It has been 10 years since then-DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned during the Budget 2012 debate that Singaporean low-income families earning as little as $1,000 could also own an HDB flat. Many other ministers also chimed in, pointing to the generous housing grants offered to first-time applicants from the low-income group.
Despite the anecdotes cited by the ministers, netizens have remained largely unconvinced. And it’s not surprising why. Property prices in Singapore have generally trended upwards (which is positive), though many may feel that their wages have not kept pace with them. Case in point, the record number of HDB flats transacting over a million dollars in 2021 has led many to question home affordability in Singapore.
The government sees home ownership as a key social pillar of ensuring that the people have a stake in the prosperity of the Republic and have a sense of belonging. This includes people at all income levels. Which brings us to ask whether the low-income group could still afford to buy an HDB flat on a $1,000 monthly income given the current home prices.
First-Timer Applicants Can Get Up To $80,000 In Enhanced CPF Housing Grants
To begin our discussion, we must first look at the housing grants that are available to Singaporeans. These grants are key to helping Singaporeans realise their dreams of home ownership, especially young home buyers and those in the low-income group.
The government provides grants through various schemes, such as the enhanced CPF housing grant (EHG), family grant, and proximity housing grant, to help first-timers with their purchase of either built-to-order flats (BTOs) or resale flats.
In our later examples, we will look at the purchase of BTO flats, for which only the enhanced CPF housing grant would be applicable. Eligible first-timer families could receive tiered grants of up to $80,000 from the EHG. While single, first-time applicants may be eligible for a tiered grant of up to $40,000 from the EHG.
Source: HDB Annex A
How Big Of A Property Purchase Can You Afford On A $1,000 Income?
We will look at two buyer profiles to determine whether earning $1,000 per month is sufficient to buy a property in Singapore.
Our first buyer profile consists of a fictional couple, Andrew and Alice. Both are aged 25 years old and are first-timer HDB applicants. Currently, only Andrew is working and earning $1,000 per month, while Alice is completing her studies.
For our second buyer profile, we would use a fictional single buyer, Jack, who is aged 40 years old. Jack, who earns $1,000 per month, has been staying in a public rental flat. He wishes to own his own flat and is a first-timer HDB applicant.
We will calculate the CPF Ordinary Account contributions for our two examples, based on the CPF allocation rates for 2022.
Scenario 1 – 25-Year-Old Couples Earning $1,000
As a couple, Andrew and Alice would be eligible to receive the highest tier of EHG of $80,000 as their combined household income is less than $1,500 per month.
Moreover, Andrew would receive CPF contributions of up to $230.04 in his Ordinary Account (OA) savings from his employment. This amount could be used to finance an HDB housing loan of up to $50,000. Provided Andrew does not intend to finance the home loan beyond his OA savings, this would amount to a monthly instalment of $227 for a 25-year loan tenure.
Adding the EHG amount to the possible loan amount of $50,000, would give us a maximum purchase price of $130,000 that the couple could afford without using additional funds.
Scenario 2 – Single 40-Year-Old Buyer Earning $1,000
Jack, as a single first-time buyer earning $1,000, would only qualify for a maximum EHG amount of $37,500 under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme.
Furthermore, as a 40-year-old, Jack’s monthly CPF OA contribution from his employment would be equal to $210.06. This amount could be used to pay for an HDB housing loan. Assuming Jack intends to finance the home loan using his OA funds only, he could likely loan up to $45,000. This would amount to $205 in monthly instalments for a loan tenure of 25 years.
Adding the EHG amount to the possible loan amount would give us a maximum purchase price of around $82,500 that Jack could target without forking out additional sums of money.
What Are The HDB Flats That You Can Afford On A $1,000 Salary
We shall now look at some of the past 2-room BTO launches to find out what options there are for a couple or a single buyer earning $1,000 that fits their financial standing.
|(Location) Project||Selling Price
|(Choa Chu Kang)
Heart of Yew Tee (40-yr lease)
Pac Glen @ Tengah
|(Tengah) Pac Flora @Tengah Plantation Creek||From 132,000||Above||Above|
|(Yishun) Grove Springs @ Yishun Boardwalk||From $92,000||Within||Above|
As for the single who has a budget of $82,500, the only affordable option in the last few 2-room BTO launches has been the Heart of Yew Tee project. However, that project, which was priced for a lease of 40 years, is only offered to seniors aged 55 and above. In short, as a single person, if you are under 55 years old and earning less than $1,000, you may find it difficult to afford to own an HDB flat using only the CPF housing grants and your monthly OA contributions. You may need to put up additional downpayment to finance an HDB flat.Based on a budget of $130,000, a couple earning a combined $1,000 per month could only look at housing options in non-mature towns such as Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Woodlands, and Yishun. The 2-room flats in these towns generally have starting prices of under $130,000 and could be seen as an affordable choice for low-income couples. This proves that a couple earning $1,000 could still afford a home in Singapore, even in current times.
What Are Your Other Options If You’re Earning Less Than $1,500?
For those earning $1,500 or below, instead of buying, they could also choose to rent a 1-room or 2-room flat under the Public Rental Scheme.
The monthly rent for a 2-room flat that is payable as a first-timer applicant earning $1,000 per month is up to $165, while it costs up to $123 to rent a 1-room flat. Compared to the monthly instalment for HDB loans, renting may seem like a cheaper alternative. However, renters may need to fork out cash when renting a public housing flat, unlike the repayment of an HDB loan, where homeowners could use their OA savings.
The other benefit of buying a flat is that homeowners would be building up their home equity, which they could cash out at a later time. Whereas for renters, there will be no built-up equity for them at the end of the day.
The current scheme and grants may seem to benefit families with low incomes who want to own an HDB flat rather than singles under the age of 55. This comes as no surprise, as the government has always placed an emphasis on the construction of a family nucleus when it comes to public housing schemes. For singles earning a $1,000 salary or below, renting a flat may be the best option in terms of affordability, unless they are able to make up the shortfall in the purchase of the flat with their savings.
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