Bloomberg reported on Monday (8 May) that young single Singaporeans who are largely shut out of the HDB housing programme are getting fed up with the People’s Action Party (PAP) government.
Sonam, a 33-year-old tech worker reported to be a “lifelong supporter” of the ruling PAP, moved to Thailand after her landlord raised her rent by 70 per cent for a two-year lease.
She now plans to support the opposition in the next election, she told Bloomberg.
“We’re all moving out in our early ‘20s and now there’s this: ‘oh, just go back home’” to your parents, Sonam said from Bangkok, declining to give her last name for fear of losing her job.
“The fact that they’re so unaware of what is really happening to millennials and what we need to be able to survive in Singapore – it’s just bizarre to me,” she added. “Our only option now is to buy a shoebox at a crazy price or rent.”
Presently, Singaporeans who are single can only buy a 2-Room Flexi HDB BTO flat in a non-mature estate, or a HDB Resale flat on the open market. But he or she needs to be above 35 years old.
In this regard, the Workers’ Party proposed last year that the HDB age limit for singles be lowered to 28.
According to Bloomberg, a survey last year showed that two in three Singaporeans between the ages of 22 to 29 are choosing to rent due to insufficient savings, as they are priced out of the market.
Meanwhile, rents for private flats and public housing surged about 32 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, in March from a year earlier. Singapore has now surpassed New York with the world’s fastest pace of rental growth for high-end properties.
Belle, a Singaporean content creator renting a shared flat, would like to see a cap on rent increases. She, too is considering voting for an opposition party after previously supporting the PAP.
“We all know that Singapore is a very comfortable, reliable country to live in,” said Belle, 28, who didn’t want her last name to be used. “But it is just a little sad that it doesn’t seem like the government’s really changing its course and there are no safeguards to managing the rental increases.”
Meanwhile, a majority of residents think that the government hasn’t handled inflation well, according to a poll by Blackbox Research.
Its approach to housing costs is also at the top of the grievances list. A YouGov poll in December found that two-thirds of respondents said the government should place greater focus on housing affordability.
“The PAP still have a lot to do in terms of assuring Singaporeans that Singapore remains a very good place to live, work and to raise a family – and that the Singapore dream is still very much alive,” said SMU law professor Eugene Tan.
DPM Wong claims HDB flats affordable
At the May Day Rally 2023 last week (1 May), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that he and his 4G team are fully committed to looking after workers. “In these dark times, this is my promise to you,” said Mr Wong. “Come what may, we will always be there with you, for you, and we will always have your back.”
At the rally, he told Singaporeans not to look at the headline price of a HDB BTO flat but also to consider how prices relate to income and the proportion of income needed to service the housing loan. He gave an example of a 4-room BTO flat in a new town that cost about $40,000 in 1980. Median household income then was around $900, and a typical household would use about a quarter of its income to service the loan, he said.
Today, the price of a 4-room BTO flat in a non-mature estate like Bukit Batok costs about $350,000, Mr Wong added. While the price of the flat has risen nearly ten times, so has median household income from $900 to $9,000, he claimed.
That is to say, based on Mr Wong’s figures, the price-to-income ratio of a 4-room new flat in a new town was 3.7 (40,000 / (900 x 12)) back in 1980 while it was 3.2 (350,000 (9,000 x 12)) currently in a non-mature estate, implying that new HDB flats are even more affordable now compared to 1980.
However, a quick check on some of the old news articles back in the 1980 days revealed a different story. For example, a guide on buying new HDB/HUDC flats published in Jun 1979 mentioned that a new 4-room HDB flat was sold at $27,100, and not $40,000, in a new town.
Using the $900 median income indicated by Mr Wong, the affordability of HDB flats in a new town at the time, as measured by the price-to-income ratio, is calculated to be only 2.5. This is much less than the current calculated ratio of 3.2 for the Bukit Batok example.
According to Demographia International Housing Affordability, a house-price-to-income (HPI) ratio of 3 and below would be considered “affordable” while a ratio of 3.1 to 4.0, “moderately unaffordable”. From 4.1 to 5.0, it would be classified as “seriously unaffordable” and, 5.1 and above, “severely unaffordable”.