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HDB begins selling flats under home ownership scheme 12th Feb 1964

The Home Ownership for the People Scheme was launched on 12 February 1964 by the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Initially, Singaporeans were only able to rent apartments built by the HDB.[1] The home ownership scheme enabled low income Singapore citizens to buy flats with basic amenities at affordable prices from the government on a 99-year lease basis.[2]

Bridging the gap between affordable, sustainable housing and home ownership, the Home Ownership for the People Scheme aimed to foster a sense of rootedness in Singapore by giving a largely migrant population a stake in the country.[3] Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew rationalised that a high homeownership rate would lend social and political stability to Singapore.[4] He was convinced that if every family owned its home, the country would be more stable.[5]

Thus, to promote home ownership over apartment rental, the HDB allowed families with monthly incomes of $800 and below to make a monthly payment that was lower than the market price of rental flats. HDB flats were also sold below market rates to ensure affordability.[6] In 1968, the Central Provident Fund (Amendment) Act was passed to allow citizens to use their Central Provident Fund (CPF) to pay for HDB flats. This enabled Singaporeans to pay their down payments and monthly loans with their take home income along with their CPF savings.[7]

An HDB resale market was set up in 1971 to allow people to sell their HDB flats after serving a minimum occupancy period. Regulations were implemented to ensure that people who bought the units were not doing so for investment. Eligible buyers had to be citizens who did not own residential property, be part of a family unit comprising at least two persons, and whose household incomes were below a certain ceiling.[8]

The Home Ownership for the People Scheme underwent several changes over the following decades. From 1989 onwards, permanent residents could own HDB flats, and since 1991, unmarried individuals aged 35 and above could purchase three-room or smaller flats outside the central area. The latter policy was subsequently revised to allow singles to purchase any type of flat regardless of location.[9]

By the 1980s, the population had become more affluent and expectations for public housing standards grew. The HDB began building homes with better quality fittings, and refined the designs and layouts of common facilities in the neighbourhoods.[10]

As more people started owning HDB flats, housing became an important asset that became part of a Singaporean’s retirement fund. In the 1990s, the government embarked on various upgrading schemes to enhance the value of HDB flats. By doing this, the government hoped to increase the wealth of households through property price appreciation.[11]

The Home Ownership for the People Scheme gained worldwide recognition and attention. In 2008, Singapore’s Home Ownership Scheme received the United Nations (UN) Public Service Award.[12] The scheme marked its 50th anniversary in 2014.[13]

1. Ministry of National Development. (2014, March/April). Home ownership: 50 years on. MND Link. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from Ministry of National Development website: http://www.mnd.gov.sg/mndlink/2014/2014_Mar-Apr/50YearsofHomeOwnership.htm
2. Tan, S. B., & Naidu, V. L. (2014). Public Housing in Singapore: Examining fundamental shifts. Retrieved August 4, 2016, from Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore website: https://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Public-Housing-in-Singapore.pdf
3. Tan & Naidu, 2014.
4. Yuen, B. (2007, November). Squatters no more: Singapore social housing. Global Urban Development Magazine, 3(1). Retrieved August 4, 2016, from Global Urban Development website: http://www.globalurban.org/GUDMag07Vol3Iss1/Yuen.htm
5. Lee, K. Y. (2000). From third world to first: The Singapore story, 1965–2000: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times Editions: Singapore Press Holdings. Call no.: RSING 959.57092 LEE-[HIS]
6. Own a flat – For $900 down. (1964, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ministry of National Development, Mar/Apr 2014.
8. Tan & Naidu, 2014.
9. Buenas, D., & Tan, A. (2004, August 30). Singles free to buy HDB flats of any size soon. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan & Naidu, 2014.
11. Tan & Naidu, 2014.
12. Ministry of National Development, Mar/Apr 2014.
13. Heng, J., & Au-Yong, R. (2014, February 13). ‘No easy start’ for leaders behind housing scheme: Khaw pays tribute to pioneers who got it going 50 years ago. The Straits Times. Retrieved from ProQuest Central.


The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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