A responsible Govt does not make housing affordable by robbing future generations: Desmond Lee


In his closing speech for the housing motion debate yesterday (7 Feb 2023), Minister for National Development Desmond Lee reiterated the far-sighted approach that underlies our housing policies. 

“This Government needs to provide affordable and accessible public housing, not just for this generation but also for future generations of Singaporeans.”

Therefore, we must create and build up the fiscal resources to support the homeownership aspirations of Singaporeans through the generations, said Minister Lee. 

In other words, that means not hollowing out our reserves, either by giving away State land for HDB flats or overly subsidising flats.

Building long-term sustainability

Due to Singapore’s small size, there will inevitably be competing needs concerning land use.

As such, long-term planning and careful stewardship to create space to meet the needs of today’s Singaporeans and tomorrow’s generation is required, said Minister Lee.

It is a delicate balancing act that requires prudence and sustainability, values embedded into our housing policies.

“We must not enhance housing accessibility and affordability of this generation by robbing our future generations, whether of land or fiscal resources,” shared Minister Lee.

And neither should we subsidise housing at the expense of other equally essential needs (i.e. healthcare, defence, education).

According to Minister Lee, the mark of a responsible Government is to continue the legacy our forefathers have started.

In Singapore, this means building a nation of homeowners.

“We firmly believe in homeownership as it provides us with the stability to build our families and raise our children, gives us a sense of rootedness in Singapore, and allows us to have a stake in our country’s progress.”

“This is why we sell HDB flats on a 99-year leasehold,” said Minister Lee.

It strikes a good balance between providing a home-for-life, asset appreciation and providing a framework to rejuvenate our city and make space for the next generation.

A better future for all

Our late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was adamant that Singapore would be more stable if every family owned a home.

So far, he has been proven right, and homeownership has worked well for Singapore.

Therefore, if we care for our children and grandchildren, we must not pursue housing policies that benefit ourselves at the expense of future generations.

More importantly, we should embody our pioneers’ spirit of always seeking to do better and overcome our constraints with creativity and far-sighted planning, said Minister Lee.

On the subject of planning, Minister Lee also shared some game-changing strategies on how the Government intends to free up land and build new and better homes for younger Singaporeans.

“The relocation of Paya Lebar Airbase frees up land for us to build some 150,000 new homes, which is equivalent to the number of homes in Punggol and Sengkang combined…Meanwhile, the Greater Southern Waterfront will be transformed into a new major gateway and location for urban living along the southern coast, including 6,000 new public housing units to be built on the Keppel Club site.”

Keeping housing affordable in the long-term

The PAP is a party that operates with a very long-term horizon, and this trait is often reflected in our policies. 

In the case of housing, grants, subsidies and income eligibility that have kept BTOs affordable today will continue to do so in the future. 

Ending his speech, Minister Lee acknowledged that while the current system is far from perfect, it has achieved very much through the decades, allowing the majority of Singaporeans to enjoy the fruits of our economic progress. 

“We must maintain housing accessibility and affordability while keeping sustainability in mind, and uphold a culture of politics where we discuss hard truths and trade-offs in a transparent manner, even if these may not be popular.”

And that should be the foundation of all policies, not just housing.

Images via: HDB, MCI/YouTube