Khaw's Affordable HDB Flats that You Can't Afford

What's worse than jiak liao bee politicians? Jiak liao bee politicians who cannot keep their mouth shut. In general, Singaporeans are not very good in dealing with hard truths. There will be times where politicians have to say things that we don't like to hear but quite often, it isn't about facing hard truths but pure bullshit.

In an interview conducted last week (13 Aug) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan dismissed critics who feel that housing is unaffordable in Singapore.

Mr Khaw said in a straightforward response, “The bottomline is this: 80, 90 per cent of Singaporeans own their homes. If they are not affordable, then how do you achieve such an outcome?

Having an appreciating asset is certainly better than not owning anything. Fifty years of continuous progress and compulsory saving through the Central Provident Fund and home ownership have put Singaporean families in an enviable position as compared to their counterparts in almost every other country. This is a legacy which we should appreciate and treasure.

In the past, HDB builds flats in advance by forecasting housing needs. Our parents were able to find new flats when they needed one. The location of new flats may not be their top choices, at least there were always a supply available. Then came the financial crisis in the late 90s. By the early 2000s, many HDB flats were built but there were no takers. It was a mistake that prompted HDB to come out with the BTO system. Perhaps coincidentally, HDB prices shot up since. Many flat owners who bought at the right time saw the value of their flat doubled. The nation celebrated yet another shrewd policy by the PAP government. Everyone was happy, until their children grew up and needed flats themselves.

The BTO system forced a lot of families to look into the open market due to 2 main disadvantages. First, getting a BTO flat is a lottery. It may take one try in the balloting system to get it or it can take multiples. In real life, the latter can easily translate to 2-4 human years. Second, even after winning the lottery, HDB typically takes another 3-4 years to build your flat. Thus it takes 3 - 8 years for a family to move into their BTO flat, depending on their luck. Many couples who could not wait that long were forced to enter the open resale market. This pushes the prices of resale flats up, which in turn pushes the prices of BTO flats up because our good ex Minister Mah Bow Tan thought pegging BTO prices to the resale market was fair. SGZ HDB flat owners continued to celebrate their rising HDB flat prices while chiding their children for being too selective in taking up any jobs. Singaporeans allowed that travesty to carry on for a decade. That decade was the beginning of the end for me.

In 2011, Khaw Boon Wan took over Mah Bow Tan as the Minister of National Development and hastily de-link BTO flat prices from the resale market in a hush hush manner. It was only reported in 2013 [link] after BTO flat prices have "stablised". The MND has failed Singaporeans big time but have the cheek to claim credit for solving the problem they created.

Today, Minister Khaw has the cheek to claim HDB flats are affordable and justified it this way, “The bottomline is this: 80, 90 per cent of Singaporeans own their homes. If they are not affordable, then how do you achieve such an outcome? I suppose until Singaporeans are literally starving on the streets, we will never be able to claim that food is getting unaffordable every year. We have to make a clear distinction here, unlike food consumption, Singaporeans "owned" their HDB flats by getting in debt. I wouldn't say for sure that something is affordable if you need to sink into a 30 year debt for. Unless Minister Khaw is able to present facts that current HDB flat buyers;

1) pay up their flats at an average age close to owners of 10, 20 years ago
2) take up loan that of the same or lower percentage to the family income
3) makes up the same or lower number of single-income families compared to the past
4) do not default on HDB loans more often than past data,

how can he continue to claim HDB flats are still affordable? Who defines the point where HDB flats become unaffordable to ordinary Singaporeans? Are Singaporeans going to make another fatal mistake by accepting arduous claims like that? 

Lest we forget, HDB flats are public housing. In other parts of the world, public housing is also known as social housing or community housing. In Western Australia, public housing is income tested. I will not even be qualified for public housing here even if I earn 50% less (Note: Despite the well known fact I am a pissed poor peasant). As property prices in Perth is also unaffordable these days due to the mining boom which caused a similar property prices spike in the last 7 years, many of us can still manage to buy a decent property here. Though unaffordable (pretty much like HDB flat prices), at least these are private houses on a freehold land.

In Singapore, only 10% of Singaporeans are able to afford a private property. Only in Singapore, the government is so proud that 90% of their native population live in public housing. Only in Singapore, the people can accept the fact that living as tenants under a 99 year lease agreement is affordable living; then  complain we have nothing much to leave behind for our children or grandchildren. Lately, we found that we don't even have enough for ourselves, because it seems that we have been paying up rental using our life savings in the CPF.


  1. When uncle lee wants to buy your lease back for whatever reason, you lan lan have to sell back and as a remaining proportion of 99 yr lease plus 'compensation'. Imagine if you are retired and 70 years old and gah man want to take ur home away and somehow expect their compensation will be enough to buy you a new home.

    1. BTW nix you should call yourself a Piss-Poor Peasant not Pissed Poor Peasant unless you are very angry or very drunk

    2. Or a doggy mistook him for a hydrant

  2. Then you can get pissed off for being pissed on

  3. HDB is affordable based on his standard. He is paid many times more than an average singaporean.

  4. In OZ it is real bad if you stay in public housing but PAP govt is proud of it.