YOUTH CONVERSATION ON PUBLIC HOUSING - OUR HOMES, OUR FUTURE
Forward Singapore Youth Conversation on Public Housing - Our Homes, Our Future
National Youth Council (NYC) and Ministry of National Development (MND) co-organised “Forward Singapore Youth Conversation on Public Housing – Our Homes, Our Future” on 20 November 2022, involving 75 participants and the following guest-of-honour:
Minister Desmond Lee – Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services integration
[Moderator] I Naishad Kai-ren – Global Shaper, Global Shapers Community (Singapore Hub) and member of National Youth Council’s INSPIRIT community.
Key insights from Minister Lee’s remarks;
Efforts to improve public housing quality and supply have seen progress
- Minister Lee said that the Government was committed to ensuring that public housing needs were met in light of pandemic disruptions. For example, HDB had worked with partners to manage construction delays caused by the pandemic, and there were plans to increase the supply of BTO (build-to-order) flats.
- Minister Lee encouraged couples to consider applying for flats in non-mature estates with lower application rates for a higher possibility of a successful ballot. He said that as non-mature estates were developed, distinctions between mature and non-mature estates would become less relevant.
- Minister Lee said the Government was looking to upgrade and rejuvenate older estates using newer design technology to optimise land, provide homes with better amenities, while maintaining a sense of familiarity that Singaporean communities have grown accustomed to.
Singapore faces a different set of challenges in supplying public housing today
- Minister Lee said that with less open land to build public housing, the Government had to consider ways to redevelop current towns to meet Singaporeans’ desires to have bigger homes with improved facilities, while retaining greenery and heritage spaces.
- Minister Lee acknowledged that geopolitical events had contributed to rising interest rates which led to rising resale flats prices and housing loans. He said that the Government would continue to work towards keeping prices of BTO flats stable through significant subsidies.
The Government will consider Singaporean’s suggestions in prioritising resources for public housing. However, no one solution can address diverse and complex needs.
- Minister Lee said that while some Singaporeans had suggested imposing a capital tax on property gains, this could lead to sellers passing the additional tax burden to buyers which could affect affordability.
- Minister Lee shared that while some Singaporeans had proposed to disallow any profit from HDB flats, others said that monetising one’s home via rental created supplementary rental income, which could be essential for certain groups, especially seniors, who may rely on this income.
- Minister Lee said that some Singaporeans had suggested carving out popular and more expensive BTO projects and expanding the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) Model to other locations beyond the city centre, imposing tighter lease conditions and providing more subsidies to keep these housing affordable and more accessible. However, flexibility may still be needed for people with genuine needs (e.g. growing families who need bigger homes) to relocate before fulfilling the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP).
- Minister Lee said that while some have suggested removing the resale market, this would mean that flat owners would have to return their homes to HDB and ballot for a replacement flat should they wish to move homes, and Singaporeans would lose the autonomy to select their desired flats and price their flats for sale.
- Minister Lee said the Government had worked to ensure public housing was affordable and provide better-targeted assistance for those in need. He added that Singaporeans were encouraged to continue to raise their feedback on housing policies to keep pace as society evolved.
Key insights from activity debrief:
From the scenario-based activity, participants said that
- A critical dilemma the youth participants faced was weighing the different groups’ needs and wants in housing allocation (for example, couples who want to start families versus singles who desire their own spaces), and it was not possible to fulfil every group’s aspiration due to the constraints on housing supply.
- Many felt that the primary purpose of home should be to provide a roof over our head. Some youths also perceived “home” as an investment asset which can be monetized rather than a family home to be handed down to generations.
- The prioritisation of housing reflected Singaporeans’ values as they prioritised those with genuine and more urgent needs (e.g. couples with more children) and vulnerable segments of the population (e.g. the elderly or those who stay in rental flats).
- Public housing plans should foster a sense of neighbourliness and build vibrant communities, encouraging interactions among all residents so that seniors living alone would not be neglected.
- Public housing should be reserved and kept affordable for the masses. Participants called for other measures of wealth besides income when assessing public housing eligibility so that more flats could be allocated to those with the most urgent housing needs.
Key insights shared by Minister Lee after the large group shareback –
Youths were able to put aside self-interest and individual preferences when discussing how to prioritise resources for housing
- Minister Lee said that there was a sense of social cohesion amongst the youths to put aside their concerns and consideration in deciding who to prioritise for housing, and this characteristic was unlike many other societies which were experiencing social fragmentation and polarisation over different communities and ethnic groups.
- Minister Lee said that while Singapore had tried to meet all housing needs, with limited resources and changing aspirations as society evolved, Singaporeans would have to put aside their concerns and aspirations to reach a consensus on how they define whose needs were more urgent.
Public housing is one of the levers to advance social cohesion
- Minister Lee said that there were social outcomes to our public housing programme which was more than infrastructure, and the Government had worked to ensure that society remains inclusive. He shared examples of how the ComLink Rental Scheme integrated social support to uplift public rental flat tenants, the Community Care Apartments incorporated active ageing programming to support independent living for seniors, and other housing solutions that enabled persons with disability to take steps to live independently.
- Minister Lee said that the Government would refresh the social compact on public housing with Singaporeans to ensure inclusivity, including ensuring that public housing in prime area locations remain accessible to Singaporeans and avoiding income stratification, which could occur if left entirely to market forces.
- Minister Lee said that Singapore’s current housing model allowed Singapore to strike a balance between a house as a home and an asset. He added that public housing was not just a shelter but also a safe harbour that, when seen as an asset, helped enhance and improve lives.