Mr Pritam Singh: A single Singaporean has to be above 35 years of age to purchase a resale public housing flat or to apply for a Build-to-Order 2-room Flexi Flat. The Workers’ Party’s position is that the eligibility age for singles to buy a flat should be lowered to the age of 28.
According to the latest Government census, the proportion of singles has risen across age groups. The increase was most significant for those between 25 and 34 years of age. Between 2010 and 2020, the proportion of singles among residents aged 25 to 29 rose from 74.6% to 81.6% for males and from 54% to 69% for females. Similarly, the proportion of singles among those aged 30 to 34 rose to 41.9% for males and 32.8% for females.
In 2018, then Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong stated in Parliament that as marriage rates among singles under 35 was still high, the age of 35 remained a valid number. Does the Government intend to move from 35 as the magic number?
There is a prevailing orthodoxy that Singaporeans should be married by 35 and that offering flats to those of a younger age could somehow discourage marriage. Alternately, there may be an assumption that offering flats to those younger than 35 would jeopardise the value of filial piety.
The National Youth Council’s 2021 publication on the state of youth in Singapore is helpful in this regard. The publication reports that the results of the National Youth Survey 2019 covering those between 15 and 34 years of age. Those surveyed were asked: how important are the following aspirations or life goals in your life? They were given 19 possible choices to rank from not important at all to very important.
The top choice selected by our youth was to maintain strong family relationships while the second choice was “to have a place of my own”. Both choices were ranked somewhat important or very important by at least 95% of respondents.
To our youths, filial piety and having one’s own home are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are both almost equally important values.
To be clear, strong family relationships did not automatically mean marriage or having children to those surveyed because those were the 10th and 11th choices respectively.
One assumption we should question is that offering flats to 28-year-olds would discourage genuine interest in long-term marriage. Is it not possible that some people who want to be married may be discouraged from tying the knot early because they prefer to have financial security before getting hitched and having children? If a single person is allowed to purchase HDB property, whether BTO or resale, earlier, this may well open new prospects to concomitantly move on to marriage and parenthood.
In addition, the prospect of purchasing a flat at 28 years of age down from 35 years of age would leave more scope for the growth of one’s CPF balances for peace of mind and for retirement adequacy.
We must ask is it reasonable to continue disallowing singles from purchasing a BTO or resale flat once they are financially able to do so before 35? The Government should look into rolling out more housing choices for singles to purchase public housing at the younger age of 28 rather than 35 currently.
Ministry of National Development
8 March 2022