Evolution of public housing in Singapore
Evolution of public housing in Singapore
The ‘what’ and ‘whys’ of public housing policies and schemes.
min read Published on 09 Jun 2020


Singapore’s public housing plans have evolved over the years, with the Government constantly working to meet the population’s needs.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said earlier this year that we are not done building Singapore. “It’s a single-minded commitment and mission to keep building and improving our city,” he said.

Let’s look at how this has been done.


  • The Housing & Development Board was set up in 1960. After 3 years, the HDB had built over 31,000 more flats, all of which had piped water and clean sanitation.
  • The Home Ownership for the People Scheme was introduced in 1964, to enable Singaporeans to buy flats with basic amenities at affordable prices. Home ownership gave citizens a tangible asset and a stake in nation-building. There are now more than one million HDB flats, home to about 80% of resident households. Of these, 9 in 10 own their homes.

  • Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) Launched in 1992, it made improvements to the blocks, individual units, and the precinct’s surroundings. The programme was absorbed under the Home Improvement Programme and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme in 2007.


  • Home Improvement Programme (HIP) HIP replaced the MUP in 2007. Targeted at flats around 30 years old, it helps residents with common maintenance problems such as spalling concrete and upgrading electrical loads. It also offers optional improvements such as the upgrading of bathrooms, grille gates, and doors. In 2018, a second round of HIP was announced to upgrade flats as they reach the 60- to 70-year mark. This will start in about 10 years.


  • Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) While HIP focuses on improvements within the flat, NRP focuses on precinct- and block-level improvements. Possible enhancement works include new seating area at void decks, drop-off porches, covered linkways, playgrounds and jogging tracks.


  • Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) Launched in 2007, the initiative is a comprehensive blueprint to revitalise selected HDB towns and estates. Possible revitalisation works include rejuvenating the neighbourhood centres, improving connectivity, and increasing greenery and accessibility to nature. 13 towns across Singapore have since been selected for ROH.

  • Early Redevelopment The Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) was launched in 1995 to renew selected older estates with high redevelopment potential. Residents are compensated and offered replacement housing at designated sites. The estates are then demolished and redeveloped to optimise the use of land. However, sites eligible for SERS are limited and most have already been done. As we will still need to progressively renew our older towns to keep them vibrant, the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) was announced in 2018. It will offer precincts the chance to vote on whether to take up the Government’s offer to buy back flats when they are aged 70 years or older. It will be launched in about 20 years’ time. 

  • Various sales modes There are different sales modes to cater to buyers with different needs and timelines. Home seekers can apply for a new flat through the quarterly Build-To-Order (BTO) sales exercises, which started in 2001. They can also apply for a balance flat through the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises held twice a year, which started in Oct 2009. Alternatively, since Jun 2019, they can apply for a flat online through the open booking of flats, and select a flat as early as the next working day.


  • CPF housing grants Since Sep 2019, first-timer families buying a new flat from HDB can enjoy up to $80,000 in the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG). Those purchasing resale HDB flats can receive up to double, or $160,000 (including the CPF Housing Grant, EHG, and Proximity Housing Grant for those who live with or near to their parents for mutual care and support). First-timer singles similarly receive support of up to $40,000 when buying a new flat, or up to $80,000 when buying a resale flat.


  • Priority schemes Since 2013, first-timer married couples with or expecting children get a higher chance of being balloted for a new HDB flat under the Parenthood Priority Scheme. Another scheme, the Married Child Priority Scheme (implemented in 2002), helps a married child and his or her parents to live with or near each other, by improving their chances when balloting for a new flat.

  • 2-room Flexi flats These flats were launched in 2015 to better cater to the diverse housing needs of families, singles and seniors. It merges and replaces the previous 2-room flat and Studio Apartment (SA) schemes. Seniors aged 55 and above have the option to buy a 2-room Flexi flat on a short lease of between 15 to 45 years, as long as it covers them and their spouses to the age of at least 95 years. These flats are equipped with design features specially for seniors.


  • Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) The LBS was introduced in 2009 as an additional option for seniors to monetise their flat. Under the LBS, elderly flat owners aged 65 years and above retain sufficient lease to cover them till at least age 95, and can sell the remaining lease back to HDB. Seniors have to use part of their LBS proceeds to top up their CPF Retirement Account, and join CPF LIFE, to receive monthly payouts for life.


  • Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) Launched in 2012, this scheme helps elderly residents install items like slip-resistant tiles and grab bars in the flat to improve their comfort and mobility.


  • Assisted Living Flats These flats will be twinned with services to help seniors aged 65 and above age in place independently. Assisted Living Flats are designed to promote communal living and foster closer relations among residents.

  • Punggol Eco-town In 2010, it was announced that Punggol would be developed as a residential project that focussed on sustainable living through effective energy, water and waste management. It’s also home to Punggol Waterway, a 4.2km manmade water that meanders through the town, providing a vibrant living environment.

  • Kampung Admiralty Singapore’s first retirement community, Kampung Admiralty opened last year. It includes two residential blocks of 100 studio apartments, as well as health and eldercare facilities. It has a sheltered plaza for community activities and a rooftop community farm, to encourage seniors to step out of their homes and socialise with neighbours and friends.


  • Tengah masterplan The newest HDB town, Tengah, was first revealed in 2016. The “Forest Town” will see a car-free town centre and lush greenery surrounding the site. Since November 2018, HDB has launched about 6,000 flats in Tengah.