NYC and the Global Shapers Community (Singapore Hub) co-organised the third in the series of seven National Youth Dialogues, “Home for Every Stage of Life”, on 8 October 2022, involving 144 participants and the following panellists:

  • Minister Desmond Lee – Minister of National Development & Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration
  • Mr He Ruiming – Co-Founder of The Woke Salaryman, NYC Council Member
  • Dr Gillian Koh – Deputy Director (Research) and Senior Research Fellow in the Governance and Economy Department, IPS
  • [Moderator] Mr I Naishad Kai-ren – Global Shaper, Global Shapers Community (Singapore Hub)


Snapshots from NYD 3: Home For Every Stage Of Life, held at NTUC centre on 8 October 2022


Key insights from the panel dialogue:

Audience Poll: What does having a home mean to you? (96 responses received via Sli.do)

  • Participants indicated the following top three responses:
    (i) Place to stay (94%);
    (ii) Stake in the country (40%); and
    (iii) Investment to protect savings (39%).
  • Mr He said that having a home functioned as a place to stay before being a form of investment to protect his savings. He said that having used his savings to buy a flat, having a home was akin to having a stake in the country as he hoped Singapore would continue to prosper.

Audience Poll: What are the top 3 priorities when purchasing a public housing unit in Singapore? (88 responses received via Sli.do)

  • Participants indicated the following top three responses:
    (i) Affordability (73%);
    (ii) Size of the flat (56%); and
    (iii) Accessible public transport (51%).
  • Dr Koh said that she empathised with youths who were anxious over housing affordability as the concept of work had changed. She said that the Institute of Policy Studies conducted surveys to understand how young adults transition from school to work. She observed that the life stage youths were at would shape their sentiments (e.g. youths who just started working would feel more anxious than those who utilised subsidies to purchase a house).

Question: What are some policies in place to provide affordable housing for Singaporeans?

  • Dr Koh said it was essential to compare Singapore against other major cities such as London, New York and Hong Kong in terms of housing affordability. She said that HDB prices were designed to: (i) help individuals pick the right housing option for their needs, (ii) prevent overbuying, and (ii) enable Singaporeans to be able to pay off their flats within a definite timeline.
  • Minister Lee said that the offering of BTO flats provided different attributes, price points, locations and grants to serve the needs and budgets of a diverse group of flat buyers. He said BTO flats were highly subsidised and priced below market value compared to the resale and private markets.
  • Minister Lee acknowledged that rising resale prices had caused anxiety among Singaporeans in the last two years. He said that the Government had moved to moderate demand and intervened to ensure a stable property market and affordable public housing, including providing grants up to $160,000 to help families buy houses within the resale market. He assured participants that the Government would make decisive yet careful decisions considering the present global economy and higher interest rates.

Question: How can Singapore decentralise the business areas and make everywhere a preferred place to stay? 

  • Mr He said efforts like the International Business Park in Jurong were ongoing to disperse commercial activities. He said decentralisation would take time and involve trade-offs such as removing natural environments and historical buildings. He suggested incorporating more running and cycling infrastructure to connect mature and non-mature estates and foster more inclusivity.
  • Dr Koh said it was important to incentivise businesses to locate outside the current commercial hubs to allow people to live, work and play in the same place. She suggested that the Government could incorporate facilities and infrastructure such as schools and transport systems in decentralised areas, as these were crucial factors for families deciding where to move.
  • Minister Lee said that the pandemic had changed work arrangements, and HDB had also redesigned houses and neighbourhoods to adapt to these changes. He said that the Government would set up more shared working spaces, and Singaporeans would be given options on how to partition their housing units instead of building traditional 3, 4 and 5-room flats.  

Audience Poll: What should be the guiding principles for housing policies? (79 responses received via Sli.do)

  • Participants indicated the following top three responses:
    (i) Constant renewal and rejuvenation to meet the needs of future generations (61%);
    (ii) Giving young Singaporeans a leg up through home ownership, i.e. providing an asset that is a store of value that can be monetised if necessary, e.g. to improve retirement adequacy (47%); and
    (iii) Progressiveness, i.e. those who are less well-off should be helped more (44%).
  • Minister Lee said that Singapore’s public housing also served as social policy. He said that while public housing manifested itself most visibly in infrastructure-building (construction, facilities, sales and purchase etc.), it also sought to achieve social outcomes. He said that MND’s housing conversations aimed to understand how the social compact around public housing had evolved and would guide the Government in adapting and adjusting housing policies in the years ahead.

Question: Should the 99-year lease be extended?

  • Dr Koh said that the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) was one way the Government aimed to facilitate participants’ top response of “Constant renewal and rejuvenation to meet the needs of future generations”.
  • Mr He said that he had observed property prices rising since the 1960s, and the 99-year lease aimed to deter individuals from buying land and staying there for generations, which would counter social mobility. He said that Singapore was a country with limited resources and space, and having a 99-year lease might be what it takes to build within the country.
  • Minister Lee said that for Singapore to continue to be a vibrant place, land rejuvenation had to occur to prevent “static-ness” and entrenchment in society. He said that the Government implemented policies such as the lease buyback scheme, SERS and Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) and engaged Singaporeans in dialogues to ensure this. 

Question: What are the Government’s plans to balance housing and the need for green and recreational spaces?

  • Minister Lee said that with Singapore being a city-state, there was a need to balance green spaces alongside other land pressures. He said green spaces needed to be provided for, kept and protected as they were “essential to the soul of the nation” to ensure that dense housing was more liveable and less stressful.
  • Minister Lee said that the Government remained committed to protecting green spaces through ecological profiling. He said that some spaces that had initially been zoned for industry and security, such as sites near nature reserves, had been retained as nature buffers.
  • Mr He said that green spaces ensured that Singapore continued to remain a competitive and attractive city for both Singaporeans and foreigners, as recreational spaces for individuals to unwind are essential to make Singapore a viable city for people to live.

Question: How can public housing better provide for the needs of singles, and how can we continue to build Singapore’s social compact together, e.g. integrate persons with special needs and house them in the same area? 

  • Minister Lee said that the Government was carefully monitoring Singaporeans’ changing aspirations and work-travel patterns and would adjust white sites, planning parameters and housing policies accordingly. He said this could mean building HDB flats in central areas such as the Greater Southern Waterfront or having more rental housing within estates and not separate blocks.
  • Minister Lee said that while grants were available for singles living with their elderly parents, the Government was aware that subsidies might already have been consumed and would continue to study and support the issue.
  • Minister Lee said that housing as an infrastructure also aimed to support and enable vulnerable groups through coordinated social support, such as community care designed to provide active programming and social aspects not only for seniors, but also for low-income households and people with disabilities.