Public Housing – the HDB

Mention “public housing” anywhere in the world and this is what it’s supposed to mean:

In Singapore however, more than 80% of our population lives in public housing and mention that word, we refer to this:

The Housing Development Board (HDB) is an ambitious project spearheaded to provide subsidized flats and we’re quite fortunate to have well built homes that come with a suite of modern amenities and conveniences. The size of the apartments, though mocked “pigeon holes” by locals, are actually fairly well sized as compared to dwellings in similar sized cities such as Hong Kong and London. There is quality infrastructure, security, playgrounds, sports facilities and yes, an abundance of food outlets in walking distance. It is without a doubt that living in an HDB apartment is a great privilege. This asset provides you social security, has a mortgage value and, as far as street knowledge goes – relative financial security because regardless of financial hardship, the government is rather unlikely to force you out of your home. Funding for the apartment is granted at very low interest rates via Government loans. An HDB apartment gives the country’s citizens a sort of social welfare and, as long as you dutifully pay for your lease, the title deed is yours. If you ever run into serious financial difficulty later in your life. It is an asset which value keeps up with inflation and there is the option of liquidating your apartment for a strong source of funds should the desperate need arise. (what you do for a roof thereafter, is another matter of discussion altogether).

The apartment and it’s environment is maintained by a Town Council through subsidized rates paid in the form of a monthly conservancy fees. Welfare, upgrades and social cohesion is spearheaded by a “Resident’s Committee” – a group of volunteers, quite likely to be residents who live in a neighborhood. Satellite “Neighborhood Police Posts” are run and staffed by uniformed police and a division headquarters provide service and backup when the police posts shut for the day.

Through a continual “en bloc” and development scheme, the country is able to continue providing such facilities for it’s citizens and allow prices to appreciate, yet have new housing available for new families.

Making flats affordable and an asset to Singaporeans is a delicate balancing act, and the primary mission of the Government from day 1. But throughout the years, the country faces rapid growth, which amongst other benefits, also brought about inflation. Today, it would be interesting to observe how the powers that be continue to stick by it’s asset buying and preserving program.

About the author

Benjamin Chiang

Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He writes also at www.rangosteen.com and occasionally on Yahoo!

The views expressed are his own.

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2 Comments

  • your pic of our public housing is very misleading. its an artist’s impression, give me a break, very few singaporeans live in those type of flats.
    you also forget to mention that nobody owns a HDB flat, its lease to you for 99 yrs. but you are expect to pay property tax for property that does not belong to you as well as upgrading costs also for property that you don’t own.

    • Oh yes, you’re right – it is an artists impression. You should go to Google and key in “HDB apartments” for more accurate pictures instead (though some of them look even better than this artists impression!)

      Yeah, it’s also a 99 year lease. I haven’t met many people who have lived longer than 99 years, so the others consider it “their own property”. What happens when they die? Well, they sell it off and the money goes to their children.

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