphasis on home ownership for building a stakeholder society. He encouraged this by allowing Singaporeans to use their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings to make down payments, and the HDB offered subsidised mortages.