Housing woes and alternatives

James Gomez

The PAP’s policy of a market-centred approach to public housing has resulted in a public good (public housing) being used to make profit. It is this practice and the use of public housing for profit making that has to be addressed if we want to take a new approach to affordable public housing.

PAP policies have additionally caused the limited space housing to be made more acute by allowing PRs and migrant workers to enter the housing market. High prices have also made resale HDB flats out of reach for many Singaporeans including singles.

A key problem vis-à-vis a pricing is that the overall rise in housing prices has not risen in tandem with incomes. Further, current flat sizes have also decreased in comparison to four decades ago. And their future sizes are still subject to review.

In addition, queues and waiting time for new HDB flats are getting longer.

In response to these sets of problems post GE-2011, HDB has been tasked to focus on increasing supply and allocating them via revised balloting rules. Unfortunately, HDB is not addressing the real issue of affordability.

There is talk of easing prices over time and in a gradual manner in order to prevent any major price correction. What we have been told that, to date, house prices are no longer spiking. But housing prices are still at a historically high.

For instance, public housing flats have been sold in excess of 1 million dollars, and more flats are expected to be transacted at that price range as more resale flats in choice locations come onto the market and prices continue to rise due to demand generated by the high immigration numbers.

Why do Singaporeans continue to find themselves in such a housing dilemma? It is because PAP policy measures do not address the fundamental problem of affordability in public housing today.

So what is the appropriate policy to prevent the use of public housing for property speculation while at the same time ensuring affordable public housing? To assemble a set of alternative proposals the Policy Unit in the last one year has been reviewing current policies and tracking developments in public housing.

As public housing is one of the most important policy issues confronting Singaporeans today, SDP is pleased to announce that it is currently finalising its work on its paper,
Housing a Nation: Holistic Policies for Affordable Homes later this year.

Dr James Gomez is the Head of SDP’s Policy Unit.

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