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The Singapore they remember is completely different from the contemporary city-state famous for its pristine streets , sleek buildings and high-end malls. They chat about growing up in kampongs or kampungs , traditional villages of zinc-roofed wooden houses that often had no running water or electricity.
Today, kampongs have almost entirely disappeared in Singapore Credit: Alamy. A push to build public housing began under the British in This process was accelerated after a fire at a kampong in left thousands of people homeless , and deepened government concern about squalid and over-crowded living conditions. Moving into the HDB units was a godsend to them. But others resented having to move.
Lam is referring to the Land Acquisition Act, which came into force the year after Singapore became independent in It enabled the government to acquire land at low cost for housing projects and move people out of the overcrowded city centre. Chuck Hio Soon Huat remembers different emotions.
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Shifting into an HDB flat felt better because it was much cleaner, much more convenient. HDBs were initially available only to rent, but home ownership soon became a national priority propelled by Lee Kuan Yew, who believed it would drive national stability. After decades of intensive building, Singapore now has more than 1 million HDB flats across 23 towns.
Sale prices for new builds Build-To-Order are lower than market value — although there is a waiting period of at least 3 to 4 years before you can move in — and rental stock is heavily subsidised for low income households.
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Safura Ashari, an estate agent who got into the business eight years ago after getting divorced, helps clients find HDB units. The estate is alive with residents despite the tropical rain. We celebrate all the holidays — Hari Raya, Christmas, Diwali. The diversity is not a coincidence — each HDB has to meet strict ethnic quotas.
For estate agents like Ashari, this can prove tricky. The Malay quota was filled and it was a Chinese seller, so you can only sell to Chinese.
go to link Maintaining racial quotas is just one factor in accessing social housing. New HDB flats are only available to married couples.
Singletons must wait until the age of 35 to buy and even then, can only purchase more expensive resale flats rather than new builds. Raymond Yeo, 43, was single when he bought his first home at the requisite age of Now married and looking to upgrade his flat, he has mixed feelings about the system. He liked the original philosophy but feels that some of the criteria for buying an HDB need revisiting.
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