What are the Different Housing Types in Singapore?

Housing type is whether a unit is government-subsidized or not, as well as the extent of government subsidies. You have to understand that Singapore is operating on two levels.

Public housing scheme and Private property market

On the surface, it's very tempting to think that Singapore is the hub of freewheeling capitalism in Southeast Asia, if not the whole world. How come?

Singapore ranked as one of the most accessible places to do business. Think about that for a second.

Given the over 200 countries in the world and the thousands upon thousands of cities in the world, Singapore comes out at the top when it comes to doing business. They're able to do this year after year, and almost decade after decade.

That's how capitalism friendly and business-friendly Singapore is. Very few jurisdictions on the planet have this great mix of ease of doing business, less government regulation, and low taxes.

Indeed, very few cities or jurisdictions could even come close to what Singapore has reached in terms of growth. It's no surprise that Singapore is greatly rewarded for it. We're talking about billions of dollars of private foreign direct investments in this Southeast Asian lion city.

This has created a fantastic job market. It has also propelled Singapore's living standards to a very high degree. We're talking about Singapore, the only first-world country in Southeast Asia.

If you come from Manhattan, New York, or Los Angeles, the west side, or any other highly developed part of the world, you would feel right at home. All the First World amenities that you've grown accustomed to, you can find in this country. Sounds incredible, right?

It has another side as well, which most people don't know. Believe it or not, Singapore is heavily subsidized because its public housing accounts for around 80% of all housing units.

When told this exciting fact, a lot of people are flat out confounded because they are just so impressed with what I told you earlier about Singapore.

In their minds, Singapore's housing subsidies almost sounds like socialism, which is kind of hard to square with Singapore's freewheeling capitalistic culture. Everything screams capitalism. What's going on?

It has to do with the fact that the Singapore government has to deal with market realities. If it required everyday rank-and-file Singaporeans to buy their homes in the free market, most people, as much as they would like to, will not be able to.

They just simply don't have enough money. Since given the tremendous amount of demand for real estate in Singapore, real estate prices are just out of reach for the lots of Singaporean.

This is where the government steps in. They built a lot of well designed, beautiful looking public housing.

Usually, when you hear the term "public housing" and you're from the United States or even Australia, or Europe, you start thinking of buildings with faded paint or cracking concrete. You think of crime. You think about the wrong side of town, or the people forced to live in these areas. You think of frustrated people. That's the typical mental image that a lot of people have about public housing.

That's very different in Singapore. Singapore also has another rule when it comes to public housing. While the government will not hesitate to subsidize a public housing building, it will do so only if the resident is the owner.

In other words, they encourage an ownership mentality. This is the reason why public housing in Singapore doesn't look like public housing pretty much everywhere else. You don't see graffiti. You don't see seemingly bombed-out looking buildings.

People don't set fire to the buildings because they don't care. That's the kind of mentality you get when people are not owners of the property.

Early on, the authorities in Singapore figured out that when people own their unit, although the government heavily subsidizes it, they tend to take better care of it. There is such a thing as the pride of ownership.

This is what's so awesome about Singapore housing. It kind of defies all the standard rules of real estate markets throughout the rest of the world. With that out of the way, here is the quick breakdown of the housing types in Singapore

Public Housing Scheme

The housing development board (HDB) governs our public housing. The typically offered units are studio units, two to five-bedroom flats. There are also housing types called the three-generation apartments where an extended family could live. The government also subsidizes exclusive flats.

Finally, the government will help you design, build, and sell your unit. It is quite impressive, the array of selections as far as housing goes and it's all government-subsidized.

Want to know how some best HDB looks like? The Pinnacle@Duxton is a 50-storey residential development in Singapore's city center, next to the business district. All seven connected towers are collectively the world's tallest public residential buildings. Pinnacle@Duxton was conferred the 2010 Best Tall Building (Asia and Australasia) award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, as well as the 2011 Urban Land Institute's Global Awards for Excellence.

Pinnacle @Duxton - HDB in Singapore
Pinnacle @Duxton - HDB in Singapore

Private-public housing projects

Increasingly, Singapore has been exploring private-public arrangements. These are usually involved in Executive Condominium.

Executive Condominium, or EC, is a type of public housing in Singapore. First built in 1999, EC is a hybrid of public and private housing. They resemble private condominiums and are enclosed within a gated compound with security, amenities like swimming pools, clubhouses, playgrounds and so forth. EC are built and sold by private developers, but at a price lower than private homes because their land prices are subsidised by the Government. Additionally, buyers can take Central Provident Fund (CPF) grants to pay for an EC bought from a developer. As such, an EC is subject to certain regulations that apply to Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats. Buyers' monthly household income must not exceed $16,000, in order to qualify for an EC.

So far, it's been working because there's been a lot of demand for executive condominium.

Piermont Grand Executive Condominium

Fully private properties

For this type, there's absolutely no government funding, and it's all free market. The downside to this, of course, is that since it is market-driven, the units are quite expensive.

Guess what? The price is not sinking. It almost always keeps trending upward. That's how popular Singapore real estate units are.

What are we talking about here? We're talking about apartments, condominiums as well as landed properties.

If you are thinking of getting a landed property, they are available in bungalow units, cluster units, townhouses, high-class bungalow, sharp house, and terrace or semi-detached buildings.

Penrose Condominium