Youths keen on more affordable and alternative housing options
Among the alternate housing options raised included rent-to-own or co-living schemes.
Youths have voiced out concerns about the recent rise in housing prices for owned and rented units. Some are also anxious about the allocation of public housing to people of different backgrounds and goals.
These issues were brought up by participants of a dialogue session on housing for singles and second-time home buyers.
Held on Sunday (Jul 30), it was organised by the National Youth Council in partnership with the Ministry of National Development (MND) and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as part of the Forward Singapore exercise.
The “Our Housing Conversation” was attended by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, and discussions on possible housing solutions from previous Housing Conversations, which participants provided further feedback on, were brought up.
Here are five takeaways from the session:
1. Home ownership remains a top priority among home buyers
During the opening remarks, Mr Lee shared that home ownership “continues to resonate strongly” with home buyers. Although most are aware that renting is an option, an overwhelming majority from previous sessions preferred to purchase and own a residential property of their own.
“This is our Singapore DNA – we are a nation of homeowners,” he said.
This sentiment was also shared by the participants during the discussion segments as well.
When discussing their opinions about personal housing preferences, many participants ranked home ownership as their top priority. Other items such as staying with one’s parents and nearby amenities ranked slightly lower.
In comparison to renting a unit, there was a mutual agreement that the latter can be too inconvenient, especially when raising a family or if the rental period is only temporary.
One participant brought up how renting for the long-term was simply not financially sustainable, and there would not be such issues in place when purchasing a housing unit instead.
Moreover, Singaporeans tend to have an “asian mentality” when it comes to housing. Home ownership can be associated with financial stability and social status. It is also overall a good investment and asset to have when settling down in Singapore.
2. Many youth home buyers are keen on a Rent-to-Own housing scheme
According to MND, some singles wish for HDB’s eligibility criteria of being 35 years old and above to be relaxed. This would not be feasible though, as doing so may result in further public housing demand, which in turn lowers its accessibility and worsens Singapore’s housing crunch.
As such, singles may first opt to rent before pursuing home ownership.
In an attempt to balance out singles’ wishes with that of the Government’s, those from previous Housing Conversations suggested a unique housing option – a rent-to-own scheme.
The scheme would involve a rental agreement where tenants are granted the option to purchase their rented property after a certain period of time. The monthly rental fee can also be used to pay for the property’s purchase price, which in turn lowers the upfront cost.
Upon bringing it up for discussion, many participants – especially singles and youths – were intrigued by the scheme’s concept. They saw it as a viable alternative to trial or get an early start on their home ownership journey before hitting the ripe age of 35.
Should the rent-to-own scheme be approved for piloting, they would be relieved that this option would soon be available, though this gives rise to concerns like whether or not tenants can apply for housing grants or subsidies when it is time to purchase the rented property.
3. A co-living housing plan may only be viable for residents of certain demographics and life stages
Aside from the suggested rent-to-own scheme, another housing option floated across to participants was the co-living scheme.
Similar to existing co-living spaces like Lyf and Coliwoo, this scheme would involve operators to provide communal living spaces where singles can “come together” and share on a short-term or flexible lease. Each individual or couple would be provided with a private room or unit, and would be free to use the facility’s shared amenities.
When asked about their opinion regarding this potential scheme, participants agreed that the cost of living in communal spaces would be affordable and interesting to see take form. However, the concept may only appeal towards those of the youth demographic or those that are “young and adventurous”.
On one hand, the co-living scheme could be a way for singles or couples to live temporarily while waiting to move into their Built-to-Order (BTO) flats, among other purposes.
Similar to the rent-to-own scheme, co-living is something that singles under the age of 35 can try before applying for public housing. It also serves as a place for privacy and independence, which are things that most home buyers value.
On another hand, such a living environment may only appeal towards those with shared interests or are interested in collaborating with other tenants.
Although some participants are drawn towards this potential scheme, more details and support is needed before it can become a reality.
4. Relooking allocation of different housing types for those with specific needs and circumstances
In previous renditions of the Housing Conversation, participants – namely second-time buyers – have brought up how some couples’ life situations may change after buying their first homes and require better accommodations when trying for their next one.
“Some may have started out with smaller homes as a couple, and now require larger homes to accommodate a growing family. While others, such as empty-nesters, may wish to right-size to a smaller unit,” Mr Lee shared before the discussions began.
As such, participants in this session suggested that HDB should look into doing more in-depth background checks on home buyers’ before allocating certain room types to them.
For instance, there should be higher priority for five-room flats – particularly those up for resale – granted to married couples that see themselves raising a big family in the next five to 10 years.
To them, this would ease HDB’s burden of needing to produce more large flat types during BTO exercises.
Other participants also gave feedback on wanting HDB to increase the flexibility of flat allocation for Sale of Balance Flats, as well as to cater towards overseas Singaporeans with foreign spouses that wish to get public housing locally.
In response to this collective feedback, Mr Lee acknowledged that the trend of transnational families and singles interested in home ownership are increasing and “are here to stay”.
“They may adjust over time, but we must get a feel of the pulse and make adjustments along the way. We have made the adjustments, and intend on making further (ones) soon,” he said.
5. Youth singles desire to be eligible for the Prime Location Public Housing
In addition to wanting the age requirement to own a HDB flat relaxed, youth singles desire to be eligible for the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) model alongside couples, seniors and singles ages 35 and above.
The PLH model – which was first designed in 2021 – is catered towards home buyers that wish to attain public housing in Singapore’s central and city areas, yet purchase them at an affordable and accessible price. Currently, some locations under this model include BTO projects in Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Kallang Whampoa.
To many youth attendees at the Housing Conversation, the model is desirable to them for the projects’ proximity to the central business district, where most of them commute to for work and leisure. While they understand that the properties will likely be priced higher, it could also save them the extra travel time should they live in prime locations.
They added that the PLH model may not be too family friendly due to the price and how the properties would not be in the heartlands. Such conditions may make it harder for married couples and families to raise children in, whereas the same circumstances may be more advantageous for youth singles.
While the youth demographic may not be eligible for the current PLH model, Mr Lee added that HDB has plans to launch public rental flats in prime locations where feasible.