The public housing market is being shaken up in Singapore. The government believes that it is getting out of control and I agree. It is. I read about this shake up this morning in the Singapore Straits Times.
My Saturday morning ritual is to ride my bike down to the Seven Eleven in Novena where I buy the Singaporean newspaper which is the Straits Times. I then ride over to the Spinellis Coffee shop in the Novena Square shopping centre where I park outside. On Sunday mornings I ride to Starbucks and I take a book to read.
My Saturday morning breakfast is always the same. I order a double shot vanilla latte with one sugar in a short cup. I eat two slices of tuna and tomato on rye bread. Un-toasted and hold the capers. I don't like capers. It is both delicious and nutritious. I sometimes have a second coffee or a freshly squeezed orange juice and I try and sit at the same table every Saturday.
I am a creature of habit.
The article I read this morning was headlined "New HDB flats to become cheaper". It was on the front page. HDB is an acronym for Housing Development Board. These high rise housing blocks are government built and they are sold to Singaporean citizens at subsidized rates.
If you are Australian think Housing Commission flats. If you are English think Housing Estates. If you are American just try and think - not thoughts of invading and killing and blowing things up. You were once a great nation of thinkers and doers and you can be again.
Get your shit together.
Imagine these monoliths without the graffiti, gangs, violence or drugs for none of these are allowed in Singapore. They are not permitted. They are illegal. Many things are illegal here in Singapore. It is a zero tolerance country. I am mostly now a law abider. I sometimes still challenge it a bit but I ultimately respect the Law and Authority. Now that I am older. I wasn't so respectful when I was younger but I have no problem now with this zero tolerance administration.
None at all.
The Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a man of action and he is arguably one of the world's great politicians. He has steered Singapore through both global financial crises with relative ease. Singapore is now one of world's economic powerhouses. This is despite its tiny size and irrespective of its lack of natural resources. Prime Minister Lee is also a man of great vision and compassion and he has an admirable track record of achievement.
Mr. Lee believes that every Singaporean has an entitlement to have a roof over their heads. He believes that every Singaporean should be able to own their own home and as a result there are very few homeless in this country.
Mr. Khaw is the Singaporean Minister of Housing. In the article in this morning's newspaper he is quoted as saying,
"The Singaporean dream of owning their own homes, like their parents, is safe. We will make sure of that".
The HDB prices have however crept up in price in recent years and there is a shortage too. A chronic one. Waiting lists are now very long.
Scarcity always breeds desire and desire always comes at a cost.
Mr. Lee and his government are endeavoring to address this situation by building more and more HDB flats. They are in a building frenzy. In the proposal that was announced this morning there will be a priority given to young families for the new HDB flats that are being constructed. There is a generous allocation too for widows and divorced women with kids. I think this is nice and I believe that it is appropriate. Low income families earning less than $5000 a month will also move to the top of the waiting list.
Most of us Westerners over here pay more than $5000 a month just for our rent and many pay a lot more. Our incomes are also very generous and the tax that we pay is negligible. It is mostly a life of comfort and opulence for we Westerners. We don't live in HDB blocks though. We live in privately owned condominiums equipped with gymnasiums and swimming pools and tennis courts. They are very nice but they are also very expensive. Singapore rents are the third highest in the world. It is more expensive to live here than London or New York or Sydney. Only Tokyo and Moscow are more expensive.
Who would have thought?
I have been to quite a few HDB apartments before to visit my Singaporean friends. The blocks themselves are quite plain on the outside but they all have very nice interiors. They often have marble floors and they are spacious and breezy. They are very well serviced and maintained.
Singaporeans in their late twenties and thirties mostly live at home with their parents and often their grandparents live there as well. These young Singaporeans are waiting for their own HDB apartments to become available. It would seem like their waiting time will soon be reduced.
I hope so for their sake.
Everyone needs their own place to call home.