Source: britannica.com

It’s no secret that Singapore has a land scarcity issue. Yet some way and somehow, we’ve managed to house 5.7 million people in our tiny red dot. From cosy one-bedders to bungalows, one could say we’re spoilt for choice (that is if our bank accounts permit). 

In this guide, we’ll be exploring the different types of housing in Singapore’s public and private spheres, and what each category has to offer.

Residential Properties in Singapore

CategoryTypes of Housing
Public (HDB)2-room flexi flat, 3-room flat, 4-room flat, 5-room flat, 3Gen flat, Executive flat, Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat, executive maisonette, jumbo flat, HDB terrace house 
Public-Private HybridExecutive condominium (EC)
PrivateCondominium, Apartment, Terrace, Semi-detached, Cluster, Townhouse, Shophouse, Bungalow, Good Class Bungalow (GCB), Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flat 

Public Housing (HDB)

Source: istock

Public housing in Singapore is managed by the state’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), hence their flats commonly termed ‘HDBs’. Over 80% of Singapore’s population live in an HDB flat.

HDB flats can be sold as new units in Build-To-Order (BTO) launches, or as resale HDB flats, which are sold in the secondary market.

Pro: Affordable Housing

These units are sold by the government on a 99-year and are heavily subsidised. Coupled with various grants and priority schemes available for application on purchase, HDB flats are within easy reach for the majority of Singaporeans. 

Con: More Restrictions To Follow

With that in mind, these substantially cheaper housing options come with many restrictions. For instance, such units can only be purchased by households with an average monthly income of $7,000 to $14,000 ($16,000 for executive condo and $21,000 if applying as a multi-generational family). Families buying must include a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).

Buyers of HDB properties also need to comply with a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years, during which the unit cannot be sold or rented out entirely.

For those who are looking to rent or rent out their HDB flat, there is also a minimum rental period of six months. HDB flats can only be rented out to SCs, SPRs or non-citizens who have Employment Passes, S Passes, Work Permits, Student Passes, Dependant Passes, or Long-Term Social Visit Passes with validity of at least six months. Tourists are not permitted to rent a HDB flat.

HDB flats come in various sizes, catering to families and individuals with varying needs:

HDB Flat TypeSize (per square metre)
2-Room Flexi36 sqm (Type 1), 45 sqm (Type 2)
3-Room60 to 65 sqm
4-Room90 to 93 sqm
5-Room110 to 112 sqm
3GenUp to 115 sqm
Executive FlatUp to 130 sqm
Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flatUp to 120 sq m
Executive maisonetteUp to 214 sq m
Jumbo flatUp to 170 sq m
HDB terrace houseUp to 178 sq m

1. 2-Room Flexi

Previously, the Housing Board offered studio apartments, which are just similar in layout and sizes to 2-Room flats, but these come with leases of 30 years and 99 years respectively. Subsequently, both were combined into the 2-Room Flexi flat.

Seniors age 55 and above have the option of buying such a property with leases of 15 to 45 years (in five-year increments), as long as the tenures extend until the buyer and their spouse reach at least 95 years old.

For first-timer singles above 35 years old, as well as families buying their first or second HDB flat, they are allowed to purchase 2-Room Flexi flats with a 99-year lease.

2-Room Flexi flats come in two sizes – Type 1 measures 36 sqm (387.5 sq ft), while Type 2 is about 45 sqm (484.4 sq ft). This unit is intended for the elderly and smaller households with lower budgets. 

Most recently, HDB introduced the Community Care Apartments in the February 2021 Build-To-Order (BTO) launch. These 2-Room Flexi units come with a subscription-based service package to assist elderly residents in communal living. These units are exclusively for individuals aged 65 and above. 

Unsurprisingly, these units are also significantly more affordable than private condos with one or two bedrooms.

Flat Features:

2. 3-Room

This unit is a practical option for households who have limited financial resources and ideally, a small family. This is because there are two bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. Layout sizes are about 60 sqm (645.8 sq ft) to 65 sqm (699.6 sq ft).

Flat Features:

3. 4-Room

This unit is suited for couples who are set to become parents as it provides flexible and comfortable living space of approximately 90 sqm (968.8 sq ft) to 93 sqm (1,001 sq ft). It is equipped with three bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom.

Flat Features:

4. 5-Room

This spacious unit measuring approximately 110 sqm (1,184 sq ft) to 112 sqm (1,205 sq ft) is perfect for larger families as it features three bedrooms, of which one is a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

Flat Features:

5. 3Gen

The forward-thinking HDB introduced this unit to cater to multi-generational families. At 115 sq m or 1,237.8 sq ft, this unit is the second largest among the flats currently offered by the Housing Board, and has the most number of rooms. These include four bedrooms, of which two have ensuite bathrooms.

Both new and resale 3Gen flats can only be purchased by multi-generational families, comprising married/engaged couples and parents, or widow/divorcee with kids and parents. The applicant couple must be qualified to buy a flat under the Public Scheme. If purchasing with parents, one of them must be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident (PR).

Please note that if buying with parents, no one in the nucleus family can own any other properties in Singapore or abroad, and their income will be taken into account to check that your family doesn’t surpass the income ceiling ($21,000). 

3Gen flats were first launched by HDB at Yishun in 2013.

Flat Features:

6. Executive flat

At 130 sq m or 1,399.3 sq ft, this is the biggest among the flats currently available at the Housing Board. It has three bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. It comes with additional space for a study room, while some have a balcony.

Flat Features:

7. DBSS Flats

Flat features:

In 2005, the Housing Board introduced the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units, which are public housing built by private developers.

Like executive condominiums (EC), which we will cover in a while, these were targeted for the sandwiched class who can purchase better homes than HDB flats but are not ready to buy private properties.

However, the DBSS scheme was suspended indefinitely in July 2011 due to public outrage over Sim Lian Group setting the five-room prices at Centrale 8 to $880,000, which is expensive for most middle-class families. Notably, HDB cannot control the pricing of such units.

Singaporeans also complained that Centrale 8 was badly designed, with buildings packed like sardines and unit sizes smaller than 90 sq m to 110 sq m for HDB flats.

Prices of five-roomers at the development was subsequently reduced to $778,000, but the five DBSS sites tendered before the scheme was suspended yielded five-roomers sold for about $700,000.

Another scandal occurred in March 2012, when the Clementi Ridges BTO project was found to be 20-25% cheaper than the nearby Trivelis DBSS development. The latter’s buyers fumed as they were not aware that a more affordable BTO will be built in the vicinity and wasted their hard-earned money buying at Trivelis.

Overall, 13 DBSS projects were launched with a total of around 8,650 units before it was suspended indefinitely. 

Unlike ECs and HUDC flats, there is currently no option to privatise DBSS units.

8. Executive maisonette

Flat Features:

HDB executive maisonettes are a type of HDB flat that are no longer in production, and were replaced by the executive condominium (EC) scheme. As such, there is a limited supply of executive maisonettes left in Singapore, mostly in mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Pasir Ris, Queenstown, Serangoon and Sembawang.

9. Jumbo flat

Flat features:

In the 1990s, there was an oversupply of HDB flats in remote areas such as Yishun and Woodlands.

At that time, these estates were not blessed with nearby conveniences and amenities. As such, HDB had trouble selling these HDB flats.

To entice Singaporeans to purchase these public housing in remote estates and to deal with a large number of unsold units, HDB merged many of the HDB units into one, which effectively gave birth to jumbo HDB flats. HDB later launched such homes for sale in mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Bedok, Hougang, Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Tampines.

Jumbo HDB flats typically measure from 133.96 sq m to 170 sq m (approx. 1,442 sq ft to 1,830 sq ft) as they’re a combination of two flats – either a three-room or four-room flats. Consequently, they contain at least seven rooms with huge living spaces (at least compared to HDB sizes), and some jumbo HDB flats have balconies.

10. HDB Terrace House

Flat features:

HDB terrace houses were built in the 1950s by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). SIT is the predecessor of HDB and took care of public housing before HDB was born. In total, 285 HDB terrace houses were built in Whampoa and Queenstown area. Each of them has about 900 sq ft of living space that spans across two storeys.

When HDB came into existence, they took over the HDB terrace houses from SIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was when the HDB terrace houses were issued with a fresh 99-year lease. 

Public-Private Hybrid

This hybrid class of housing was introduced to offer buyers the affordability of a bigger space or better facilities than the regular HDB flat.

The biggest incentive for purchasing a unit like this is the fact that they will eventually be privatised. In other words, the purchaser gets to buy a government-subsidised flat and sell it as a private property in the open market when the time comes. Needless to say, these apartments can be highly sought-after, especially if they are located near good amenities. 

Executive Condominiums (EC)

Executive condominiums (EC) are private-public properties developed to cater “sandwich class” Singaporeans. These homes are intended for Singaporeans who are not allowed to buy HDB flats due to surpassing the income limit, but are also unable to afford private residential properties.

In fact, the monthly income ceiling to be allowed to buy ECs is $16,000, compared to $7,000 to $14,000 for new HDB flats. A fusion of public and private housing, ECs are constructed and sold by private home builders, but are more affordable as their land cost is partly funded by the government. 

In addition, applicants can utilise CPF grants to help offset the price of ECs, which come with amenities similar to that of private condos. These include a gym, clubhouse, swimming pools and gated security.

But like buyers of new HDB flats, purchasers of new ECs need to fulfil a MOP of five years, during which the unit cannot be leased out entirely or disposed of.

After five years, it can be sold in the open market to PRs or Singapore citizens. After 10 years, it can be sold to overseas nationals unlike HDB flats. However, ECs only come with a leasehold tenure of 99 years.

Private Properties

On the opposite spectrum of HDB are private houses, which are significantly more expensive than HDB flats, but come with fewer restrictions.

For instance, private properties can be rented out for at least three months to short-term visitors, while HDB flats have a minimum rental period of six months. Most private properties can be divested to foreigners, while HDB flats can only be sold to SC and SPRs.

Private residential properties are generally divided into two types, namely landed and non-landed residences.

Non-Landed Property

These are essentially strata properties where home owners don’t own the land under the development. This category consists of private condominiums and apartments.

1. Private Condominiums

Source: esingaporeproperty.sg

These are like ECs but are privately-owned from the start. These typically come with many amenities like gated security, gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities, among others. Tenures are either freehold or 99-year leasehold.

Private condos and apartments are considered the least expensive among private housing compared to landed properties. It is no surprise that most people looking to upgrade from their HDB flats will turn to private condos.

2. Apartments

These properties are like private condominiums, but are typically part of smaller residential projects. As such, these come with fewer amenities and facilities than private condominiums. Apartments are usually less expensive than private condos and landed housing, but are still pricier than HDB flats.

There is also a sub-category known as walk-up apartments. These low-rise properties don’t have elevators, but can be accessed via stairs. That’s why it’s called walk-up apartments.

Landed Property

Having a landed house means owning the land where the property stands on. In land-scarce Singapore this is no easy feat as such homes are among the most expensive residential properties here and only the well-off can afford them. Despite their high maintenance and property tax, these dwellings boast huge layouts, in addition to their exclusivity and privacy.

The different kinds of landed housing in Singapore include semi-detached house, terraced homes, cluster house, townhouses, shophouses, bungalow and Good Class Bungalow (GCB).

1. Semi-Detached 

A semi-detached home (semi-D) is a single family landed residence that shares a common wall with another house. Typically, the pair of adjoining dwellings have similar layouts and external appearances.

2. Terraced Homes

Also called row houses, terraced houses are like Semi-Ds. But instead of two side-by-side houses, there are rows of numerous identical houses that share walls.

3. Cluster Houses

These are landed residences that have been grouped together or clustered together, so that homeowners can share facilities like a gym and swimming pools. Cluster projects can consist of terraced houses, semi-detached, and bungalows, with shared amenities. Such a set-up blends the privacy and spaciousness of landed housing with the convenience of condo facilities.

4. Townhouses

This is a fusion between a landed home and a private condominium. It has the attributes of a terraced home, but shares communal facilities like gyms and swimming pools with residents of other units. Aside from being roomy, Townhouses offer privacy and convenience thanks to its many amenities.

5. Shophouses

Heritage shophouses are prized properties in Singapore due to their rarity and historical importance. These cannot be demolished due to conservation rules, and there are strict regulations in renovating them. More importantly, only a few are put up for sale and these can fetch millions.

Basically, these are terraced houses, with the first floor intended for commercial purposes, while the upper floors may be used for offices, hotels or residences. The pieces of land on which shophouses are built on are usually zoned as commercial. Conservation shophouses are often freehold or 999-year leasehold. These are located mainly in Katong, Emerald Hill, Little India and Chinatown.

6. Bungalow

With a land area ranging from 400 sqm (4,305.56 sq ft) to 1,400 sqm (15,069.48 sq ft), this is the smaller and less pricier version of the Good Class Bungalow (GCB), but it is still expensive.

This is either a one or two-storey stand-alone home that does not share a wall with another property, ensuring the privacy of its residents.

7. Good Class Bungalow (GCB)

Considered as the homes of the rich and famous in Singapore, good class bungalows, or GCBs, are among the most luxurious residential properties here and command the highest prices as well.

With a land area of over 1400 sq m (15,069.48 sq ft), these posh mansions feature huge gardens and swimming pools, plus a plethora of high-end features that a millionaire or billionaire could want.

8. Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC)

The predecessors of DBSS units are flats built by Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC). First built in 1974, these properties are also intended for Singaporean families who cannot afford private properties but can purchase dwellings better than HDB flats.

HUDC units boast spacious interiors, with the first units to be built spanning 139 sqm to 158 sqm. These also came with better amenities than HDB flats, such as landscaped grounds and covered parking space.

The scheme ended in 1984 due to declining demand for such homes. Nonetheless, 18 HUDC projects totalling 7,731 units have been built. Then in 1995, the authorities allowed HUDC developments to be privatised as long as 75% of the residents consented. By 2017, all 18 HUDC projects were privatised.

As such, when talking about HUDC in today’s context, we’re actually referring to ex-HUDC flats. 

(Adopted from propertyguru.com.sg)

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