Housing woes are us

I’m 25 and still live with my parents. That’s considered to be a big boo-boo by Western standards, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of in Singapore. In fact, it’s the norm.

When I meet people during my overseas travels, they often ask me if I wouldn’t rather have a place to call my own, even if it means paying for rent. Well, of course I do!

But then a quick reality check dashes any hopes of doing so…

Having only graduated two years ago, I will be on a really tight budget if I have to fork out a huge portion of my salary paying for a roof over my head. It certainly doesn’t help that rental prices are sky high and still climbing.

Owning a home is high on my priority list too, although I’m not so sure I’ll be able to do so by the time I get married. I think I speak for the people of my generation when I voice this concern.

This explains why our PM made home-owning and property development two key priorities in his recent NDR speech.

According to him, he wants to ensure that every working family in Singapore can afford a home. He illustrated this by showing an example of how a household with an income of S$2,000 will be able to own a 3-room flat with monthly CPF payments of S$427 and no cash outlay.

Together with the other measures that have been introduced over the past years – more BTOs, raised income ceiling, increased grants – the government has indeed ramped up its measures to keep homes affordable for all Singaporeans.

This is particularly clear when one considers that about 90% of Singaporeans own their own homes, a level significantly higher than other developed nations like Australia, the US, or Japan.

So why the backlash and outcries from many out there who still perpetuate the idea that becoming a home-owner is an unattainable dream, especially when statistics seem to indicate otherwise and dispel any worries?

I don’t think anyone will contest these numbers or that they are not a positive sign that our government has done a pretty decent job thus far.

But our worries come from the uncertainties of what lies ahead. Sure, I can afford the loans now, but what happens if I lose my job, or am forced to take a pay cut?

Buying a home is a heavy responsibility – how many holidays, extravagant meals, and drinking sessions will I have to give up now that I have to pay off my loans?

The standard of living is also increasing but not in tandem with my salary rise, so how can I afford anything else later on in life especially when I want to start a family?

The thing is, the future is by default an unknown; to feel that our government should take into consideration these uncertainties when drafting policies or deciding how much grants should be given is neither feasible nor practical.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t plan ahead for the possibility of things happening, especially since we have the ability to calculate the probability of contexts and environments changing.

But in the end the onus should be on us to take on this responsibility of ensuring that we don’t bite off more than we can chew.

Besides, the government has also implemented other social safety nets to ensure that the people are still taken care of when unforeseen circumstances hit.

To draw parallels to an analogy which is more relatable, I remember in my younger days when I used to envy my college friends who enjoyed the luxury of donning the coveted Balenciaga and Chanel bags because their families were well-to-do, and I’d incessantly whine about not being able to afford one.

housing2

One day, a close friend of mine who possibly had enough of my complaints told me quite frankly that I should grow up and do something about it if I really wanted to buy one. In his words, “You either earn more, or you start spending less to save up. There’s no other way around it.”

Coincidentally, he went on to become a financial planner, but his underlying meaning is easily grasped by any man on the street – if you want something, you’ve got to be prepared to make sacrifices.

If I wanted that Chanel 2.55, I would have to cut back on the numerous holidays I usually go on, or take on more tuition jobs to add on to my allowance. Alternatively, if I’m not ready for such a drastic compromise, I can opt for a cheaper bag – maybe an Aldo inspired equivalent.

Likewise, owning a home anywhere in the world is a big decision and sometimes, that means having to relook at the way we’ve been used to spending.

I think Petrina Goh’s Facebook comment sums it all up:

“Can’t afford big hse then buy a small hse. Nobody ask u to spend extra cash for house. Most hdb monthly loan repayment can be covered by cpf entirely. It’s all up to personal choice. I’ve been married 6yrs. 2kiddos. Can’t afford so stay with in laws. All 4 ppl squeeze in one bedroom. On a queen size mattress. What’s e big deal? Save money. Just managed to apply a BTO this year. Stay abit more ulu for bigger n cheaper flat lah! If u wanna stay in orchard road then earn orchard road kinda pay. If not then stay punggol or jurong east extension!”

 

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Lavinia Lim

Yoga, writing, dancing, reading….

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