Voices of concern over the rising cost of housing rentals in Singapore’s private and public markets are not new, and reports suggest that this trend will continue to climb in 2023 due to inflation and surging demand.
Tay Tian Yan, the deputy executive editor-in-chief of Malaysia’s Sinchew Daily, recently shared a story about a young permanent resident who is considering leaving Singapore and returning to Malaysia.
In an opinion piece published on 3 May, Mr Tay mentioned a young person who works in Singapore but plans to return to Malaysia.
Mr Tay expressed his surprise and difficulty in understanding the young man’s decision because, a few years ago, the young man found a job in Malaysia that paid a basic salary of RM 3,500 (approximately 784 USD) plus overtime allowance, earning about RM 4,000 per month.
“Living in Kuala Lumpur, after deducting car expenses, rent, and basic expenses, he could barely get by.”
Typically, young Malaysians aspire to higher income and a better quality of life, and they might pursue working in Singapore and earning three times the income in Singapore dollars.
However, the young man now told Mr Tay that he went abroad because of economic problems and is preparing to return “because of economic problems as well.”
“Simply put, life in Singapore is getting increasingly difficult,” Mr Tay wrote.
Recent skyrocketing rental hike
For example, three years ago, the young man and his friends shared an apartment for a rental of S$2,500, which they could still afford when divided among several people.
But when they wanted to renew the lease last month, the landlord raised the rent to S$5,500, and the offer was given because “there are many people waiting in line.”
They could not afford the skyrocketing rent and had to look for another place, and they ultimately ended up renting small rooms in other places and staying with the landlord.
Cost of living
Mr Tay noted that living costs are also a concern for those working in Singapore.
For instance, having a full meal at a hawker centre nowadays could cost more than S$10, while in the past, it would only cost about S$3 to S$5.
Mr Tay acknowledged that this is not the fault of the hawker at all, as some hawkers have also reflected that their rental has risen from S$4,000 to S$6,000 to S$7,000.
In addition to the challenges facing workers, many Singaporean companies are struggling with the high cost of operating in the city-state.
As a result, some companies are shifting their focus to ASEAN countries outside Singapore, with Malaysia being the closest option.
He said a group of Malaysians holding permanent residency status in Singapore has responded to the call of “going back is better.” He believed that if this trend continues, Malaysia’s brain drain problem may be alleviated, and many people may choose to return to work and live in Malaysia.
Hence, he suggests that while Malaysia may be an attractive alternative to Singapore, the government must do more to capitalize on this opportunity, including attracting talent and investment, which will be critical to Malaysia’s economic growth and development in the years to come.
Young Singaporean fed-up with housing, want to vote for opposition in next GE
Issues with the rising cost of living are not only faced by expats or permanent residents; most of the burden is also felt by local Singaporeans, who live in Singapore permanently, in their day-to-day lives.
The housing prices have risen significantly in recent years, and the government had to implement several cooling measures in December 2021 and September 2022, to moderate demand in the property market.
In addition, the Singapore government announced an increase in Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) rates, effective from 27 April, in an effort to prioritize housing for owner-occupation.
However, young single Singaporeans, who are largely shut out of the HDB housing programme, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the People’s Action Party (PAP) government.
According to a recent Bloomberg report, 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.
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.
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.