Last week's Budget underlined what has long been the bedrock of social planning in Singapore. This is that public housing is not only about putting a collective roof over people's heads but is also about ensuring the transmission of practices and institutions that can sustain society's ability to reproduce its values and structures. The enhanced Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will strengthen financial support for family members who wish to live with or near one another. For families buying a resale flat to live with their parents or children, the PHG has been raised to $30,000, while those buying a resale flat near their parents or children will continue to receive a PHG of $20,000. This move reflects the usefulness of supply-side measures in producing desired social outcomes. In this case, the objective is to keep families together as far as possible.
In a sense, Singapore is coming back full circle to the times when married children habitually lived with the their parents because of the shortage and prices of alternative housing. That familial environment, of course, was not always ideal when space was cramped and personal dynamics took on a daily life of their own. What is different now is that proximity is becoming a matter not of necessity but of choice. Affordability being a critical factor in housing decisions, the enhanced PHG seeks to make it financially easier for families to live together or close enough. It also eases earlier criteria by clarifying that nearness means living within 4km. This opens up a larger pool of resale flats to choose from.