Housing policy had its origins in the experiences of the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. A student in Britain, he saw first-hand that when public housing was rented, tenants treated the property without the same level of care as owners would. Thus, early on in Singapore's public housing journey, as soon as the economic conditions permitted it, the Housing Board moved decisively to promote widespread ownership of flats, funded largely by Central Provident Fund savings. The outcome was very much as Mr Lee envisioned it. Over eight in 10 Singaporeans live in public housing today, the vast majority of whom own their flats. Public estates are well-maintained because residents with a sense of ownership over their neighbourhoods behave as owners would. None of this is rocket science. The same behavioural differences can be seen in, say, how people treat their own cars vis-a-vis a rental car.
There was a further benefit Mr Lee sought from promoting ownership. The feeling of "having a stake" extended beyond the neighbourhood to the nation. A property-owning electorate is in a very different state of mind. They seek stable, long-term growth for the country, and are prepared to fight and defend it. For a young, largely immigrant nation, this was vital, and arguably enabled other policies that secured Singapore's future, such as National Service.