Public housing policy is Singapore has been a remarkable success in providing housing for the majority of Singapore citizens and by making them stakeholders in nation building. House is universally considered as a basic necessity and an asset for lifetime for every citizen. While most countries put “housing for all” as one of the agenda point; many of them, including developed countries are still struggling to ensure affordable, equitable and sustainable housing solution.
In Singapore, Housing Development Board (HDB) was set up in the year 1960 to address the housing crisis then, by building low cost public housing. In its remarkable success, HDB could solve the housing shortage within 10 years of its existence. The public housing programme in Singapore has evolved over the last 4 decades to not only provide housing but also a comprehensive, self sufficient township and vibrant community in an urban setting. The resident population living in public housing has increased from mere 9% in 1960s to about 82% now, with vast majority (about 95%) of them under home ownership. Thus the larger objective of providing public housing and maintenance is being successfully delivered by HDB.
Evolution and Features:
The first generation political leadership in Singapore emphasized on socio- economic growth for the country since its formation. In 1959, dwellings in Singapore used to be crowded slums, squatters with dilapidated structures and unhygienic surroundings. In addition to poor infrastructure and rising population in the limited land mass, there was acute shortage of good public housing. The country needed at least 15000 new houses every year. To address the shortage and affordability issues, HDB initially built simple low cost units and offered them on low rent. Later, the goal shifted from providing home tenancy to home ownership. The HDB model was one of the very well crafted housing solutions and had many unique features. The government’s priority was to achieve both economic growth and equity with home ownership for all income groups. The target group was not confined to poor who could not afford a private apartment, but also included middle and upper middle class citizens, to possess their own home. The criteria were so set that the programme covered almost 90 % of the residents. The initial thrust was to quickly build more number of houses. Later more emphasis was given to develop high quality infrastructure with many layout and choices, larger apartments, better amenities. Along the journey, new elements and new values were added to the policy to cater to singles, PRs, foreign spouses, old age parents etc.
In 1960s and 70s providing high rise public housing with amenities such as 24 hour piped water, electricity, sewer system, lift, parks, eateries for all dwellers was a distant dream for many countries. The HDBs today are not just housing complexes, they are a comprehensive package of home, community network, amenities,...