If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last week, you would have seen or heard 2 words thrown around a lot: Ridout Road. Now, there are only a couple of reasons why a street in Singapore would take up the main headlines – either an accident happened (choi!), a property sold there for a record-breaking price, or an absolutely scandalous situation has occurred.
Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the people involved, it appears that Ridout Road is in the news because of the last situation – a scandal. How scandalous remains to be seen, but here’s the lowdown on why Ridout Road is on everybody’s lips.
Where is Ridout Road?
Unlike Orchard Road or Haji Lane, Ridout Road is not a location that most Singaporeans are familiar with. However, most Singaporeans should know where the Queensway McDonald’s is, and the iconic fast food landmark is actually right next to Ridout Road.
Image credit: Google Maps
The entrance into Ridout Road is through Holland Road, just one road down after the entrance into the Dempsey enclave. The entire area here is also designated as a Good Class Bungalow Area, so you can expect to see grand, palatial estates lining the streets.
A little piece of trivia that might enthuse history buffs is that Ridout Road was named after Major-General Sir Dudley H. Ridout, the guy who formed Singapore’s first secret service back in 1915. This also meant that Ridout Road had a couple of colonial bungalows built decades ago, which leads us to the next point.
Why is everyone talking about Ridout Road?
In May 2023, Secretary of the Reform Party Kenneth Jeyaretnam published a blog post wondering what ministers K. Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan are paying in rent for their homes on 26 and 31 Ridout Road respectively. Those 2 homes are state-owned colonial bungalows, and yes they are the black-and-white ones that everybody lusts after.
The exterior of 31 Ridout Road.
Image credit: Lee Kip Lin, National Library Board.
In response, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) put out a statement clarifying that the 2 properties have been left vacant for 4-6 years and that the 2 ministers submitted tenancy bids that followed proper procedure. Another fun piece of trivia is that Shanmugam heads the Ministry of Law, which is the parent agency of the SLA.
However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Kenneth, Bertha Hanson, and Pritam Singh were some of the few public figures who were unsatisfied with SLA’s response and wondered why a more thorough response would only be disclosed during July’s parliamentary session.
In the meantime, netizens were digging up all the information they could on 26 and 31 Ridout Road. For starters, it was revealed that 31 Ridout Road was rented out for $25K/month back in 2011. Taking into account inflation and the real estate market, we estimate that it would cost someone at least $50K/month to rent the colonial bungalow.
The interior of 31 Ridout Road.
Image credit: Lee Kip Lin, National Library Board.
The total size of the land that is occupied by the 2 bungalows was also a hot topic. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the total land size of 26 Ridout Road, the one rented out by Shanmugam, is around 256,665sqft. On the other hand, 31 Ridout Road, Vivian Balakrishnan’s digs, is said to occupy 136,101sqft of land according to SLA data gathered by ChannelNewsAsia and Today.
To put that into perspective, 26 Ridout Road is as big or even bigger than the National Museum of Singapore, while 31 Ridout Road is bigger than the Raffles Hotel.
Currently, Shanmugam’s lease at 26 Ridout Road is set to end in June 2024, while Vivian Balakrishnan’s lease at 31 Ridout Road was just renewed in October 2022.
How much are properties on Ridout Road worth?
Sheng Siong’s boss owns this GCB on Ridout Road.
Image credit: ta.le architects
Being a GCB-designated area, the properties on Ridout Road are priced in the tens of millions. Even renting a house here will have you shelling out at least $65K/month and above, and that’s for a GCB that’s way smaller than the properties being rented by the ministers.
Image credit: PropertyGuru
A peek into the SLA’s rental records also revealed that another black-and-white colonial bungalow on Mount Rosie Road was rented out recently for $28K/month. The bungalow itself sits on a land area of 83,066sqft, which is just shy of half the plot of land of 31 Ridout Road. With these figures, we can estimate that the colonial bungalows on Ridout Road would have been rented out for upwards of $50K/month and more.
While that sounds like a steep price to pay, you’ll get to call ministers like K. Shanmugam, Vivian Balakrishnan, and Sheng Siong’s co-founder Lim Hock Leng your neighbours.
Ridout Road saga 2023
With all the cards on the table, it looks like we’ll only get more information about the Ridout Road saga when the July parliamentary session takes place. In the meantime, one wonders if Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan have found a shortcut to the Queensway McDonald’s whenever they’re craving a Big Mac.
Cover image credit: National Library Board
Originally published on 25th May 2023. Last edited on 6th June 2023 by Josiah Neo.
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