S'pore resident population in HDB flats falls to 3.04m

It dips for first time since 2003; number of households still rising but their sizes are shrinking

The number of Singapore residents living in Housing Board flats has dipped for the first time since 2003, with household sizes shrinking even as the number of HDB households continued to climb.

A total of 3.04 million Singapore residents - or close to eight in 10 Singapore residents - lived in HDB flats in 2018, as compared with 3.06 million in 2013.

They made up 1.01 million households, up from 0.91 million five years earlier, according to the latest HDB Sample Household Survey, which is conducted once every five years.

The report, which surveyed about 7,800 HDB households in 2018, tackled issues related to public housing, ranging from residents' housing aspirations to their family ties and aspirations.

With fewer extended families living together, the size of household units living in HDB flats shrunk, with an average of 3.1 people per household in 2018, down from 3.4 in 2013 and 2008.

This could also be due to more residents upgrading to private property, said Ms Christine Sun, OrangeTee & Tie's senior vice-president of research and analytics.

MORE SINGLE HOUSEHOLDS

The proportion of single households has grown to 11.9 per cent, up from 8.4 per cent in 2013.

This was due to a relaxation in HDB's rules, which allowed eligible singles to buy two-room Build-To-Order flats in non-mature estates from 2013, as well as Singapore's ageing population, HDB said in a press release.

The findings showed that living in proximity facilitated family interaction, caregiving and the provision of support, added HDB.

About four in five of younger married residents aged 54 and below who lived in close proximity to their parents visited their parents, or vice versa, at least once a week. In comparison, about three in five of those in the same group who lived elsewhere in Singapore did so.

HDB will continue to support extended families who wish to live with or near one another, the spokesman said. The Government will also be launching a series of conversations for people to share views on marriage and parenthood, and whether these have changed following Covid-19, so that policies can better support families.

Among the one-person households in 2018, 47.5 per cent comprise elderly aged 65 and above, and 45.5 per cent are singles.

A growing proportion of younger married couples are now choosing to live near their parents, either in close proximity or in a nearby estate. About 45 per cent of those aged 54 and below chose to do so in 2018, up from about 43 per cent in 2013.

The findings show that housing policies have to evolve to cater to changing lifestyle and social aspirations, said observers. For instance, the trend towards smaller household sizes and single households indicates that more younger couples and singles have a desire for personal space and privacy, said OrangeTee & Tie's Ms Sun.

While household sizes are shrinking, Mr Nicholas Mak, ERA Realty's head of research and consultancy, hopes that this does not mean that HDB will reduce the size of flats, as larger flats allow Singaporeans to maintain or upgrade their quality of life. The trend towards working from home in the wake of the pandemic will also mean that people will require more space, he added.

GREYING HDB POPULATION

The HDB population is also greying, with about one in six HDB residents aged 65 and above, up from one in 13 in 2003. The median age of the HDB resident population has increased from 34 in 2003 to 42 in 2018.

About 86 per cent of elderly households said they want to continue living in their existing flat, citing reasons such as comfort and a sense of attachment to the flat. This figure is up from about 80 per cent in 2013.

Even if they need assistance with daily living activities, a larger proportion still wanted to continue living in their own homes. About three in five said they wanted to do so, with family members, domestic workers or professionals supporting their caregiving needs, up from about 46 per cent in 2013.

Should the need arise, more than four in 10 were also willing to stay at assisted living facilities, which will give them access to professional medical and nursing care.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore resident population in HDB flats falls to 3.04m'. Subscribe