In its infant years, Singapore, then under colonial rule suffered under dire states. The island state had been divided ethnically on both sides of the Singapore River to keep the upper class British citizens and the growing local populace of former immigrants from India, China and Malaya separate. The slum like settlement for the locals in Singapore was only exacerbated by the repercussions from World War 2. Huge amounts of damage were done to an already struggling country and housing quality further plummeted. By 1947, the average person per building density was about 18.2. In 1959, the shortage of housing persisted and HDB had estimated that about 300,000 people lived in squatter settlements in the suburbs while another 250,000 eked out a living in squalid shop houses in the Central Area. The British had, in 1920, set up the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in a bid to provide more housing for the growing population but had only managed to build 23,000 units in the 32 years of its existence. World War 2 had only further diminished what small progress they had made. When the PAP took power in 1959, it promised to make providing affordable and easily accessible public housing for all its early modus operandi. Between 1960 and 1965, the newly established Housing Development Board, which was formed after SIT was dissolved soon after the PAP took office, built 54,430 flats.
Ever since then, HDB has been building up-market flats and executive condominiums to cater to a varying demographic of Singaporeans. For instance, the executive condominiums or ECs were built to cater to Singaporeans who prefer private property like atmosphere but are unable to afford actual condominiums.
As HDB flats were meant to be reasonably priced and affordable, around 1948, the government allowed Singaporeans to utilize their CPF monies to pay for the flats, a feat that is now synonymous with any purchase of public housing in Singapore these days.
Therefore, embarking on an initial purchase of a flat can be a very daunting task, especially if you are newly married and looking to start a family.
Determining your Eligibility
The precedents for applying for a HDB flat now, requires the applicant to be at least 21 years old at the time of the application and that he or someone else part of the family nucleus be a Singapore citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR or PR).
There are three schemes which HDB provides to aid families in obtaining flats; Public, Fiancé/Fiancée and Orphan.
The Public scheme encompasses you, the applicant, your spouse and children (if any), parents and siblings (if any) and children under your legal custody, care and control (widowed/divorced). The family nucleus must consist of at least 1 Singapore Citizen or SPR.
The Fiancé/Fiancée scheme involves you, the applicant and your Fiancé/Fiancée where one applicant must be a Singapore Citizen or a SPR. If your fiancé/fiancée is below 21 years old, he/she can only be listed as an occupier in the application. In addition, if he/she is between 18 and 20 years old, a written consent from the parents or legal guardians must be submitted with the application. HDB does not allow changes to the name of the fiancé/fiancée to be made in the event where the marriage is called off, even with permission from the ex-fiancé/fiancée. A single child applying with parents at the time of registration will not be allowed to delete the parents name in order to include the fiancé/fiancée under this scheme.
The Orphan scheme involves you, the applicant and all your unmarried siblings who will be living in the same flat. All names are to be represented on the same application. In addition, at least one of the deceased parents must be a Singapore citizen or a SPR. Take note that siblings are not allowed to rent or buy flats under this scheme separately.
HDB flats come in various sizes of 2-rooms, 3-rooms and 4-rooms and exist in mature towns/estates as well as non-mature towns/estates. Some examples of mature towns are Marine Parade and Bedok while non-mature towns are up and coming new towns sometimes built within established districts like Woodlands and Bishan.
The eligibility of each flat type in the respective mature/non-mature town groupings rely heavily upon the average gross monthly household income of the applicant.
Applicants with a gross monthly household income of not more than $10,000 but higher than $5,000 are eligible to purchase 3-room, 3-room (premium), and 4 -room or bigger flats. If the applicant is buying with the extended family, the gross monthly household collective income must not exceed $15,000 while the respective monthly income cannot exceed $10,000.
Those who wish to apply for a flat with a gross monthly income of above $2,000 but not exceeding $5,000 are eligible to apply for 3-room flats in non-mature estates.
Applicants whose gross monthly household income does not exceed $2,000 are eligible to apply for 2-room flats.
Neither you or your spouse or any other occupiers or their spouses listed in the application form or must not own or have disposed any other flat, house, building or land within 30 months before the date of the application and between the application date and the date of assuming possession of the flat. HDB, however, may grant exemptions based upon the merit of each case. Those whom wish to seek exemptions or further clarifications can do so by contacting HDB directly.
Applicants need to take note that the Minimum Occupancy Period or MOP is 5 years and during that time, you will not be able to sell or rent your entire flat. If after the 5 years you have intention of renting the whole flat out, you will need to seek approval from HDB before proceeding. You are, however, able to rent out single rooms during the MOP without any approval from HDB, although you are required to register the subletting of bedrooms with HDB within 7 days of doing so and update them of any terminations or new leases.
For more information on HDB eligibility, Priority Schemes, Balloting Exercise and other types of flats, please read our more in depth analysis here!