Focus on making public housing affordable, equitable

I refer to the letter by Dr Jeremy Teo Chin Ghee suggesting that the Government should aim to lower property prices across the board (Make lowering property prices a goal; July 22).

I would argue that it would be more appropriate for the Government to aim for sustainable and equitable public housing instead, and leave the private property market to find its own equilibrium.

While Dr Teo's argument for lower property prices across the board is to prevent the creation of a quasi-landed gentry, the fact is that there is already a chasm between and within public housing, mass-market private properties and high-end private properties.

As long as Singapore remains an attractive destination and an open economy, both citizens and foreigners alike will continue to buy a share of our real estate.

Hence, the Government was right in introducing a more hefty Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty for foreign investors, as well as other measures to curb speculation so that our property prices appreciate only gradually.

What the Government should enhance next is its current public housing policies for citizens, as one of its primary goals is to ensure that citizens have quality housing for owner occupation.

Measures that could possibly make public housing affordable, equitable and sustainable include:

 • Reviewing whether public housing should enrich citizens financially, as there are some who leverage all the benefits for personal monetary gain at the expense of taxpayers.

 • Ensuring the sufficient supply of land banks by taking back all leasehold properties at the end of the lease.

 • Ensuring that the supply of public housing meets demands.

With a stable Government, limited land space and continual economic growth, it is only natural that prices of property, especially those on a 999-year lease and freehold status, appreciate over the years. We should take pride in it when it does.

Lee Yong Se

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'Focus on making public housing affordable, equitable'. Print Edition | Subscribe