By S Y Lee and Leong Sze Hian
We refer to the article “New HDB flats more affordable now” (Straits Times, Nov 17).
It states that:

“NEW Housing Board flats have become more affordable relative to applicants’ household incomes, compared with last year’s figures.
But while the gap is closing, they have yet to reach the target that National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan set last year of having new flats priced at about four times the applicants’ median income.
When he set that target last year, the price ratio was about 5.5 times annual salary. Now, it is lower for all flat sizes.
A new two-room flat is the most affordable. At $55,000 after grants, it is less than three times the median household salary of the applicants.
After grants, three-room flats cost 4.57 years of salary. Four- and five-roomers are less accessible, at 5.28 times and 5.36 times applicants’ salaries respectively.”

Everybody get maximum housing grants?
By calculating the ratio of price (after grants) to median income, it may be somewhat misleading because not all applicants qualify for the maximum housing grants.
So, what we may need to know are the statistics as to what percentage of applicants actually qualified for the maximum housing grants.
“Low” incomes?
Dividing the applicants’ median annual household income by 13 months gives us the monthly median income of $1,477, $2,308, $3,877 and $5,538 for 2, 3 4 and 5-room respectively.
What this may indicate is that people who apply for HDB flats don’t seem to earn very much. For example, half of the applicants’ household income for 2-room is less than $1,477.
“Incomes” may even be lower?
This figure may actually look better than the real situation for applicant families, because of the recent policy change allowing singles to apply for 2-room, and the policy that Singaporeans age 35 and above with foreign spouses can only apply for 2-room regardless of how high their income may be.
Similarly, half the 3-room applicants’ household income is below $2,308.
Since arguably, the 4-room is a good indicator of the middle class Singaporean family, the income of half the applicants being below just $3,877, may indicate how arguably “low-income” Singaporean families are (have become).
Alas! How “poor” we have become?
Whilst we know that real basic and gross median wages may have hardly increased in the last 15 years or so – this is we believe the first time that the HDB BTO applicants’ household median income has been published in the media.
The most expensive city in the world according to the Economist – one of the highest per capita income countries in the world – a first world country – with arguably such pathetically “low incomes” being revealed perhaps for the first time!
In this connection, we agree wholeheartedly with Donald Low’s remarks “First and foremost, the HDB should once again embrace affordable housing for the majority of Singaporeans as its primary mission.
To ensure affordability, the Government should strive to keep the house affordability index – the ratio of house price to the buyer’s annual income – well below four, preferably around three” (“Rethink house price policies”, Straits Times, Nov 17).

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