Opposition gives attractive housing alternatives but not frank about trade-offs: Desmond Lee

The opposition dangles attractive housing alternatives—like making flats cheaper, or not considering the cost of State land in the cost of developing flats—but they are not upfront about the trade-offs that Singaporeans have to pay. 

Delivering a Ministerial Motion on affordable and accessible public housing today (Feb 6, 2023), National Development Minister Desmond Lee laid out the PAP Government’s position on the matter: We must maintain housing accessibility and affordability while ensuring that what we do is not at the expense of future generations of Singaporeans.

Cheaper flats? Sure, but Singaporeans end up paying collectively

Can we make flats cheaper? Yes, but bear in mind that Singaporeans are the ones who end up paying for it collectively. 

“We already allocate substantial fiscal resources to support the Home Ownership Programme,” said Minister Lee.

“In the last financial year, HDB incurred a deficit of $3.85 billion on its Home Ownership Programme.”

That is more than twice the revenue that will be generated from the 1 per cent increase in the Goods and Services Tax this year. 

If we inject more public funds into the Home Ownership Programme, how will we tend to other needs like healthcare, education, and transport? 

Not paying land at fair value? Sure, but future Singaporeans end up paying the price

If HDB does not pay for State land cost at fair market value—as suggested by Progress Singapore Party—it is akin to taking large sums of money out of our Reserves. 

“Proceeds from land sales do not come to the current Government as revenue for spending,” explained Minister Lee. 

“The proceeds go back to the Reserves, in order to preserve the value of the Reserves.”

The Reserves have to be invested and its returns go into funding our annual Budget and support the needs of current and future Singaporeans. 

As Singaporeans with a stake in Singapore’s future and governance, we need to scrutinise policy suggestions that are thrown up in Parliament and be shrewd about the costs that they incur.

PAP Government’s position on housing policies is that they must be sustainable

In his speech, Minister Lee gave a few key principles that outline this Government’s position on sustainable housing policies. 

First, the PAP Government is committed to home-ownership because it gives Singaporeans a place to call home and provides stability for families to grow.  

“Our HDB flats are kept affordable with significant subsidies and grants for first timers, and as a home-for-life. Our housing policies are strongly geared towards ensuring that HDB flats are meant for living in, not for speculation.” 

Second, it is committed to inclusive public housing, where Singaporeans of all income levels can buy or rent a home to build their families and give their children a good environment to grow up in. 

Policies like the Ethnic Integration Policy and Prime Location Public Housing model also serve to make public housing more racially-inclusive and let the average Singaporean buy a house in attractive, central locations.

Lastly, this Government believes and empowers each individual to save up for their own housing needs through Singapore’s CPF scheme, making public housing even more affordable and within reach. 

Ending his speech, Minister Lee said that the PAP Government has been committed to home ownership for Singaporeans “from day one of nation building”. 

“Embedded in this commitment is also our vision for a strong and cohesive nation and an inclusive society,” he added.  

“But what this Government believes equally in, is to be frank about our challenges and trade-offs and explain how we seek to meet the competing needs of Singaporeans in the current generation, as well as balance the needs of this generation with the needs of future generations.” 

Image credits: Nguyen Thu Hoai on Unsplash, Muhd Asyraaf on Unsplash, Jiachen Lin on Unsplash