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Should singles be barred from buying HDB flats in prime locations?

To curb the “lottery effect” of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in prime locations such as the Greater Southern Waterfront and the city centre, the Government announced this week that it is introducing tighter ownership criteria.

Should singles be barred from buying HDB flats in prime locations?

The first public housing project to be launched in November 2021 under a new Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) scheme will be in the Rochor Road district.

To curb the “lottery effect” of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in prime locations such as the Greater Southern Waterfront and the city centre, the Government announced this week that it is introducing tighter ownership criteria. These include a minimum occupation period (MOP) of 10 years before the flats can be sold, a ban on the rental of the whole flat even after the MOP as well as a ban on the sale of flats to singles and those earning more than S$14,000 a month.

Most TODAY readers who wrote in on the topic feel that the rule against singles is discriminatory, with some arguing that the Government should impose similar restrictions on childless couples if the aim is to boost fertility rates. Some also suggest a windfall tax or the direct sale of flats back to the HDB to prevent speculation. Others argue that the new rules are overdue to curb speculation and that singles can still buy resale flats in other areas.

 

I can understand the longer MOP, but why are singles banned from buying a flat on the resale market? Some singles would like to live near their parents or workplaces. SAMUEL HO

How about a better solution — buy from HDB, sell back to HDB based on inflation/deflation depending on when the flat is bought and sold.  There is no room for speculative buying then. JAC LYN

Introducing a 10-year MOP will hardly eradicate the “lottery” effect — it simply gives more years for the value of prime HDB property to appreciate. Location will always matter in property and this factor will remain after 10 years, unless the city core/activity hub shifts significantly.

Lastly, I have great disdain for excluding singles from buying resale in prime projects. It's as if singles do not support/live with their parents, pay taxes, contribute to economic growth or the social fabric like any other Singaporean. I can understand the pro-family policy position, land constraints and finite resources. But that will be fair only if the Government imposes similar restrictions on childless couples, because they are as unproductive and useless to our total fertility rate (TFR) as single Singaporeans.

Instead, what is in essence a “windfall tax” should be evenly applied across all new public housing flats moving forward, not just those in prime locations. At the end of the day, it is public housing, developed and offered with subsidies using public resources. ANGELA LAU

This is discrimination against singles. To cater to families first, the Government should at least allocate 1 per cent of the flats at the bare minimum to singles? Why not? LYNN TAN

Could easily just implement a tax levy against purchase price versus sale price to curb the lottery effect. For instance, any profit that is above S$100,000 can be subjected to a certain amount of resale levy tax. WILLIAM LIM

10-year MOP for HDBs in prime areas is a fair move, however I don’t agree that singles can’t buy. RAMON AINI

Clearly the Government cannot make everyone happy. CHIA XI HONG

Chia Xi Hong, it’s not about making everyone happy. The increased MOP is fine as it applies equally to all, but singling out singles is clearly something else altogether. There’s already ethnic quotas in place, now even marital status? What’s next… perhaps married couples with no children should also be excluded. ESTHER N JEAN

Esther N Jean, buy outside of prime areas! SHAHNAWAZ PALAVI

Chia Xi Hong, then the objective should include a quota for married couples to meet. Produce three children or lose your flat. That would actually make sense from a TFR perspective. NAFEESA DOCURA

So much for equality but singles are being discriminated against. Everyone should have a fair chance. At least give a small percentage of the flats to singles. DZIKRI JASMAN

Not everyone wants to have a family. I think the Government should allow singles to get a home without restriction of age and area. VIJITHRA DEVIA VIJAYAKUMAR

Vijithra Devi Vijayakumar, yes, having a family is a personal choice. However, land scarcity and an ageing population are national problems. This can encourage people to start families and reduce dependence on foreigners. It is what it is for a small island like Singapore. GILBERT ONG

It’s long overdue. It’s still HDB after all. PAUL TAN

Public housing is not meant for speculators. TIMOTHY LIM

I think it’s a good move. Of course, the singles will not be happy. SURESH KUMAR

Singles should be allowed to buy three-room flats (under the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) scheme) at the age of 40 (in tandem with five more years of MOP). ALLAN TAN

Despite pro-family Build-to-Order (BTO) policies, our birth rate remains ultra low for decades. A young student-couple or new citizen couple (who has yet to contribute to the economy) is entitled to buy a five-room BTO flat with additional grants of S$80,000 whereas a 35-year-old single who has been paying taxes for 15 years can't even buy a small BTO flat in such areas. Where is the meritocracy and logic, policymakers? SHIRLEY TAY

No. There are other places for singles to buy HDB. This is prime and scarce land. Families with long term commitment should be given importance. Otherwise it will lead to speculation. Also important to note that these subsidies are from taxpayers’ money. We don’t want buyers to profit by selling at huge sums and move out. I think this is absolutely fair and we don’t want more Pinnacle@Duxton type of pricing. It will benefit genuine buyers. SAM SAM

If the Government excludes singles from buying flats in prime locations, then can it change the policy and let singles buy public housing at 30 years of age instead of 35? LAM XIUTING

Singles cannot even touch the resale market for PHL flats while permanent residents are allowed a bite at these resale PHL flats and a new one with their Singaporeans spouse. How is this fair? CHEW CHEE MENG

This policy is simply discriminatory towards the singles in Singapore. The Government said that they want to cater first to families. However, given that most of the schools are located in the heartlands and away from the prime areas, won't it make sense for the Government to give families priority to HDB flats nearer to schools instead? Given the increasing number of singles, and that prime areas generally contain more economic activity and offices, it just does not make sense for singles to be excluded from this. The single community in Singapore is growing and it is here to stay, just like most developed cities in the world today. The Government should create policies to accommodate this group of people. MARTIN LEE MING HAN

These comments were first posted to TODAY’s Facebook page or submitted to Voices. They have been edited for clarity, accuracy and length.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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