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Neighbourhood Estate Guide: Is Bukit Merah The Most Overrated Or Underrated Estate In Singapore?

Getting a BTO at Bukit Merah is not so lucky anymore

Bukit Merah, translated from Malay, means “Red Hill”, and the area was named as such when red soil was uncovered in the hilly areas around Henderson and Lengkok Bahru during the excavation of the site in the 1950s.

Today, Bukit Merah is considered a mature town with flats built in the 1930s still in existence. The Bukit Merah town is located in the southernmost part of the central region and comprises of five estates: Tiong Bahru, Redhill, Telok Blangah, Mount Faber, and Tanjong Pagar. It is also home to over 151,250 residents based on Singstat’s 2020 figures, with over 54,423 built HDB flats.

A once popular choice amongst HDB flat buyers, Bukit Merah now falls under the prime location public housing (PLH) model, which has restrictive conditions to keep future build-to-order (BTO) HDB flat prices more affordable. This move by HDB could have taken the shine off the demand and attractiveness of such flats in Bukit Merah.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of other residential housing options if you are considering staying in Bukit Merah Town. As part of our neighbourhood estate guide series, we highlight some things that you might want to know about the town.

The History Of Bukit Merah  

Many of us, in our primary school days, would have read stories about some of Singapore’s myths and folklore. One such story, that could also be read from the government microsite Roots, is the “Attack of the Swordfish”, which gives a local folklore account of how Bukit Merah got its name.

Moving past the interesting tale, the lands in Bukit Merah were also briefly used for gambier and pepper plantations in the early 19th century before they lost their agricultural value due to deforestation. Thereafter, the town’s earnest development as a modern residential town took shape in the 1950s as both the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) and its successor, the Housing Development Board (HDB), started building more public housing flats to accommodate the burgeoning population.

Read Also: Neighbourhood Estate Guide: Why Tanjong Pagar Will Be Even More Desirable In The Future 

Making Bricks Was One Of The First Modern Businesses In Bukit Merah

Bukit Merah had a history of large-scale modern brickworks during the early 1920s, owing largely to the Alexandra Brickworks, run by the Borneo Company Ltd. The bricks made from the brickkiln was used for the former National Library at Stamford Road, Tiong Bahru SIT flats, and Gillman Barracks. This specific kiln became so well-known that it became the name of a sub-district, and subsequently, a housing development in the Alexandra estate – Brickworks Estate – was also given the same name.

The Archipelago Brewery Company (ABC) is another company that has also left its imprint in the area to date. The brewery operated from 1935 to 1990 and produced Anchor Beer. In its heydays, it was one of the most coveted employers in the area. In recognition of its familiarity with locals, the hawker centre, ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre, which was built in the 1970s, was named after it.

Today, these businesses of the past have made way for many other small and medium-sized businesses that operate in office buildings, factories, and industrial parks that enclave the Bukti Merah estate. For example, distributors of automobile brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Peugeot, and Mitsubishi all have their showrooms along the Alexandra Road. Furthermore, sites like the Alexandra Village Industrial Estate, Henderson Industrial Park along Jalan Bukit Merah, and the SGH campus are some of the other major employment nodes in Bukit Merah.

With a diverse range of businesses in the neighbourhood, residents of Bukit Merah have access to not just a variety of job opportunities but also the ability to work near their home.

Read Also: 13 Housing Estates That Have HDB Flats More Than $1 Million

Excellent Connectivity To Other Towns Via Both Public And Private Transportation

Getting around the island from Bukit Merah is fairly convenient given its central location, be it via public transportation or private vehicles.

The town is served by 18 two-way bus services from the Bukit Merah and HabourFront Bus Interchanges, as well as Kampong Bahru, Marina Centre, Queen Street, and Shenton Way Bus Terminals. This allows residents to travel to the city centre like Tanjong Pagar in under 30 minutes or even travel to other far-flung towns such as Pasir Ris, Toa Payoh, and Yishun by the different bus services.

The railway connectivity, which was lacking previously, will also be boosted with the construction of the four new stations – Havelock, Outram, Keppel, and Cantonment – that will link with the Thomson-East Coast MRT line and Circle Line 6.

The town is also connected to major expressways such as the Central Expressway (CTE) and Ayer Rajah Expressway, making it convenient to travel by private transportation to other parts of Singapore. In fact, during non-peak hours, it could take as little as 15 minutes to travel by car from the Bukit Merah town centre to International Plaza in Tanjong Pagar.

Future New BTO HDBs Could Be Launched Under The PLH Model, Limiting Capital Gains

The unique pre-and post-war houses that were developed by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) at the Tiong Bahru estate add a nostalgic flare and allure to the estate. While these houses are highly prized in the resale market, so are the other relatively newer resale HDB flats in the estate. Bukit Merah is one of the estates that has a high number of million-dollar HDB transactions. In fact, a 5-room HDB flat at 96A Henderson Road set a transaction record of $1.4 million in May 2022, making it the priciest HDB transaction in the resale market thus far.

Other HDB developments in Bukit Merah that are part of the exclusive million-dollar HDB club also include Tiong Bahru View, Kim Tian Green, and Havelock View. That said, it’s not surprising that the median HDB resale prices are relatively higher across the different flat types compared to other estates.

Median Resale HDB Prices
3-Room 4-Room 5-Room
Bukit Merah $402,500 $750,000 $840,000

Source: HDB Resale Statistics Q12022

In view of the record high prices for resale public housing flats, the government introduced the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) model to moderate the prices of build-to-order (BTO) flats sold in prime locations such as Bukit Merah. In order to keep the selling price of such flats affordable, a few restrictive conditions were imposed on PLH flats, including a 10-year minimum occupation period (MOP) and a subsidy clawback when the flat is sold. Because of these conditions, the last two BTO launches – Bukit Merah Ridge and Ghim Moh Ascent, in the May 2022 BTO Launch – saw less demand from flat applicants. With a high possibility that the PLH model may cover future public housing in Bukit Merah, such houses may start to lose their shine with homeowners in the coming years.

Aside from the HDB properties, condominiums are another popular choice of residential type in Bukit Merah. The median resale condominium prices range from $1,255 psf to $1,947. The condominiums in the lower psf range are located in the Bukit Ho Swee sub-zone and the condominiums with a higher psf are located in the Tiong Bahru sub-zone.

Read Also:
Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) Model: 8 Things To Know About The Regulations For New HDB Flats Built In Prime Location

MOE Based Schools In Bukit Merah

As a mature town, Bukit Merah has one of the higher proportions of elderly residents among the different estates. Based on the statistics from the General Household Survey 2015, there were around 51,310 residents over the age of 55, or around 30% of the Bukit Merah total population size.

This implies that demand for learning institutions such as MOE kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools might be lesser in Bukit Merah compared to other non-mature towns like Woodlands and Punggol.

Based on the schoolfinder website, there is only one MOE kindergarten at Bukit Merah. However, it should be noted that there are plenty more other private pre-schools in Bukit Merah, such as MapleBear Redhill, My First Skool at Blk 106 Henderson Crescent, Seedlings Montessori Alexandra at 57 Dawson Place, to name a few.

MOE Kindergartens
Name of Kindergarten Location
MOE Kindergarten @ Alexandra 2A Prince Charles Crescent, S159016

Source: SchoolFinder

Next, if you are looking to enrol your children in a primary school, you will be pleased to note that there are at least more options than kindergartens. There are a grand total of 7 MOE primary schools in Bukit Merah. These schools, which are well spread out across the estate, include schools that have a high enrolment rate, such as Radin Mas Primary School and CHIJ (Kellock).

MOE Primary School
Name of School Location
Alexandra Primary School 2A Prince Charles Crescent, S159016
Blangah Rise Primary School 91 Telok Blangah Heights, S109100
Cantonment Primary School 1 Cantonment Close, S088256
CHIJ (Kellock) 1 Bukit Teresa Road, S099757
Gan Eng Seng Primary School 100 Redhill Close, S158901
Radin Mas Primary School 1 Bukit Purmei Avenue, S099840
Zhangde Primary School 51 Jalan Membina, S169485

Source: SchoolFinder

Lastly, as your children progress through the ranks of primary schools, they have 4 choices of secondary schools if they want to go to a school near their home. Nevertheless, given the town’s central location, students could find traveling to other schools in Clementi and Bukit Timah equally convenient as well.

MOE Secondary School
Name of School Location
Bukit Merah Secondary School 10 Lengkok Bahru, S159050
CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent 160 Lower Delta Road, S099138
Crescent Girls’ School 357 Tanglin Road, S247961
Gan Eng Seng School 1 Henderson Road, S159561

Source: SchoolFinder

Recreation Options In Bukit Merah To Unwind Over The Weekends

As per its name, the Bukit Merah town is a hilly area, filled with many parks and green spaces. You could enjoy your weekends exploring the hiking trails of the 10km Southern Ridges, which will take you through the Labrador Nature Reserve and three major parks—Kent Ridge Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, and Mount Faber Park. You could even take a short break at the Henderson Waves, which at 36 metres is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore and connects the Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber Park.

Given Singapore’s hot and humid environment, it is understandable if you prefer to spend your free time in an air-conditioned environment. In that case, you could head down to malls such as the HarbourFront Centre and Singapore’s largest mall, VivoCity, which has a gross floor area of 142,854 sqm. It should serve most, if not all, of your shopping needs.

However, if shopping is not to your liking, you could also make a trip to either the Tiong Bahru Estate or Gillman Barracks. The Tiong Bahru estate, which is the site of SIT houses (pre-war colonial houses), is home to a wide variety of both hawkerfare and hipster F&B outlets. After your meal, you could choose to burn down your calories by exploring NHB’s heritage trail, particularly if you are unfamiliar with its past.

Lastly, if you love your art the traditional way (physical form) and not the non-fungible token (NFT) form, then the Gillman Barracks could be the destination for you. The Gillman Barracks is home to Singapore’s contemporary arts cluster, where you can appreciate international art galleries and even dine at the restaurants there.

You would have plenty of different options to spend your free time especially if you need some downtime from your work.


Criteria Ratings Remarks
Pedigree Very Good As one of the earlier built towns in Singapore, Bukit Merah not only has an interesting tale behind it, but may hold fond memories for many of our Pioneer and Merdeka generations. It also has a unique rustic charm that differentiates it from other towns.
Accessibility Good The town is quite close to the town area, making it accessible to major employment nodes like the central business district quickly and easily. The future railway development will also boost connectivity to other parts of the island.
Affordability Poor The median prices of HDB flats in Bukit Merah are in the higher range across the different types. Aside from the PLH model flats, existing resale HDB flats may get priced higher in the future as buyers could snap up the existing flats without the PLH restrictions.
Schools Poor It is no surprise that Bukit Merah, as a mature town, has fewer schools for young families. However, given the largely elderly population, competition for such schools may be less stiff compared to other non-mature towns with a large young family population.
Recreation Very Good There are plenty of options for residents at Bukit Merah to spend their leisure time. From sweating it out in nature, to spending time at malls, to food tasting at one of the many hawker centres, there is something for all ages to engage in.
Investment Potential  Poor If the PLH model applies to future BTO HDB flats in Bukit Merah, it will limit the upside potential for flat buyers.

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