Because of this, the HDB was given an extraordinary degree of freedom – including a personal guarantee that money would not be a problem. It was exempted from building ordinance laws and mostly allowed to operate without approval from other departments.
Immediately, it got to work. The first priority was existential – solving the acute housing shortage by building as much and as fast as possible. Early flats were designed as emergency single-room units with the most barebones of amenities. At the same time, using its almost infinitely-long leash, it began aggressively acquiring land. Singapore housing
In 1961, a massive fire broke out in a squatter settlement – prompting the government to pass the Fire-Site Provision, which allowed it to acquire any land occupied by squatters which were cleared by fire or natural disaster. The hearth and the federal government’s success in relocating the victims were held up as proof of its efficacy, paving the way in which for future legislation. three years later, one other regulation was amended which enabled the state to reclaim land without needing to compensate the affected seafront land downers. Singapore housing
Then, in 1966, the Land Acquisition Act took this trend to the extreme – authorizing the acquisition of land by the quote “any person, corporation, or statutory board for any work or an undertaking which, in the opinion of the Minister, is of public benefit or of public utility or in the public interest for any residential, commercial, or industrial purpose.”Landowners could not object and compensation was then provided at below-market prices. When it ran out of land to take, the state began reclaiming the sea – which makes up about one-fifth of the country today, including the famous Marina Bay. Singapore housing
From 1960 to 2005, the percent of government-owned land grew from 44 to 90%. And by the mid-1960s, hundreds of thousands had moved into government housing under the leadership of the prolific Lim Kim San. Naturally, there were a few snags along with the transition from slums to high-rises. Many residents had no idea how to budget for rent or electricity, while others simply found a life that high up unnatural. Overall, though, the process was remarkably smooth and when Lim died in 2006, he was remembered as the mastermind behind Singapore’s residential revolution. In 1964, the HDB introduced the Home OwnershipScheme which today attracts international attention and envy. Singapore housing
As of 2020, there are over one million public flats – mostly situated in 24 ‘new towns’ around the island. Each is designed to self-contain around 1to 200,000 people – with their own schools, grocery stores, hospitals, gyms, and malls. Most residents only need to leave for work- which is made easy by the attached MRT train stations. And although their coverage is extensive, areas without them are connected by smaller light rail stations.
While this is functionally similar to estates in Hong Kong, where rows of high-rise apartments surround a common area, mall, and train station, there’s one critical difference: Instead of “walling-in” residents and preventing air circulation, new towns in Singapore are arranged in a somewhat checkerboard-manner, with alternating tall and short buildings. It’s not hard to guess in which estate residents feel happier, are less likely to vandalize, and are prouder of their communities. Another important feature of its apartment buildings are known as ‘Void Decks’ – One floor, usually the first, is reserved as a communal space – for Malay weddings, Chinesefuneral wakes, polling stations, and other events.
The units themselves come in many shapes and sizes – from 1 to 5-room flats and everything in-between. There are even Executive Condos designed, built, and priced by private developers but subsidized by the government at below-market prices, subject to the HDB’s restrictions. The best apartments are nice enough to evade the usual ‘public housing’ connotation, while the low-end is made affordable by a variety of government programs. First, and most importantly, Singaporeans have no choice but to save their money. Singapore housing
All workers under 55 are required by law to contribute 20% of their wages, and their employers, another 17%, to a social savings fund that can be withdrawn from only for a few specific reasons – of which, buying a house is the most common. In this way, and countless others, Singapore has completely removed housing from the free-market. Prices are set based on one’s ability to pay, individuals can’t own more than one public flat at a time, and although foreigners are not banned from buying, they’re required to pay significant stamp duties. The nature of housing is thus a place to live, not an investment.