Current Housing Situation in Singapore

In Singapore, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is the organisation that provides proper housing for the citizens since the 1960s. Today, these HDB flats can be considered as financial assets due to high cost and land value. Apart from the housing policies and criteria, home ownership has become increasingly expensive due to market forces [1]. Eventually, the concept of HDB housing being an asset rather than home has been empowered which may change the initial concept of ‘community’ within the society. 

In addition, there is a good reason to question cultural norms of individual dwelling in Singapore today, mainly due to the issue of changing demographics. A silver tsunami of seniors living alone is rolling across the nation. As Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned in an interview before [2], the number of seniors who live by themselves has been increasing from 14,500 to 42,000 from year 2000 to 2014.Based on the current growing rate,  by the year of 2030, there are likely to be more than 80,000 elderly people living alone in Singapore. According to the statistics below, with the change of lifestyle and better living condition as the formation of the inverted population pyramid with a lot more educated elderly at the top, this phenomena could lead to the change of current family structure in Singapore, including the relationship between collateral family members and living arrangements. Therefore, community support is truly needed as one of the key driver to assist them while living independently.

 

Statistics of Senior Citizens’ Living Arrangements from year 2000 – 2014

YEAR 2000 YEAR 2005 YEAR 2014
Single Elderly 7.5% 8.6% 11.9%
Living Separately with Children 9.2% 11.2% 17.7%
3-Generation Living 32.6% 31% 23.1%

Source: C3A Ageing Well, 2015

 

Besides senior citizens, the addition of foreign working professionals and students are also posing challenges to our growing population. Due to limited land resources, we ought to look into proposing alternative planning solutions in order to cater for these particular target groups as well. Especially for students, due to the insufficient provision of school hostel, they have been forced to look for private hostels or temporary HDB housing properties which are much more expensive.

 

Cohousing: A New Trend of Community Neighbourhood

There is a need for Singapore to explore more flexible types of public housing in order to adapt to the future requirements. Cohousing may provide an alternative option for different necessities of various user groups as mentioned earlier. It is defined as a clustering of smaller-than average residences to maximise shared open spaces for social interaction, with common facilities for shared daily use as well as non-hierarchical consensus-based resident management [3]. By looking into various successful case studies in Western Countries such as Denmark, Germany and Holland, in the longer term, these types of affordable and sustainable housing typologies have become more popular choices for smaller user groups to mark the beginning of their home ownership [4]. From a social point of view, this kind of resident management planning process under a non-hierarchical shared environment helps especially the elderly or disabled to live and work-in-place comfortably. The sense of place and belonging of ‘village’ community was created through shared social interaction [5].

 

Ostellolinda-1

Fig.1 Ostellolinda integrative housing, Milanno.  (Source: Informagiovani.net, 2010)

 

 

Ostellolinda-2

Fig.2 Permanent and temporary Cohousing for disabled people to live and work in a hostel and to act as hosts for guest. (Source: Aff.bstatic.com, 2011)

 

Looking back into the history of housing development in Singapore, there were similar community housing concepts to be found during the 1920s to 1980s – the Co-operative Housing.  As Singapore was facing housing problems during the time of rapid economic & social development as well as the increase of population after the war, the very first cooperative named the Singapore Government Officers Co-operative Housing Society Ltd was formed to assist the housing shortage from the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) [6]. Unfortunately, till the 1980s, most of the co-operative societies were shut down due to bad management and lack of knowledge and expertise. Having said that, the housing co-operative movement indeed has proven that strong community bonding and social interaction were formed within the neighbourhood during that time, such as the Teacher’s Estate located along Upper Thomson Road by the Singapore Teacher’s Union (STU) in 1967 [7]. Taking into consideration of the lifespan of the housing co-operatives in Singapore, it was not given enough time to mature and adapt to the changing demographics, in relation to the rapid economic and social development of the city. Therefore, this new housing typology could be an alternative solution to redefine the concept of communal living for future Singapore.

 

 

References:

[1] “Home prices and inequality: Singapore versus other ‘global superstar cities’,” The Straits Times, November 2015. Accessed December 11, http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/home-prices-and-inequality-singapore-versus-other-global-superstar-cities

[2] “Dedicated help centre for Taman Jurong seniors,” The Straits Times, November 2015. Accessed December 11, http://www.c3a.org.sg/c3a/News_detail.do?id=27245

[3] Lidwej T. (2015). Understanding co-housing from a planning perspective. Urban Research & Practice, 8:1, 64-78. Routledge.

[4] Chatterton P. (2015). Low Impact LivingA Field Guide to Ecological, Affordable Community Building. NewYork:Routledge.

[5] McCamant, K. & Durrett, C. (2011). Creating Co-housing: Building Sustainable Communities. Canada: New Societies Publishers.

[6] Daniel R.O. (1987). Co-operative Societies in Singapore, 1925-1985. Singapore: Singapore National Co-operative Federation Limited.

[7] Chua Y.H. (2013). Co-operative Housing for Singapore. Master’s Dissertation. Singapore: National University of Singapore