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In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hinted that the government is studying the possibility of granting singles the right to buy new flats from the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
He said that with the rising resale flat prices, singles are finding it increasingly difficult to afford a home.
Those who accept the above at face value will readily applaud this “inclusive” initiative, especially single men and women in the 30-34-year-old bracket whose numbers have risen from 33% to 44% (men) and 22% to 31% (women) over the last decade.
My point of contention with the PM’s speech is that the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP), which has painstakingly tried to build up a pro-family stance over the years, is now contradicting itself by making new public housing equally available to single citizens.
Why did the PAP decide to change its housing policy for singles all of a sudden? Is it genuinely trying to build an “inclusive society” or is this just a political gimmick to patch up its bungled housing policy?
The PAP government must have realized that pro-creation initiatives such as the Baby Bonus Scheme and better childcare benefits have failed to stem the tide of Singaporeans who prefer to stay away from marriage and child bearing responsibilities. Hence, it has to make up for its botched drive to encourage parenthood by augmenting it with a pro-single housing policy.
To paraphrase the old adage, “if you cannot win them over, join them.” The PAP’s calculation that it will lose a huge number of votes if it does not keep this growing segment of Singaporeans appeased.
It is not as if the PAP government has only just learnt about housing issues confronting singles. In fact, it has attempted to address housing concerns for singles with the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme and Joint Singles Scheme, which allows single citizens who are at least 35 years of age to purchase a HDB flat from the open market. However, prices of resale flats have reached astronomical levels and this is not helped by the fact that singles are competing for housing with the snowballing number of permanent residents.
The Resale Price Index (RPI), which monitors the general price movements in the public residential market, has hit an all-time high of 197.9 in 3rd Quarter 2012 and chances are that it will continue to spiral upwards.
The liberal immigration policy of granting permanent residency (PR) status to foreigners pushes property prices up in the open market.
Additionally, the Government acquires land at a nominal rate and then sells it to HDB buyers at the discounted market rate, causing new public housing prices to shoot up.
Singaporeans should not have the misconceived notion that the Government is sincere in building an inclusive society. It is merely the incumbent’s desperate move to patch up its previous flawed policy with another populist one.
On the other hand, the SDP’s new housing policy, Housing A Nation, proposes that singles and single-parent families be eligible to buy Non-Open Market (NOM) flats. For more details about the NOM scheme, please click
Bryan Lim is a member of the SDP’s Central Executive Committee and Head of the Ground Operations Unit.