Buying a house is not just about buying a piece of property — it is also about buying oneself “a stake in the country”, said lawyer Fadli Fawzi.
Mr Fadli, who is one of the Workers’ Party (WP)’s candidates for Marine Parade GRC in the coming election, said that having such access to public housing “is crucial for the development of the individual”.
“The earlier that the individual can buy a stake in the country, the earlier the person can sink roots in the into the country,” he said.
Empowering young Singaporean adults to have access to public housing, added Mr Fadli, is also crucial to the development of society.
Mr Fadli made his comments as one of the panellists in the third installment of the party’s e-rally series “The Hammer Show”, which was moderated by Nicole Seah, one of WP’s candidates for East Coast GRC.
Tan Chen Chen, WP’s candidate for Punggol West SMC, highlighted that there is a sharp increase in the price of HDB flats in the last 35 years.
A four-room HDB flat in Yishun, for example, only cost S$60,000 around 35 years ago, she said.
A similar — or even smaller — flat may cost five times as expensive now, yet the incomes of Singaporeans in the present do not seem to have not grown at the same rate, said Ms Tan.
“Wasn’t the purpose of HDB flats meant to reduce the pressures of Singaporeans?” she questioned.
Instead, Singaporeans today struggle with juggling housing loans and saving for retirement, Ms Tan added.
Entrepreneur and party treasurer Gerald Giam recalled struggling to find an affordable HDB flat with his wife as a newly-married 26-year-old in 2003, both of whom were not “earning very much” at the time.
Even then, he said, the prices of flats “were much lower than they are now”, and they were able to find a place “that’s kind of far from the city centre”.
Mr Giam, a candidate for Aljunied GRC, said that couples in present times may have it “a bit harder” due to the rise in flat prices.
Young couples today, he said, may end up delaying their marriage as they cannot afford to secure an affordable flat at this point.
“They delay marriage, and that has a knock-on effect on things like childbearing, because they will have children a bit later. It means that they might have fewer children or no children at all,” said Mr Giam, noting that such a situation is precarious especially when Singapore is dealing with a “fertility crisis”.
At first glance, he said, it may appear to be “just a public housing issue”.
The exponential rise of HDB flat prices, he said, “actually has a ripple effect on so many facets of society, and then it trickles down to our abilities to start a family”.
IT professional Nathaniel Koh raised the issue of ensuring the sustainability of making sure that Build-To-Order (BTO) flats remain affordable.
A more “objective” set criteria will be sustainable in the long run, such as basing the prices of BTO flats, especially those in non-mature estates, on median household incomes of Singaporeans, he said.
To mitigate problems surrounding the affordability of public housing, WP proposes three key suggestions:
- Pegging HDB prices in non-mature estates to median incomes;
- Enabling lower-income Singaporeans to apply for discounted two- and three-room HDB flat; and
- HDB providing a cost breakdown for prices of HDB flats.