Singaporeans' aspirations and concerns on housing to be discussed: Desmond Lee

Singapore looks forward to planning and providing housing while safeguarding land and resources for future generations. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - How should the Government's commitment to Singaporeans on housing evolve in tandem with changes in society, and what are Singaporeans' aspirations and concerns about public housing?

These are among the questions that need to be discussed as Singapore looks forward to planning and providing housing in the years ahead while safeguarding land and resources for future generations, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Sunday at a public engagement session at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road.

The session is the first in a series kicking off Build - one of the six pillars of the Forward Singapore exercise to forge a new social compact, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June.

Speaking to the 180 members of the public who attended the session, Mr Lee said: "Social compact may sound very high-level, but it's actually very important to talk about our duties and responsibilities, our aspirations and expectations, as these will guide how we use our resources.

"It will then translate into the way we implement our housing policy as a whole, the planning for Singapore's land use, and it will translate to changes along the way."

This is because Singapore's housing policy is a social policy that impacts society and people's lives, rather than just focusing on infrastructure development, Mr Lee said.

Acknowledging that housing is an important topic for Singaporeans, he added: "I know that what's top of mind for you now are construction delays, waiting times for HDB flats, and affordability of housing."

To address immediate challenges, the Housing Board is managing the construction delays and ramping up supply to launch up to 100,000 new flats from 2021 to 2025 to meet housing demands, he said.

Mr Lee said the Government will "continue to keep a close watch" over the property market to ensure it is stable and sustainable.

"Our social compact on housing is not static, has not been and never will be. As our circumstances change and our society evolves, our policies must also evolve constantly to keep pace," he said.

For instance, new policies such as the prime location public housing (PLH) model have been introduced to ensure opportunities for Singaporeans to live in central locations, rather than leaving it to free market forces, which may cause wealth stratification, said Mr Lee.

Another policy that evolved was the Ethnic Integration Policy. While most Singaporeans supported the need for the policy, over time, some families faced constraints when trying to sell their flats, he said.

In response, HDB introduced a policy in March 2022 to allow these owners to sell back their units to HDB, he added.

Minister for National Development Mr Desmond Lee engaging with the public before the start of the public engagement session, on Sept 25, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Changing aspirations, such as seniors who value their independence and would like to live near their children but not with their children, and younger Singaporeans who wish to live apart from their parents at an earlier age, will also be studied as part of the exercise, said Mr Lee.

"Taken together, these aspirations point to growing demand for housing, whether public or private housing, and for different types of housing to meet different needs at different stages of life," he said.

In previous public engagement sessions on the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Long-Term Plan Review, suggestions included further prioritising newly married couples who are first-time home buyers and applying the stringent PLH criteria more widely to ensure affordable public housing, said Mr Lee.

Sunday's session is the first of around 20 public engagements and roadshows that will take place till December.

Roadshows will start on Oct 8 at Woodlands Civic Centre, followed by other locations such as Our Tampines Hub and the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh.

A public poll to gather feedback and suggestions on public housing will run in tandem from Oct 8 till Nov 27.

Retired healthcare worker Richard Wong, 65, who participated in Sunday's session, said one idea floated in his group was to revisit older housing policies that older Singaporeans, such as himself, had benefited from and see if they can be made relevant today.

One example is the now-defunct registration for flats system where flats were built in advance and buyers could select the broad geographical zone of their desired flat location.

"In the 1990s, it took me about three months to get my flat in the west of Singapore. In my younger days, I did not have a problem owning a flat so I empathise with young people today who are finding it hard to get their first home," said Mr Wong.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.