HDB lessees should not contribute to sinking fund

By Philip Ang

There is no such thing as ownership of public property by citizens, HDB flats included.

Our HDB flats are all on a 99-year lease and it is stated clearly on the lease agreement. ‘Owners’ are in fact ‘lessees’.

It is precisely we are lessees that we DO NOT have any control over our ‘asset’. The thousand-and-one-forever-being-tweaked rules pertaining to public housing are dictated by HDB because HDB is the owner.

‘Owners’ are in fact ‘lessees’ as stated in our LEASE agreement and the ‘lessor’, as stated, is of course the HDB. (as shown below)


What would happen if the PAP government had not redefined, through legislation, ‘lessees’ as ‘owners’?

According to Wikipedia, Singapore’s home ownership rate of 90.5% ties with Hungary in third place. But if all the 872,411 HDB owners (page 11, excluding rental units) are correctly classified as lessees, Singapore would become the country with the lowest home ownership rate in the world!

The main issue is not the embarrassment of having the lowest home ownership rate but HDB lessees being transformed into owners and made to pay monthly contribution to the town council’s sinking fund. (The sinking fund is used to “fund major repairs and maintenance” and co-pay for the Lift Upgrading Programme.)

As lessees, we should not be required to pay for lift upgrading and repair/maintenance of HDB assets, just as landlords do not require tenants to pay an additional amount for maintenance of the unit/room, household appliances, etc.

HDB lessees are being shortchanged, contributing to the maintenance of HDB assets but with the government retaining control of citizens through its control of public housing.

The question of the true ownership of HDB flats was posed to the HDB without any satisfactory/logical answer.

On 29 May, I queried the HDB on the status of ownership. HDB replied that “basically lessee/owner means the same. HDB (the lessor) has granted the lease to you (lessee).”

A lessor could be the owner of the property but lessee = owner ? Really?

On 8 June, I wrote to Dr Cheong, HDB CEO, for a clarification. A few days later, HDB legal counsel clarified and stated:

  • -HDB “lessees” are “owners” of their flats.
  • “Owner” has been defined in the Housing and Development Act (not the conventional meaning)

In other words, we are owners only after being legislated as such. Clearly we are pseudo owners.

This is uniquely Singapore where the government could anyhow claim citizens are owners but with total control of HDB flats retained by the PAP government.

This reminds me of our CPF which has been legislated as Singapore’s foreign reserves. So CPF is our money but the PAP also has total control over how it is invested and how much (low) CPF members should be paid.


HDB ‘owners’ are in fact ‘lessees’. The PAP uses legislation to redefine the status of ownership. HDB is the lessor/owner of public housing flats.

The PAP has abdicated its responsibility to maintain public property at the stroke of a pen, forcing HDB lessees to contribute to maintaining public property and common areas.

HDB lessees should also not be made to contribute a single cent to the sinking fund to maintain HDB assets.