For six in 10 HDB owners, home is still their first flat

FOR more than 13 years, Mr Chan Chi Ki, 53, has lived in a three- room ground-floor Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh Lorong 3 – the only home he has owned.

In front of his flat is a little garden he tends with his wife, where they grow bonsai and hang out their laundry to dry.

Behind is an open grassy space where his 13-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter play daily.

“We love this neighbourhood, it’s close to the MRT, town centre. It’s very convenient,” said Mr Chan, who works in a jewellery shopin Chinatown.

Nodding in agreement, his wife, Madam Ng Lai Kun, 42, said: “You walk out and whatever you want, it’s there.”

Like the family, a majority of Singaporeans are staying put in their first HDB homes. Six in 10 owners, or 61 per cent, still live in their first flats, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post yesterday.

“Our first HDB flat, which for most Singaporeans is often also our first home, occupies a special place in our heart.

“This is where we build our family, bring up our children and from where we build our network of neighbours and close friends,” he wrote.

He added that unlike other cities where most people rent their homes and move often, HDB’s Home Ownership for the People Scheme allows Singaporeans to stay put in one place.

The scheme was introduced in 1964 when the Housing Board began to sell flats. It aims to encourage home ownership among Singaporeans, and provide financial security and a sense of belonging.

“The stability allows us to build deep community ties and lasting friendship and memories,” Mr Khaw wrote.

Among the 26 HDB towns and estates, the Tanjong Pagar-Chinatown-Bugis area had 77 per cent of its flat owners living in their first units.

Other “high-scorers” include Marine Parade with 74 per cent, Kallang-Whampoa with 68 per cent, Bukit Timah and Geylang with 67 per cent each, and Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Punggol and Serangoon with 66 per cent each.

Mr Khaw cited the central location and comprehensive facilities as some factors that contributed to residents staying put in mature estates.

“Knowing that the majority of Singaporeans will live in their first HDB flat for most, if not all, of their lives, we have to make sure that we put in our best to make all HDB towns an endearing town and all HDB flats a lovely home,” he wrote. “This is our promise. This is our pledge.”

Toa Payoh resident Raj Duraisamy, 44, has lived in his three-room flat for seven years and does not intend to move.

“It’s old, but if you look at the inside, it’s okay,” the safety manager said of his unit, which is more than 40 years old.

“A flat so central nowadays is hard to find,” said Mr Raj, who lives with his wife and sons Alan, 11, and Alvin, six.

Living in one of Singapore’s earliest housing estates also bears a certain charm for him.

“There’s a kampung feel here, there are many aged people so things are slower and neighbours here are more friendly.”

But while the Chans also love their flat, they would prefer to move into a bigger unit if they could. “We want to live in Toa Payoh, but demand for flats here is too high and the flats are too expensive,” said Mr Chan.