The follies and foibles of community living

A friend once told me that reading the National House Buyers Association (HBA)’s articles is like reading a compilation of “horror housing stories”. Words like “unscrupulous developers”, “irresponsible authorities”, “abandoned projects”, “perpetual renters”, and “homeless generations” strike such terror in her heart that even the most haunting horror fiction cannot rival its effect. But, HBA tells the truth and has no intention to spread gloom and doom. Although housing matters are often weighty and serious in nature, there is a lighter side to housing. Here are some of my observations on what I call the follies and foibles in a housing community.

Giving life to the house

There is a saying “A house is given life only if the living makes it so”. A property, be it a house or an apartment, is merely a structure of brick and mortar. You may have the most beautifully landscaped garden or the tallest building or the poshest housing development but it remains an empty shell unless it is occupied by people, thus bringing life to the individual property and vibrancy to the neighbourhood which in turn encourages growth and increases the value of the property. A good or bad neighbourhood can contribute to the success or failure of any residential community.

Most people would choose to live in a “good” neighbourhood but I would then ask “Are you a good neighbour?” Because one of the most important attributes to have, should one wish to live in a good neighbourhood, is to be a good neighbour yourself. There is another saying: “We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbour” (Gilbert K. Chesterton). In the modern day, the more prosaic among us would say getting a good neighbour is like hitting the jackpot.

Lure of the lower-floor balcony

For those who are living in high-rises properties, there is this foible I call the “lure of the lower-floor balcony” to smokers, pet owners and litterbugs. The balcony below is like an irresistible receptacle of endless possibilities. To the smoker, it is like a giant ashtray; to the litterbug, it is a trash can that never needs emptying; and to a pet owner, it is a non-cleaning toilet.

People living in a multi-storey property are separated merely by a wall. This small degree of separation means that Newton’s law of “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” will happen daily because any inconsiderate action will bring upon yourself and your neighbour an equal and undesirable opposite reaction.

So if you love to discard your cigarette butts upon the balcony below, you may find one day that flick of the butt may ignite a fire that accidentally barbecues your neighbour, yourself and the whole apartment building.

By all means, if you love a good grill, have one at the community hall or pool side, but do not try to fry your unfortunate neighbour in this undignified manner.

Furthermore, chances are your own balcony could also be a lower balcony to another. I am sure you don’t want to be the unpaid cleaner to your upstairs neighbour.

Remember, what goes around does come around or in this case, from above.

Crackerjack car-parkers

I find that urban living has created many kung-fu masters of the “car parking” kind. We have likely heard of the  commandment, “you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife”. Most people are not guilty of flouting this commandment but many city dwellers are guilty of coveting their neighbour’s car park space. In any landed housing development, it is a common sight to see two or three cars squeezed into a single driveway, double parking, half or fully mounting the kerbs, hovering near or over the drains, sharing space with the flower pots and dustbins in all manner and style that can match any martial arts expert. But the golden rule must still apply for whatever styles you adopt and that is “never block another’s gate”.

Your irate neighbours may express their unhappiness onto that shiny metallic car surface or you may find your two minutes of fame on social media, being described in the most unsavoury way.

Renovation blues

This applies to those large waste bins storing construction waste, and which usually block part of a neighbour’s driveway and half the road when they are renovating their house. The entire neighbourhood may decide to help fill that waste bin with their spring cleaning junk, including a very well-used toilet bowl set — it has happened before.

Love thy neighbours

Showing consideration for others is like investing in goodwill. The returns may be intangible and not immediate but it is there.

For example, a neighbour with whom you are on good terms with will probably inform you if your house were on fire or of any possible robbery as opposed to living next to a stranger who does not even know you exist. Your neighbour could be the best security guard you ever had.

Your neighbour may also be a master-chef-in-the-making. Can you imagine the culinary delights that await you as the nearest taster and sampler of all manner of delicious foods (or maybe you will develop a very strong-cast iron stomach). So be cordial, respectful and friendly to your neighbours.

On a more serious note

I am always reminded by the poem by John Donne: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were”.

Dated though the poem may be, it holds true in the community we live in. We are all part of a neighbourhood and community to which we can play our part to grow the community in a positive way or to tear it down by selfish actions.

Datuk Chang Kim Loong is the Hon. Secretary-General of the National House Buyers Association (HBA).
HBA can be contacted at: Email: [email protected]
Tel: +6012 334 5676

This story first appeared in the pullout on Dec 13, 2019. You can access back issues here.

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