Housing accessibility and affordability impact cities worldwide, and for city-state Singapore, the world’s most expensive city for nine years in a row, housing issues are especially a cause for headaches.

In 2019, over 80 percent of Singapore’s 5.5 million residents lived in high-rise public housing blocks built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB); but now the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the country’s delicate balance of public housing supply and demand.

Overall, housing affordability has declined. Income ceilings, marital status, and ethnic quotas have further decreased Singaporean’s access to home ownership. One artist, Divaagar, has decided to take a jab at the issue through his artwork, Everfowl Estate. It’s a diorama installation that recreates typical houses in Singapore, but they are made for jungle fowl and chickens.

Divaagar is a multidisciplinary artist who works with installations, performances, and digital media that examine narratives and propose new models that rethink how bodies, identities, and environments interact.

The fake chickens of Everfowl Estate by Divaagar. Image courtesy of @theeverydaymuseum/Instagram.

Chicken housing is also at the forefront of the ethical and sustainable chicken farming movements. The eggs of free-range chicken can cost up to five times the price of cage-raised chicken. Hence Divaagar’s bold artwork, which places chicken in different types of housing available in Singapore brings the country’s housing issues to the forefront of his audience’s consciousness. By questioning if the housing is adequate, accessible, and affordable through this artwork, the artist brings attention to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Sustainable Cities And Communities.

Artist Divaagar and his piece Everfowl Estate. Image courtesy of @theeverydaymuseum/Instagram.

Everfowl Estate is a part of an exhibition titled, Portraits of Tanjong Pagar: Encounters with Art in the Neighbourhood by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). The exhibition is a series of site-specific works in the Tanjong Pagar neighbourhood in Singapore, a particularly diverse neighbourhood that houses people from different classes and different walks of life. According to the artist, the idea for the installation came to mind when he they went on a walk through the neighbourhood. “From the detailed exteriors of the shophouses, the old and new HDB estates, to the construction sites, there was a lot of contrast between the housing developments in this one small area that I was enamoured by,” shared the artist in an Instagram post.

3D design of Everfowl Estate by Divaagar. Left to right: the shophouse, the condominium, the HDB. Image courtesy of @theeverydaymuseum/Instagram.

The outcome is a three-part installation showcasing the diverse housing types within the neighbourhood. Firstly, there's the typical HDB, characterized by its unmistakable boxed design dating back to the 1960s. Designed to minimize costs and facilitate quick construction, the HDB aimed to accommodate as many residents as possible in the shortest timeframe. Secondly, the shophouse, a housing style predating high-rise HDB flats, was constructed primarily between the 1840s and 1960s. Modelled after the Chinese courtyard house style, shophouses allowed occupants to reside on the upper floor while operating businesses on the ground floor. Lastly, the elite condominium represents the most contemporary housing option accessible only to those with the financial means. These condominiums boast robust steel frames, opulent marble floors, and expansive windows.

All three house people from different social classes and statuses, in the context of Divaagar’s work, audiences can ask if the quality of these people’s lives are valued the same way that chicken’s eggs are.

Everfowl Estate was installed at Block 1 Everton Park a month before the exhibition’s official launch. The installation immediately went viral on TikTok with netizens commenting their jabs at the housing crisis in Singapore.

Everfowl Estate by Divaagar at Block 1 Everton Park. Image courtesy of @theeverydaymuseum/Instagram.

Divaagar stated that he “hope[s] the work implores a new generation of junglefowl to aspire to homeownership.” 

As it stands, the Singaporean government is trying to resolve the issue by building more public housing flats, as well as increasing land sales to private developers looking to develop private housing. The issue of housing affordability and availability was also covered in the 2023 finance minister's budget and has been actively debated in parliament. New measures in the form of housing grants have also been introduced to help young couples below the age of 40 purchase homes. 

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