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Be Rich Or Wait Till You’re Over 35 For a Home To Your Name - Public Housing for Singles

profileJustin Oh

Public Housing For Singles

Why do I feel like my government has turned its back on me? Because I am here literally homeless with my daughter.

– Ms Rahayu Natalya

Like Ms Rahayu back in 2016, many single Singaporeans out there cannot afford private homes and have yet to reach the “magic number” of 35.

Source: Giphy

For the uninitiated, we are talking about the eligibility age of 35 when single Singaporeans are allowed to buy a flat from HDB.

Or in other, harsher words, we are being told to be rich enough to afford private housing or wait till half of our lives are over before we can finally put our names to a place we can call home.

But with society evolving and a growing population of single Singaporeans, is it time for a change in public housing policy for singles?

TL;DR: Public Housing Policy For Singles – Is It Time For a Change?

Currently, single Singaporeans must be above 35 years old to be eligible to buy a resale public housing flat or to apply for a Build-to-Order (BTO) 2-room Flexi flat.

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The Government’s Viewpoint: Housing and Matrimony

In order to build substantial context for this opinion piece, we would need to first understand where the government is coming from.

While I am of the opinion that housing is a human right and it is the role of the government to ensure that every Singaporean has a roof over their head, it is not that simple.

According to HDB themselves, they have stated in their vision that they want to be “An outstanding organisation creating endearing homes all are proud of”.

HDB also prides itself in providing “quality and affordable public housing for generations of Singaporeans” and “are proud to continue doing so.

However, when we see how public housing policies are being crafted, we can clearly see that the government is using housing to encourage Singaporeans to get married, have children and contribute to our rapidly declining and ageing population.

It makes sense of course that the government is looking long-term and using public housing as a tool. The current policy also helps to limit demand from those under 35 in our already crowded and heated property market.

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The Plight of Single Singaporeans

Source: Tenor

On the flip side, many single Singaporeans are facing an impossible situation: Either be rich enough to afford a private property or wait till 35 to apply for public housing.

For those who want the more affordable option of a BTO flat, you’ll have to go through the balloting process and be lucky enough to get a good queue number. Assuming that you are lucky enough to get it on your first try, you will only get to step foot into your new home years after your 35th birthday.

For those of us who aren’t in a hurry to own a home and are fortunate enough to live with our parents, this may not be an urgent issue. However, for some Singaporeans, time is of the essence.

There could be many reasons why single Singaporeans need to get a home of their own. Some may have an abusive family that takes a toll on their mental health, while others may have gotten out of a toxic marriage and are in desperate need of housing especially if they have children.

In these cases, the public housing policy for singles may make them feel like lesser citizens.

There’s also the consideration that just because one is single on paper, it doesn’t mean that they did not have children, as seen in the case of Ms Rahayu.

Other arguments against this policy are that there are people who marry but do not want to have children. Some even go as far as to have paper marriages, just to enjoy the benefits of subsidised housing and turning a profit from the sale of the flat.

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Are There Alternatives for Singles?

That said, it’s not like the government has been resting on their laurels and ignoring single Singaporeans completely.

Over the years, the government has introduced initiatives to help vulnerable singles. For example, divorced parents are able to apply for BTO after obtaining a provisional order for divorce and resolving matters relating to their matrimonial home and children’s custody.

Apart from buying private property, which is out of reach for many, singles could also opt to rent a property.

The problem with this alternative however is that it is currently very expensive to rent and the money that you would have spent on rent is essentially money that “goes down the drain”.

The amount I spent on rent in the last 10 years, I could have paid for the house (if I was allowed to buy it) back then… I would have been debt-free by now

– Mr Fadhil Azmi

We have been fed the idea that our HDB flats would form our “retirement nest egg”. But if singles can’t own an HDB flat till 35, that nest egg is going to be much smaller as you would have spent that money on rent before finally accumulating wealth through your property after 35.

Furthermore, renting a home does not give a sense of stability compared to owning a home. You’ll never know when things could take a turn for the worse as evident in many rental horror stories recently. For vulnerable singles, stability is even more important. They need to have their feet firmly planted into the ground before moving on to settle other affairs such as finding a job.

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Our public housing policy was shaped around the traditional idea of a family. But with societal trends changing rapidly, this may soon be outdated.

Singaporeans are marrying later in life and there is an increasing trend of Singaporeans who opt to be single as a lifestyle or couples who do not want to have kids, aka “DINKs” (Dual-Income No Kids).

Despite this “encouragement” using housing policy, our birth rates are at an all-time low: 1.04 in 2022, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

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Calls For Change

There have been calls for change by the opposition such as lowering the eligibility age to 28.

On 8 March 2022, Pritam Singh said that:

One assumption we should question is that offering flats to 28-year-olds would discourage genuine interest in long-term marriage.

Isn’t it possible that some people who want to be married may be discouraged from tying the knot early because they prefer to have financial security before getting hitched and having children? If a single person is allowed to purchase HDB property, whether BTO or resale, earlier, this may well open new prospects to concomitantly move on to marriage and parenthood.

In addition, the prospect of purchasing a flat at 28 years of age, down from 35 years of age would leave more scope for the growth of one’s CPF balances for peace of mind for retirement adequacy.

In response, the government stated that such changes would cause demand for housing to shoot up and that we still have to deal with the aftermath of constraints caused by the pandemic.

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Public Housing For Singles

Clearly, the issue of public housing policy for single Singaporeans is an intricate one and a balancing act for the government. As of now, the demand for public housing is still very high and lowering the eligibility age would worsen the housing problem faced by couples.

On the other hand, societal trends present an urgency for this policy to be tweaked soon as the government cannot simply ignore a growing single population.

What are your thoughts on public housing for singles? Share it with us in the comments below!

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About Justin Oh
Your average Zillennial who is obsessed with anime, games, movies and of course, personal finance. Join me as I break down personal finance into easily digestible and fun bits!
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