The Housing & Development Board (HDB) is considering imposing a quota on Permanent Residents buying resale HDB flats. This could be done in the same way that racial quotas are imposed to prevent ethnic enclaves.
The issue came up in a dialogue session on public housing with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew where questions on affordability and aspirations were brought up.
Public housing has come a long way from where it started 50 years ago. Still, issues remain. These include how foreigners are perceived to affect pricing of flats.
Mr Lee said over the next five years, the intake of foreigners will slow down but that means Singaporeans will have to increase their productivity.
Going further, dialogue moderator Professor Tommy Koh asked if more could be done to integrate those already here, in much the same way that the Ethnic Integration Policy was introduced in 1989 in public housing estates to get races mingling.
Mr Lee said: “Could the same approach be adopted towards integrating new Singaporeans? We are not allowing new Singaporeans whether from China, India, Malaysia, or whatever, to congregate in the same tower blocks, which they are already beginning to do.
“They buy second hand flats and they congregate. So we have a record of how many new citizens living where and we keep their numbers dispersed. It’s a very valuable tool of communal harmony.”
HDB later clarified that a quota policy on PRs for resale flats was being considered.
One other issue that came up during the dialogue is that of affordability, which has come up repeatedly. One suggestion was to have HDB provide more rental housing units.
Mr Lee said: ‘I completely disagree with that policy. It will lead us into all kinds of problems. You are getting a dependency group – dependent on the government on constant subsidies, whereas our philosophy is ‘I give you this asset, I will increase the value of the asset as the economy grows but it is yours and you look after it.’ And we do not have run down public housing like other countries which are rental.”
Mr Lee was also asked for his take on a recent media report that at least three opposition parties were eyeing National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan’s ward with the aim of making public housing affordability an election issue.
He explained: “What is affordabilty? From the point of view of the buyer? And the government that is subsidising you? The government has to price it at a level that is fair to the revenue it is collecting and fair to the individual, not only the present buyer but past and future buyers. If Mr Mah is unable to defend himself, he deserves to lose.
“No country in the world has given its citizens and families an asset as valuable as what we have given every family here. And if you say that policy is at fault, you must be daft.”
Mr Lee was speaking before some 500 delegates from 20 countries at a housing conference.
Source: Channel News Asia, 27 Jan 2010