"Mon, Dec 14, 2009 - my paper Expect taller, high-quality flats called The Pinnacle@Duxton
MM Lee said: 'Singaporeans can expect to have more high quality and greater height HDB flats as long as Singapore economy continue to grow. Also, it is important to have an immigrant society to have its people establish a stake or a root through owning properties.' "
This project was mooted by MM Lee and it got done without exception. The strategy is very clear from day 1 that the government wants Singaporeans to own property in Singapore so that they have a stake in the country. It is a very good vision and make a lot of sense. At the same time, when the people feels that they can NO LONGER afford to own a property in Singapore, that is where their frustration spilled over. The property prices have spiralled upwards at blinding speed in this country over the last 2 years despite the worst global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of the USA property mortgage credit house of cards. The key reason was attributed to foreigners buying in Singapore. Foreigners with the money to buy Singapore properties and drove the prices beyond many locally born and bred Singaporeans, especially the younger ones.
Lessons for me are:
1. the broad strategy is definitely the right thing to pursue. It is important to create a sense of ownership in the nation with owning a piece of property in the nation;
2. the tricky bit becomes what is affordability and what is the main purpose of owning a property that is NOT for investment? The answers have to be: a). no one would need to pay for a mortgage over 2 or 3 generations like certain country in Asia; b). owning a property to stay in and grow a family should not be something to make money from like many owners want to believe that their property prices can only go up. Disregarding the many booms and busts cycles many have gone through in the last 30-40 years! Those who entered at the tail end of each bubble suffered tremendously, which is always the majority;
3. there is clearly a need to help the locally born and bred Singaporeans own a flat and at the same time prevent them from profiteering from re-selling it. There is also a need to balance the need to raise state revenue via sale of land and properties vs. helping locals own their 1st property to live in.
I hope that while we have higher quality public housing, let's not make it so expensive that only the state and the developers benefit from the super-profit generated. Let's hope that the people are giving a fair shake. Let's hope that the government 'influenced' the people that the non-investment property is not an instrument to make profit but just a stake in the country.
Finally, do we really need to have higher quality and higher price public housing to show progress?