PETALING JAYA: Next month, the local government development ministry will welcome a visit by Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) contractors to share their knowledge on building affordable homes.
Nearly 80% of Singaporeans live in flats administered by the HDB, of which 90% own their own homes, giving HDB flats international recognition as one of the most successful affordable housing models in the world.
FMT takes a closer look at Singapore’s HDB and how it might be able to solve Malaysia’s housing woes.
What is the HDB?
The HDB is a public housing authority established in February 1960 under Singapore’s national development ministry in response to a housing crisis.
Upon its establishment, the HDB’s most urgent task was to provide low-cost public housing to a growing population, particularly low-income groups who lived in high-risk dilapidated housing structures with overcrowded, unsanitary living conditions.
Within its first five years, the HDB launched more than 51,000 housing units and set aside at least 10,000 low-cost flats for low-income groups located near central areas where many in the community worked.
Today, over a million HDB flats have been completed in 23 towns and three estates.
How does the HDB work?
HDB flats were put under different systems to maintain fair allocation, namely the “waiting list system”, the “booking system”, the “registration for flats system” and now, the “build-to-order system” (BTO).
Flats under the BTO system are only constructed once 65% to 70% of the units have been booked, with waiting time going up to four years from the date construction begins.
To build a new flat, the government acquires and develops land to convert it into a residential site. This is how Singaporeans normally have access to affordable flats.
HDB also provides rental flats to lower and middle-income families based on a directive from the ministry.
What can Malaysia learn from HDB contractors?
Local planners can learn how early HDB flats were designed to be simple and utilitarian to optimise space usage and keep costs low. Ease of construction was another important factor back then as homes had to be completed quickly to re-house those who were still living in unhygienic squatter settlements.
Former deputy housing and local government minister Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah noted that HDB’s “vast experience” in public housing, especially for the middle and lower income groups, would benefit Malaysia.
He also said that learning to control land prices was a key lesson Malaysia could learn from HDB.
Land that HDB apartments are built on is owned by the government over a 99-year lease period, thus reducing land acquisition costs, which results in more affordable housing.