Singapore property watch: Why is Toa Payoh attracting house hunters?
On the lookout for somewhere decidedly quieter to live as Singapore bustles back to life post-pandemic? There’s a whole new array of luxury properties to choose from in Toa Payoh, both in public housing and private property – and the ever-improving surrounding area is nothing to sniff at, either.
At surface level, the superannuated satellite town of Tao Payoh may not seem a likely hotspot for innovative new developments in housing. But the erstwhile “big swamp” now offers some of Singapore’s most enticing housing developments and local amenities.
Founded in 1964, Toa Payoh – right in the centre of both Singapore and its out-of-town heartlands – dates back to the days before the Lion City became an independent nation.
As the country’s second-oldest satellite town, it has been through all kinds of incarnations. Once it was primarily farmland and held a cemetery, leading to its nickname "Ang Chiang San", or “burial hill”, while later it became synonymous with vice as gangs marauded the streets, before the nation’s rapid industrialisation transformed the urban complexion by reducing wealth inequality.
So while suburban Toa Payoh may seem an unlikely venue for sought-after, design-led private property, its large modern-day population is now amply furnished with desirable homes, together with a generous array of useful local amenities.
The town has done much lately to modernise its image as a place best suited to seniors (it’s been affectionately called a “Silver Zone”), with recent improvements in the realm of public housing exemplified by Bidadari, a serene new estate which holds 10,000 residential units, a lake, community lawns, a heritage walk and nature-rich experiential trails.
There’s also a significant market in HDB re-sales, where homes currently cost around a half of equivalent domiciles in condominiums.
Private residences, too, are seeing considerable demand, with new integrated developments featuring human-centred design. Despite lying farther from the city, the price tag for two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo units in this area is now in the ballpark of S$1.5 million – reflecting the relative peace, tranquility and attractive views here, as well as a larger average unit size per square metre.
This is made possible in part by adaptable features like moveable walls and storage space subtly built into kitchens and bathrooms, while balconies help create a feeling of oneness with the surrounding nature.
Although Toa Payoh is a densely populated township, some scenic new integrated developments demonstrate builders’ ability to find ample new space in apartment blocks – an art well practised over the years in Singapore – with some family units offering three or even four bedrooms.
These residences come with facilities that accentuate lifestyle convenience, such as supermarkets, retail stores, childcare and elderly centres, wheelchair access, and roof decks that incorporate play areas, fitness stations and shaded seating. In addition, water features are being constructed to bring harmony and beauty to residents’ lives, along with other outdoor spaces like children’s playgrounds.
House prices also take into account Toa Payoh’s excellent connectivity, with three nearby MRT stations (Woodleigh, Caldecott and Braddell), together with plentiful green lungs. The area might not flaunt such a multi-cultural or cosmopolitan vibe as its downtown counterparts, but doesn’t fall short in terms of beauty spots.
For starters, there’s the aforementioned Bidadari Park, a focal point replete with walking trails and play areas to complement the eponymous housing estate. A site sensitive to wildlife and ecology, it also incorporates Alkaff Lake, an upcoming attraction set to open this year featuring a rain tree on an island.
There’s also the idyllic Toa Payoh Town Park, built in 1973 – making it one of Singapore’s oldest public gardens – a sanctuary rich with nature and aesthetic appeal, known for its willows, bamboos and the brilliant colours of its trees. The space provides a home for a wide variety of flora and fauna, and includes an observation tower, a pavilion, gazebos, pathways, and a landscaped pond with a small waterfall and a cluster of artificial islands.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a short drive away, is one of the city-state’s best-loved, most scenic recreation areas, with its litany of trails, treetop walks and nature sightings. The UNESCO-designated Singapore Botanic Gardens, the nation’s most famous green lung, is at the western end of Orchard, within a few miles’ reach.
The Toa Payoh area competes well in terms of retail opportunities, with the Junction 8 (Bishan) and Nex (Serangoon) malls nearby both offering cinemas; Junction 8 has a children’s playground, while Nex allows MRT access with its inbuilt interchange.
For shoppers seeking out a less commodified, more organic experience, Toa Payoh Shopping Mall is a sprawling, one-of-a-kind retail centre in Singapore with two distinct shopping experiences within one overall complex, built into some of the city-state’s oldest estates. Toa Payoh Hub’s upper-floor stores also have ground-floor shophouses connecting to local apartment blocks, while Toa Payoh Mall is a row of traditional shophouses set along a colonial-style shopping street.
If the town’s restaurant scene doesn’t boast quite the same Michelin-star culinary pedigree as more central locations, its food-and-drink outlets nonetheless feature remarkable diversity alongside consistent quality.
In a few square miles along its central streets, Toa Payoh packs in Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine – all represented in TripAdvisor’s local Top 20 list – as well as true outliers like Tim’s Restaurant & Cafe, which serves Nepalese fare such as "thukpa" (Sherpa noddle soup with chicken) and "pakora" (a spicy vegetarian starter) alongside better-known Western favourites.
The Refectory, meanwhile, is a multi-outlet food hub on Braddell Road which operates four separate concepts under one roof including BRDL Restaurant & Bar – a sophisticated, Euro-centric bistro with Japanese influences that also features a broad selection of signature cocktails, craft beers and wines.
Toa Payoh is equally well served by healthcare facilities. Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore’s only non-profit, private Catholic missionary hospital, is an acute-care centre; Unihealth 24-Hr Clinic in Toa Payoh Mall, a round-the-clock primary-care centre, offers convenient check-ups with the bonus of affordable fees.
Sporty types won’t go without their exercise either, as Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, Prime Gymnastics Club and SAFRA Toa Payoh are all a short stroll from the town centre.
House hunters with children are served locally by solid education options. Pei Chun Public School, established in 1933, has strong Chinese community links; SJI International School, a Lasallian Catholic institution, offers education for ages four to 18. Here, local and foreign students share classes in Grades 7 to 12, while the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is taught to students in Grades 11 and 12.
There are three primary schools in the area, too, demonstrating that whatever residents’ age, ethnicity or background, Toa Payoh has broad appeal to house hunters in Singapore.
This article was first published on PropertyGuru.