THE road ahead for the Housing Board (HDB) is to meet the housing needs of a growing population with increasingly different needs and aspirations, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Tuesday.
As Singapore welcomes a larger and more diverse population into its fold, he said the challenge for HDB is to find innovative ways to accommodate everyone in a comfortable way, without compromising our living environment and social cohesion.
'Globalisation and the changing economic environment have also led to such issues as structural unemployment and a widening income gap. We will need to ensure that public housing can help achieve the twin objectives of meeting the housing needs of the majority of the population, as well as providing a social safety net for lower income Singaporeans,' said Mr Mah during his visit to the HDB Hub on Tuesday morning to celebrate the UN public service award won by the Board for its home ownership programme.
As Singapore's population ages, the minister said the HDB will need to focus on meeting the housing needs of the more vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and the lower-income, so that they can level up with the rest of the population.
At the other end of the spectrum, it will also have to make HDB flats attractive for the more educated and more well-off Singaporeans, so that they too can go through the HDB experience.
'This shared experience of HDB living will become all the more important, as we strive to develop a collective Singapore identity,' said the minister.
Mr Mah referred to a recent marriage and parenthood survey by the Ministry of Community Development, Youths and Sports, which revealed that the purchase of an HDB flat is a rite of passage for most Singaporeans.
It showed that 89 per cent of singles preferred to live in their own homes after marriage. For most, this would mean setting up their first home in a new or resale HDB flat.
'The challenges for public housing today are different, but no less formidable than what we faced in the early days. Today's environment is far more complex, with a more diverse group of flat buyers that have varying aspirations and income levels,' added the minister. 'In response, HDB builds flats to suit different budgets and preferences, with a range of flat types, designs, and locations to choose from.'
Upgrading aging flats in old estates
He also identified the upgrading and rejuvenation of older housing estates as another key challenge for the HDB.
With nearly a-third of the flats built before the 1980s, there will be more flats reaching 40 to 50 years old within the next 10 years.
Mr Mah said new, middle-aged and old HDB estates will be transformed into vibrant homes for Singaporeans under the HDB's 'Remaking Our Heartland' programme.
'Giving our HDB heartlands a major makeover is a key part of the Government's plan to develop and reshape the Singapore of tomorrow. In the next 10 to 20 years, HDB will be embarking on plans to build a new generation of public housing,' he said.
'The urban regeneration of HDB estates will go beyond the current upgrading programmes in terms of scale and scope. It will transform the existing public housing estates and mark a new milestone in Singapore's public housing programme.'