Residential property in Singapore can be broadly classified into land properties, private and public housing. The vast majority (80%) of Singapore residents live in public housing estates while the rest reside in private estates. The HDB (Housing & Development Board) is the organization that plans and develops affordable and comfortable residential estates
The HDB is the statutory board of the Ministry of National Development responsible for public housing in Singapore. It's headquarters were previously located at Bukit Merah. The new HDB Hub is now located at 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh since 10 June 2002. The HDB's comprehensive housing programmes have involved the provision of not only the residential units but also the supporting facilities in the housing estates such as shops, childcare centers, carparks and industrial workshops.
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The HDB is generally credited with clearing up the squatters and slums of the 1960s and resettling residents into low-cost government-built housing. About 80-90% of Singapore's population are currently living in HDB flats. Costing between S$110,000 to S$800,000, these units are the most common form of accommodation for locals in Singapore. Thus, in Singapore's context, HDB flatas or the public housing is not considered a sign of poverty or a lower standard of living; as compared to public housing in other developed countries. For example, an HDB 4-room flat depending on age, environment and surrounding amenities can have a sale value of between S$300,000 to above S$400,000. Adding to the variety of public housing is the design, build and sell scheme (DBSS) introduced in 2005. Under DBSS, designated sites are sold to private developers, who are then responsible for designing, building and selling the flats.
An intermediate category of housing to bridge the gap between HDB flats and private condominiums was introduced in 1995. Called executive condominiums, these units offer the standard of private condominium living but at lower prices even though they are built and sold by private developers. The reselling of such units is subject to certain restrictions, which are lifted only after a minimum occupation period of ten years.
Shortly after independence, Singapore faced a serious problem of housing shortages. In response, the government passed the Housing and Development Act of 1960 which replaced the existing Singapore Improvement Trust with the Housing and Development Board. The very first priority during formation was to build as many low-cost housing units as possible. Through the years, the emphasis of its housing programmes has shifted from quantity of housing to quality of life. Beyond the flat itself, there is now also more attention given to the overall quality of the housing estate in terms of the amenities provided, aesthetic appeal and visual identity.
In 1968, citizens were allowed to use their pension fund (Central Provident Fund) to purchase and own the homes they were renting to give them a stake of the country and as an incentive to work hard. In 1980, a quota was introduced to ensure that no particular racial group concentrated together to prevent sectarianism. There must be a certain ratio of ethnicity within the HDB blocks, and any move-in or move-out must adhere to this policy.
In the 1990s, the HDB concentrated on the upgrading of existing older flats, installing new facilities such as lifts that stop on every floor. The first programme, called the main upgrading programme, was launched in 1990. Under this programme, improvement works are carried out within the flat and at the block and precinct levels. In 1995, HDB launched the selective en-bloc redevelopment scheme, which involves the demolition of entire blocks for redevelopment. Smaller-scale programmes have also been developed since 1990 to bring the benefits of upgrading to more residents. These include the home improvement programme launched in 2007 that targets common maintenance problems within the flat such as spalling concrete and ceiling leaks.
Ownership in public housing is limited to a 99-year lease. Size is usually denoted by the terms such as four-room, five-room or similar, and is based on the number of bedrooms in addition to the living room but newer five-room apartments come with only three bedrooms and a dining room. The largest HDB flats (in terms of floor area) ever built are two-storey Executive Masionettes built in the 1990s which can have floor area ranging from 160 - 190 m².