How Singapore Solved Housing- Read The Article

For most of the world, the term ‘public housing’ conjures a clear mental picture: At best, it means uninspired rows of the same drab concrete boxes. The Soviet-era, copy-and-pasted ‘Urban Hell’.That, or the poor, run-down, crime-infested‘bad’ neighborhood – the place those with no other options end up.For most of the world. And then there’s Singapore. There, public housing looks like this, this, and this. Singapore housing

Because 80% of the population lives in one of its one million public apartments, they carry no social stigma and are enjoyed by the rich and poor alike. The small island city-state has adopted such a unique set of policies that the usual measures fail to accurately capture just how far ahead it is. The ratio of median house price to income, for example, is the most common simple way of comparing affordability. It reveals how many years the average person would need to work to afford the average house in their area. Singapore housing

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Unfortunately, it’s based only on privately-sold properties – a reasonable standard for most countries, but meaningless in Singapore. It also neglects factors like the availability of loans, government subsidies, and national savings funds – all of which help make public housing the obvious choice for most Singaporeans. Another misleading statistic is the homeownership rate – which would seem to make it only one of many countries where ownership is near-universal. Confusingly, this number is calculated based not on the number of adults who own a home. Singapore housing

But rather the share of homes occupied by their owner. In other words, a hypothetical city where prices have risen to such completely unaffordable levels that all adult children are forced to live with their parents would technically have a 100% homeownership rate, seeing as every home would still be occupied by its legal owner. So, while Singapore does have a 90% homeownership rate, its true accomplishment is 90% flat, neighborhood, and estate satisfaction while, at the same time, remaining affordable for everyone. Somehow, its leaders seem to have “solved” the problem of housing: That it can be affordable, high-quality, or plentiful – but not all three. Singapore housing

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The question, then, is: Can these policies be export elsewhere? The poor, at the time, mainly lived in unsanitary slums and high-density shophouses, where they readily spread disease. The situation was made even worse by Japan’sWorld War II invasion and occupation – during which thousands of homes were destroyed and thousands more were haphazardly constructed. When Singapore finally gained self-governance in 1959, just 9% lived in public apartments. While the population had grown rapidly – from250,000 in 1907, to 567,000 in 1931, and nearly a million by 1947, housing had lagged behind. An already-dense 9.7 people per building had become 18 in that same period. Singapore housing

By almost every measure, the SIT had failed. Major changes were needed, and fast. Just weeks after assuming power, the newly formed People’s Action Party began replacing it with the current Housing and development board. While the new department clearly had its work cut out for it, in hindsight, this regulatory‘blank slate’ was probably its biggest strength – allowing it to envision utopian hindered by the past. It was also highly motivated. Lee Kuan Yew, the nation’s first Prime Minister, considered the Founder of Singapore, wrote that homeownership was the key to giving its the population of immigrants a stake in the country. Singapore housing

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