FIRST built as affordable homes for the sandwiched middle class, they were a ticket to a windfall three decades later. With the last HUDC estate heading towards privatisation - Braddell View - that chapter in Singapore's housing story is drawing to a close.
It began with little fanfare in the Budget debate of 1974.
MPs wanted middle-income earners to be able to buy private property with Central Provident Fund savings.
Then Minister of State for Labour Sia Kah Hui turned them down, but signalled: the Government would be building, "in the very near future", flats for this exact middle-income group.
Three days later, then Minister for Law and National Development E.W. Barker gave details.
The aim: to provide homes for the sandwiched class of young professionals and executives, who earned too much for a Housing Board flat but too little to afford private housing.
This, as Housing and Urban Development Company manager Lim Poh Guan put it in a 1976 interview, was "so that they could have a stake in the country".
The five estates of the pioneer batch were an ambitious alternative to condominium living.
Some, such as Braddell View - which the Ministry of National Development on Tuesday announced has been designated for privatisation - and Farrer Court, were conceptualised as green, sprawling spaces. The 618 units in Farrer Court estate, for instance, had 838,488 sq ft of land to themselves - about 21/2 times the size of the Padang.
Others commanded views of parkland, such as Lakeview estate in Upper Thomson Road, or the sea, like Laguna Park and Amberville in the east. They featured landscaped grounds, playing fields and covered carparks. And the three-bedroom flats they contained, which came in two sizes, were larger than any before.
The smaller ones, at 139 sq m, are more than twice the size of a new three-room flat today.