Singapore eases property rules in diverging path from Hong Kong

HDB flats in Singapore (left) and residential buildings in the Lai Chi Kok district of Hong Kong.
HDB flats in Singapore (left) and residential buildings in the Lai Chi Kok district of Hong Kong.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Whether you look at prices or policy, the property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong are marching resolutely in opposite directions.

Singapore has eased some rules in its property market, after more than three years of home price declines. Hong Kong in November tightened some restrictions, after prices rallied following a short-lived dip last year. The curbs in Hong Kong have had little impact so far, with existing home prices rising to all-time highs amid brisk demand from buyers.

As prices in Hong Kong have continued to rise beyond the reach of most people, the city's leaders have been dealing with rising discontent. Hong Kong retained the title of the world's most expensive housing market in the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey for the seventh year in a row, with the highest affordability score among more than 400 markets surveyed. While Singapore isn't cheap, by any measure, tight regulations haven't allowed affordability to "deteriorate to the acute levels" of cities such as Hong Kong, Demographia said in a report in January.

One of the main differences between Singapore and Hong Kong's property markets is the public housing component. Singapore's market is dominated by public housing, while in Hong Kong, it is just the reverse. That gives Singapore an additional tool to help keep a tight lid on prices.