Your HDB belongs to you. Now let’s carry on with life.


Wow, so somebody wrote an article about how HDBs are leased (that is to say, you’re not the actual owner) and suddenly everyone shares the article like its the greatest revelation since Nostradamus.

What on earth is so fascinating about it really? Was it because you suddenly realised that the property that you “own” actually belongs to the HDB?

Fact: Old 3 and 4 room HDBs in central areas such as Tiong Bahru, Chinatown and Bras Basah are trading for prices that match up to some brand new condominiums. We’re talking about $600k onwards. And these properties have a shelf life of about another 30 or 40 years left.

Why do people still buy them?

The ownership of a property, is only as real as the Government that runs the country. In Singapore, people have the belief that a PAP run government would never, never, NEVER allow the country to implode owing to large numbers of people losing assets because a lease runs out.

The Singapore government’s paranoia of political and economical instability becomes a source of real home ownership. And even though it is leasehold, it might as well be freehold because there is always an en-bloc (now called SERS) happening way before your property evaporates.

A 99-year leasehold HDB is more permanent than a freehold property is in a foreign country you don’t understand.

If you think that the freehold title is such a big deal, well guess what – there’s such a thing called an Acquisition of Lands Act (and it exists in various names in different countries). If a government decides to want to do something to your property for the greater good (and that is in itself subjective), you technically have to give it up.

Your sale of freehold properties are also subject to all manner of taxes, duties and regulations. Say if you own Australian property, you cannot sell to another foreigner – only to Australians.

If you want to make money through rentals, you’re also subject to tomes of regulations, whatever the country. In the UK, you cannot evict someone as easily as you can in Singapore. Have a look also at the rules you are required to follow:

In fact, there’s a joke over there saying if you want to evict someone…its faster to just chuck a packet of drugs into the apartment and then call the police.

So are you the actual owner of your property in the UK? You tell me…

The HDB you bought belongs to you. When you sell it, you sell it for real money. The End.



About the author

Benjamin Chiang

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

The views expressed are his own.

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  • Hi Benjamin,

    here are some of my responses to your post:

    “Why do people still buy them?”

    I’m assuming it’s because people need a place to live, or are buying these up as rental properties.

    “In Singapore, people have the belief that a PAP run government would never, never, NEVER allow the country to implode owing to large numbers of people losing assets because a lease runs out.”

    I think this would be true of any competent government. It just so happens that the PAP has been running it all this while, so there’s really no need to induce subliminal fear here of opposition incompetence sending the country into financial ruin. There, I spelled it out so you can see how ridiculous it is. Also, let’s check back in 50 years when some leases *actually* run out, shall we?

    “If a government decides to want to do something to your property for the greater good (and that is in itself subjective), you technically have to give it up.”

    Yes, there are such eminent domain [1] laws around the world, but since the Singapore government already has this right to repurpose land for a public good, as other governments do, why then must a 99-year lease be the dominant model here? Besides, I would guess repurposing of land for public development occurs far less often in those large countries than on an island like Singapore.

    As far as your Australian and UK points are concerned, they do not affect the ownership of property there. I would hardly expect apartment rental or property sales to be unregulated, mind, but that does not mean that the property is actually owned by the government. Owners are still owners.


    • a.) Regarding why people buy Tiong Bahru etc. The question here is more “Why do people buy these, knowing that the shelf life will expire…and they can easily buy cheaper private property with longer life span.”

      b.) You’ll never get a chance to see an HDB run out of lease, because what happens is is that HDB has incorporated SERS into their development framework. Before the lease of any HDB runs out, the owners are given a new piece of property. If you happen to die before 99-years (which I’m pretty sure is what will happen to any of us), HDB will require you to cash-out the property and have your kids inherit the money instead. Because of these, its quite safe to say that the lease will never run out. I don’t know of any country in the world that does this.

    • I also don’t believe his claim that you can’t sell your property in Australia to another foreigner. If that were the case, how did you buy it as a non citizen to start with?

  • For sites like Tiong Bahru, I believe that the lease will run out since they are not going to redevelop a heritage site. The question is what will happen when it runs out. Will the government renew the lease? There is no precedence for this scenario.

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