SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has assured Singaporeans, “now or in generations to come, will not have to worry about having an affordable home to call their own” in a statement made on his Facebook page on Wednesday evening (8 Feb).
PM Lee wrote that the Government is working hard to ramp up the supply of flats, cool the resale market and keep Housing Board flats affordable and accessible to a wide range of Singaporeans.
“We are working hard at the problem, and are confident we will solve it,” he said.
PM Lee’s post comes after the Parliament debated two motions over the accessibility and affordability of public housing in Singapore.
The Parliament, which consists largely of Members of Parliament from the People’s Action Party (PAP), voted in favour of the motion filed by National Development Minister Desmond Lee and against the other motion by Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai. The Parliament also voted against an amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on Mr Desmond Lee’s motion.
“COVID-19 greatly disrupted the supply of flats. BTO waiting times have gone up, and so have resale prices. Families have had to adjust their life plans. They are concerned and often anxious about when they can get their flats, and whether they can afford them,” said PM Lee as he noted public housing as an issue close to the hearts of most Singaporeans.
PM Lee said that Mr Desmond Lee and his colleagues have explained in detail how Singapore is ramping up the supply of flats, cooling the resale market, and keeping Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats affordable and accessible to a wide range of Singaporeans.
“We are working hard at the problem, and are confident we will solve it.”
Mr Desmond Lee said during his closing speech that HDB has ramped up its public housing programme to meet the current strong demand, with 150 BTO projects to be concurrently under construction by around 2025, up from the current 100.
PM Lee said that MPs presented a range of ideas on what can be done to deal with the issue.
“Some are promising and well worth exploring further. Others appear attractive, but upon a closer look, turn out to be unworkable, unfair, or unsustainable.”
He added, “Here in Singapore, we know our public housing system works. More than 8 in 10 Singaporeans own the HDB flats they live in. More families are becoming flat owners, as we are completing more than 20,000 new flats each year.”
It was earlier announced in December 2021 that the HDB plans to launch up to 23,000 new Build-to-Order (BTO) flats in 2023, as it ramps up supply to meet “strong” housing demand from Singaporeans, which will be located across mature and non-mature towns. It also said it will launch up to 100,000 flats in total from 2021 to 2025, if needed, subject to prevailing demand.
Proposals by PSP
In his opening speech, Mr Leong introduced two proposals, the “Affordable Homes Scheme” and the “Millennial Apartments Scheme”, from PSP that sought to address the issues perceived by the party on public housing in Singapore.
The “Affordable Homes Scheme” proposes that if a Singaporean stays in the same flat his entire life, he will only pay the user price and only pays the land cost upon sale of the flat.
“We believe owner-occupied public housing is a public good that should be treated as a form of essential public infrastructure, like schools and hospitals, where land costs are not charged because it is treated as State Land. We believe that land used for owner-occupied HDB flats should be treated in the same way as schools and hospitals,” said Mr Leong.
While the Millennial Apartments Scheme will have the Government keep a large stock of quality rental flats to provide young Singaporeans who desire more space and more independent living with more housing choices.
Concentrating young Singaporeans together will allow those who are single to have more opportunities to socialise and perhaps marry, while those who are already married will have more time for their families because they live near their workplaces, said Mr Leong.
While PAP has rejected the proposals from PSP, Mr Singh said they deserve a closer look. The Workers’ Party also voted in support of PSP’s motion without endorsing its two schemes.
At the same time, PAP backbencher Xie Yao Quan was unable to answer a question by WP MP Leon Perera about the escalating prices of HDB flats and the subsidies that needed to be paid.
“You didn’t answer my other question, which is if we have an ever-appreciating cycle of property prices that lead to higher BTO prices because the land valuation goes up and we still want to keep BTOs affordable, that needs bigger and bigger subsidies on the budget from, I think, S$1.5 billion. It’s going up to close to S$4 billion. It’s going to go up even more. So where does Mr Xie think the money is going to come from?” asks Mr Perera to Mr Xie after the PAP MP tried to nitpick on WP’s manifesto about HDB flat affordability.
However, Mr Xie did not have the chance to answer the question, as Speaker Tan Chuan Jin saved his day by calling two MPs to move on from the exchange.
Criticising PSP’s proposal at the comfort behind a Facebook post
While criticising how PSP’s proposals are “unworkable, unfair, or unsustainable”, PM Lee did not make a speech or stand to address the proposals, speeches and statements made by the Opposition on public housing during the 12-hour debate on the two parliamentary motions.
In fact, despite being the highest-paid Prime Minister and politician in the world, PM Lee has hardly spoken in the Parliament sittings since the 14th Parliament was sworn in on 24 August 2020 other than making a short speech at the motion to refer Mr Singh and Mr Faisal Manap to the public prosecutors in light of the recommendations by the Committee of Privileges on the lies spoken by former WP MP Raeesah Khan.