Pinnacle @ Duxton. Topped out with a viewing gallery soaring 50 stories above ground only open to VIPs, is THE crowning glory of Singapore’s Public Housing Development

Since the inception of Singapore, the PAP government has never strayed from its commitment to provide public housing for the whole nation. To them, continuing support for public housing is, like economic development, one plank of its legitimacy to rule. This is akin to the “depoliticization” thesis by Offe (1984:159) calling it the “most superficial and most visible level of politics” : that is politics as various groups or classes of people united behind respective, articulated interests, and entering into open negotiation, as expected by liberal democratic theory, or into class struggle, as anticipated by Marxist analysis. The major take back from Offe’s concept is that the ruling government will always attempt to make political capital out of such success (in this case housing); conversely , it will distance itself from failures, blaming them on state functionaries. Thus it should be recognized that every state intervention is necessary a political act, even in instances in which the political dimension is submerge.

With the PAP government’s promotion of a home owning democracy with 100 percent home ownership. However, the PAP government is careful in ensuring that home ownership becoming a legal entitlement of citizenship. Thus Ministry of National Development (MND) setup a an independent statutory board Housing and Development Board (HDB), although under the jurisdiction of MND, ┬áis financially and administratively an independent corporation. It is at liberty to impose sales or rental conditions on interested parties. The legal position of a Singaporean seeking to purchase or rent a public housing flat is that of a client in the strict business sense, and the individual is regarded as agreeing willingly to the conditions stipulated by the vendor or landlord. Housing thus remains at the individual level of property rights, the government’s commitment to adequate housing for the nation notwithstanding. This arrangement prevent housing provision from becoming part of a citizen’s rights and legal entitlement, and hence a political and ideological issue. Moreover, unlike a government ministry, a statutory board – in this case, the HDB – is in effect, formally removed from the political arena, even if Singaporeans routinely treat the HDB as synonymous with government, and public-housing flats as ”government housing’. Indeed, the PAP is not beyond claiming this identity when it is to its political advantage, while at the same time being able to distance itself from any public criticism of or dissatisfaction with the HDB.

Backed by the absence of housing alternatives since the start, the PAP governments is able to use housing as a mechanism to push through other less palatable social policies without risking serious damage to its legitimacy to govern. A key element ofSingapore’s programme has therefore been a draconian compulsory acquisition of land in the interest of ‘national’ development, which has included state assistance in acquiring land for development. With this in effect. This also allows land to be acquired at low prices and thus explaining why HDB was able to offer its flats at artificially low prices in the early years. Making public housing available to all also meant that it will immediately raise the cost of living of a household in the time and age thatSingaporewas in then. Lease ownership of flats ties the household into a regular mortagage structure that require monthly payments. Home ownership was therefore an important step in the active proletarianization of theSingaporepopulation, while it simultaneously improving their material living condition, as the government had promised. The unemployment rate declined steadily from 6 percent in 1970, two years after the introduction of the CPF home ownership scheme in Queenstown, to 2.7 percent in 1984 (Krause, Koh and Lee-Tsao, 1987: 190). Due to the flats being made available to early owners, to the extent that they could sell their old flats and upgrade to larger, new flats with a manageable level of additional investments. Among these were lower-income groups that were the first to qualify for public housing, This further intensified their ideological and material commitment to the system as a whole, and reinforced the popular support base of the ruling government. Also potential class enclaves are eliminated by the planned interspersing of rental flats for the lowest-income groups among the various classes of purchased flats. Each housing estate or new town is a mixture of different-sized flats catering for different income groups. Furthermore, flats of different sizes catering for different incomes can be designed into the same block. The strong social agreement around state housing provision has enabled the PAP government to use it to underwrite other social policies. Being the sole social provider. The HDB is an gent for propagation of certain values that the government deemed significant or “necessary” for ongoing social stability. The most significant, marriage and filial piety. InSingapore, Public housing is only available to households. Single people who is presumed will never marry – individual over 35 years old are able to purchase flats. Young single people are completely excluded from this equation. This forces citizens to form families within the society, leading to stability in economy. Also married couples may also apply to be neighbours with their parents or other married siblings. To promote the scheme, the applicants are given priority in allocation of flats, offering cash grants towards the purchase of a flat who elect to live within two kilometres of their parents. These pro-family schemes also have an under-lying policy rationalization: they form part of a voluntary, family-based welfare arrangement which is likely to reduce the government’s share of social welfare costs and responsibility to the elderly, as the population is ageing as the country develops.

All in all as discussed in this article are some of the policies set out by the ruling PAP government to in the stages of national development to ensure that they stay in power. Leveraging on ideologies set out by Offe as discussed earlier.