How Singapore Solved its Housing Issue Through HDB

What Was Singapore Like Before?

Singapore’s initial entry into the modern era was characterized by a problem in the housing sector. During its earliest days, residential zones were created in accordance with its tenants. While those in the city were confined to cramped mixed-use shophouses where multiple families had to live together in small spaces, those in the rural areas defaulted to housing that suited their respective ethnicity’s districts. For example, the Malay (or Chinese) residents formed traditional “kampong” villages whilst the Europeans lived in large estates or dwellings similar to those found in the west.

This setting was found to be unsustainable, and so in an effort to address the need for better housing, the Singapore Improvement Trust was established in 1927 by the Bristish colonial government. It was tasked with providing citizens with low cost, affordable housing. However, in the 32 years of its existence, it was only able to produce 23,000 units, falling far short of the country’s ever growing needs.

By the 1950’s-60’s, the housing problem had remained unsolved and only exacerbated itself as time went by. Squatting and tight housing was common practice then, and the lack of high-rise buildings did not help matters.

A Time for Change: The HDB

In 1959, when the People’s Action Party (PAP) took charge, a radical change in the housing sector began. In 1960 the SIT was abolished and changed into the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Despite this, the overall goal remained the same: to provide accessible and affordable housing to Singaporean citizens.

This was done through a plan called the Five Year Building Programme. True to its name, significant advancements were made within the next few years, some of which include the Home Ownership Scheme which let people own their units and the integration of the Central Provident Fund as a viable means of payment.

Progress was slow but present, and rightly enough, by 1965 the housing issue was under control. Strong government support, proper organizational skills from those in charge (such as first chairman Lim Kim San), and public acceptance are to thank for its favorable outcome.

singaporean skyline

Singapore’s Housing Today

According to statistics from Teoalida, since the creation of the HDB (Housing and Development Board) in the 1960’s, approximately 1.1 million units have been built. As of March 31, 2016, up to 992,742 of those units are in use, and more than 80% of the population has adopted these HDB units that are for sale or rent in Singapore.

This monumental success is largely thanks to overall convenience and practicality of cost. HDB units are often set up so that they form satellite towns, which means that they can function independently without having to rely on the greater metropolitan area around it. This is possible because it has its own set of conveniences such as schools, markets, recreational areas, and other places that are required for daily living.

That said, SIT’s initial plans of building residential zones around commercial ones were adopted by the HDB, and the results of that decision can be seen all over the country. Places such as Bukit Merah or Geylang are good examples of this planned town concept; all in all, there are 23 similar HDB towns in the country.


Availing of an HDB Unit

In order to get an HDB unit, one must first be legally eligible. The parameters that define eligibility for flats depend on what kind one will get. For example, those who seek new HDB flats must be of 21 years of age, must be a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore, and must be a part of a family nucleus.

On the other hand, the buyer of a resale flat must meet similar requirements, although there are also schemes that can be availed of depending on one’s situation. Those schemes are:

    • The Public Scheme: Buy a resale flat with your family.
    • The Fiancee/Fiance Scheme: Buy a resale flat with your fiancée/finace.
    • The Single Singaporean Citizen Scheme: Buy a resale flat as a 35 year old or more single if unmarried or divorced. This also applies to individuals who are at least 21 and were widowed or orphaned.
    • The Joint Singles Scheme: 2 to 4 singles can avail of a resale flat. The definition of a single is the same as the aforementioned scheme.
    • The Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme: Buy a resale flat even if your spouse is not an SC (Singaporean Citizen) or an SPR (Singaporean Permanent Resident).
    • The Orphans Scheme: Buy a flat if you are orphaned along with your sibling(s).
    • The Conversion Scheme: Buy adjoining flats and convert them into one unit, so long as they are all 3-rooms or smaller.

For further details, visit the official HDB government website here.

You can also visit our FAQ page here.

How Can We Help With Getting an HDB Unit?

In addition to our agent services, we also have the OhMyHome app – a free, easy-to-use online platform that allows its users to either advertise or seek out available HDB units within any chosen area. Think of it like an online marketplace for HDB real estate; browse all available listings or create one yourself! It features a clean interface, easy accessibility, and integrated functionality to make it optimal for the best user experience when it comes to any buy and sell proceedings.