HDB flat, or Singapore’s Housing Development Board’s public housing flats are really something. Public housing may have a negative connotation elsewhere in the world, but here, in this land of plenty, 80% of Singaporeans stay in one, and likely they own it too.
Here are 10 reasons why I am a fan, despite many fellow Singaporeans aspiring to “upgrade” to a private condominium or landed house:
1. You won’t be enslaved to your mortgage
Do you like more or less debt? Easy choice here! Depending on whether you bought the flat direct from HDB or from the resale market, you could pay next to zero cash outlay as mortgage payments are deducted from our CPF savings, which is a mandatory savings account where the employer and employee both make a mandatory deposit. It is a puzzle why people wish to add more debt to their lives and then feel like they have no choice but to stay in the jobs they hate.
Let’s do some easy math here. Nearby private condominium versus my flat = S$1million more of debt. Difference to quality of living: Minimal. Net effect = S$1million more of debt.
2. You would live in a functional and beautiful space
Of course, not all HDB flats enjoy such beautiful design and enjoy some water views like these flats at Kallang, but they are often very decent looking and have very functional layouts with minimal wasted space and they do not have gigantic aircon ledges or outsized balconies which you pay over S$1,000 psf for. They even automatically repaint the estate every 5 years.
My flat enjoys a very serene nature view which we absolutely love:
Look at how the rain catches the sun and glitters!
3. You would find it super convenient to get around
It is a known fact that HDB estates are more connected to public transport systems. It takes me 15 mins from my station to get to the downtown Dhoby Ghaut interchange and I even get a seat sometimes. Win!
Private estates are sometimes far from the main road and it is not as easy to get around unless you have a car. It also doesn’t really make sense to pay S$80,000 for a 10-year certificate to own a car, and it would be bad for the environment, so… you are really better off staying near a MRT station which is the best way to get around the country.
4. You would find cheap food easily from where you stay
Kopitiams and often, supermarkets are a mainstay in HDB estates. The one at my next block still has noodles selling for S$2.50. Downtown, the same noodle will probably cost S$4.50.
The owner of the economical rice store is also really nice to me. He would say “Every time I see you, I feel happy because you would be smiling!” and then he proceeds to give me more vegetables than the usual portion. Super sweet.
5. You can enjoy all that a private condominium offers and much more
The main differences between HDB and private estate include a gate helmed by security, a swimming pool & gym, and expensive monthly maintenance fees for the latter. Staying in a HDB flat is pretty secure. All the corridors are brightly lit and they are designed to face public areas so break-ins are also rare. I have often been pleasantly surprised to learn that people could guess which unit I stay in once I share which block I stay in and when I moved in. Nothing escapes the sharp eyes of the people of Hougang!
The public swimming pool is just a short walk away and it is clean and cost S$1 per entry. The gym which is fully equipped cost S$2.50 per entry. The short walk doesn’t really matter, because you are going to exercise right?
6. You will enjoy the friendly neighbours
Kenneth and I were waylaid yesterday morning by 2 enthusiastic neighbours who serve on the Resident’s Committee. They wanted us to stay to enjoy the free coffee/tea and biscuits, which I learnt is a new regular idea mooted by the People’s Association to encourage more interaction within the community.
While munching on the biscuits, I was invited to their regular Qigong group which meets at 6:15am every morning from Mon-Sat. I got up really early this morning and went downstairs to join them. Standing on SRJC’s field before daybreak with the cool fresh air blowing was a great idea to start the day. I think I will continue to join them if I am disciplined enough!
“There are african drum classes on Saturday too. Come and join in!”, the enthusiastic auntie chimed as I was leaving the free flow of biscuits and drinks. I think I just serendipitously joined the unofficially physical mailing list of what’s going on in my neighbourhood…
7. You will enjoy a high quality of living
Because you can enjoy all the perks as listed above and have a lot of flexibility to make your interior space your personal sanctuary. Renovation costs are typically lower too as contractors tend to have different rates depending on size of flat and whether it is private housing or not.
8. You will most likely gain from the housing investment if you decide to sell it
There are discounts and subsidies on the HDB flat price which typically lead to a gain at point of sale. Lots of people have used this sum gained for their next housing purchase.
9. You would less likely fall into the trap of seeking to live in an “atas” way to show off
HDB is as down to earth as you can get in terms of housing and it helps to keep you grounded in life. Why presumably “upgrade” to a smaller private unit, pay more for it, and lose out on all the perks of HDB living just because it seems more socially prestigious to do so? A home is more than an address.
10. HDB living is part of Singapore’s heritage and way of life
What else is quintessentially Singaporean? Where each HDB block has a minimum mix of different ethnicities by design, and where you or at least one of your friends would have spent all their lives living in. I would even argue that this has made Singapore for what it is. The home ownership public housing scheme has probably been one of the biggest drivers of private wealth for the majority of Singaporeans, and in providing a secure roof over each person’s head as the country built itself up from times of uncertainties back in 1965. It is even used as a carrot or stick for elections.
Life is definitely more colourful living in the heartlands. Where the glitz does not penetrate and blind. I am so happy that we managed to find this gem while house hunting. We could not have asked for more. HDB living really rocks!