The Different Types of Housing in Singapore

22574565 - singapore public housing, urban landscape hdb flat
22574565 - singapore public housing, urban landscape hdb flat

In this guide, we will discuss all of the different kinds of residential properties in Singapore. Fundamentally, there are three general categories of houses here, namely public housing (HDB), hybrid and private dwellings. But before we talk about each in detail and their sub-categories, below is an overview of the different types of homes.

 

I. Public Housing (HDB flats)
  • Two-room flexi flat
  • Three-room flat
  • Four-room flat
  • Five-room flat
  • 3Gen flat
  • Executive flat
  • DBSS

 

II. Public-Private Hybrid
  • HUDC
  • Executive Condominiums (EC)

 

III. Private Residential Properties

Non-Landed Homes

  • Private Condominiums
  • Apartments

Landed Housing

  • Semi-detached House
  • Terraced Homes
  • Cluster Houses
  • Townhouses
  • Shophouses
  • Bungalow
  • Good Class Bungalow (GCB)

Below is a definition and explanation of each different category and property type.

Public Housing (HDB flats)

Public housing in Singapore are commonly called HDB flats as they are built by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

These units are heavily subsidised by the government, hence they are within easy reach of ordinary Singaporeans. In addition, buyers can utilise CPF grants to further reduce the prices of HDB flats.

Although these are substantially cheaper than private housing, these properties come with many restrictions. For instance, such units can only be purchased by households with an average monthly income of S$6,000 to S$12,000. Families buying must include a Singapore citizen (SC) or permanent resident (PR).

There is a minimum rental period of six months. HDB flats can only rented out to SCs and PRs. These can also be leased to non-citizens, but they need to 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 such units.

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

While all are non-landed housing and have leases of 99 years or less, these units have various specifications catering to different household sizes with varying income levels. Listed below are the different kinds of HDB flats and their specifications.

 

Two-room Flexi flat

Previously, the Housing Board offered studio apartments, which are just similar in layout and sizes to two-room flats, but these come with leases of 30 years and 99 years respectively. Subsequently, both were combined into the two-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 as well as families buying their first or second HDB flat, they are allowed to purchase two-room flexi flats with a 99-year lease.

Two-room flexi flats come in two sizes – Type 1 measures 36 sq m (387.5 sq ft), while Type 2 is about 45 sq m (484.4 sq ft). This unit is intended for the elderly and smaller households with lower budgets. It is also significantly more affordable than private condos with one or two bedrooms.

Features:

  • One bedroom
  • One bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

 

Three-room flat

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

Features:

  • Two bedrooms
  • Kitchen
  • Living/ dining area
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

 

Four-room flat

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

Features:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Living/ dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

 

Five-room flat

This spacious unit measuring approximately 110 sq m or 1,184 sq ft is perfect for larger families as it features three bedrooms, of which one is a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

Features:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Living/ dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

 

3Gen flat

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 (7). 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, they must not 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. Nevertheless, the monthly income limit is set at $18,000 or 1.5 times greater than for non multi-generational households.

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

Features:

  • Four bedrooms
  • Living / dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storage-cum-apartment shelter

 

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 ensuite bathroom. It comes with additional space for a study room, while some have a balcony.

Features:

  • Living area
  • Dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

 

DBSS Flats

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), these were targeted for the sandwiched class, who can purchase better homes than HDB flats, but are unable 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 S$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 S$700,000.

Another scandal occurred in March 2012, when the Clementi Ridges BTO project was found to be 20-25 percent 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.

 

Public-Private Hybrid

This a hybrid class of residential property. Initially, these were offered to buyers as subsidized government housing, and were eventually turned into private housing. There are two types of properties under this class – HUDC flats and ECs.

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 sq m to 158 sq m. 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 percent of the residents consented. By 2017, all 18 HUDC projects were privatised.

Executive Condominiums (EC)

Unlike HUDC units and DBSS flats, which have been discontinued, Executive Condominiums (EC) are the only housing for the sandwiched class currently offered by HDB. 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 S$14,000, compared to S$6,000 to S$12,000 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.
But like buyers of new HDB flats, purchasers of new ECs need to fulfil a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years, during which the unit cannot be leased out entirely or disposed off.

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

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.

 

Private Residential 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 even tourists, while HDB flats have a minimum rental period of six months. Some kinds of private properties can be divested to foreigners, while HDB flats can only be sold to Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PR).

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

 

Non-Landed Housing

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

Private Condominiums

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.

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 Homes

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).

Semi-detached Houses

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.

Terraced Homes

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

Cluster Houses

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

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.

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.

Bungalow

With a land area ranging from 400 sq m (4,305.56 sq ft) to 1,400 sq m (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.

Good Class Bungalow (GCB)

Considered as the homes of the rich and famous in Singapore, these are among the most luxurious residential properties here and command the highest prices as well.

With a land area 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.

 

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