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Is The HDB Monthly Household Income Ceiling Still Relevant Amid Higher Wages & Inflation?

In 2019, 22.4% of households have a monthly income of $14,000 or more. In 2022, this has increased to 25.5%.

The HDB monthly household income ceiling is sometimes seen as a casual benchmark for how rich someone and their household is. If we exceed the income ceiling, we are seen as an upper-middle-class family in Singapore, fortunate (or unfortunate) as we no longer qualify to apply for public housing. Some would say that it’s a “good problem” to have if you exceed the HDB monthly household income ceiling.

Last reviewed in 2019, the HDB monthly household income ceiling is currently at $14,000 for families buying a new flat.

The $14,000 income ceiling also becomes the reference for other income ceiling criteria

  • Executive Condominiums (ECs) have a $16,000 income ceiling. This is usually $2,000 more than the HDB income ceiling.
  • CPF Housing Grant For Resale Flats has an income ceiling of $14,000.
  • Housing Loan from HDB also uses the same income ceiling of $14,000.
  • For single buying a new2-room Flexi flat on their own, income ceiling is $7,000. This is half of the income ceiling (currently $14,000)
  • In the future when Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) flats are sold, they can only be sold to buyers who do not exceed the income ceiling (currently $14,000)

The point here is that the $14,000 income ceiling is pretty significant as it doesn’t just affect first-time/second-time families looking to buy a BTO flat, but also other property policies that utilise the income ceiling to implement its policies.

How Much Have Wages Increased Since 2019?

2019 may only be four years ago, but a lot has changed since. Beyond just the pandemic, Singaporeans have seen, for better or worse, our wages and cost of living increasing.

For example, median income from work inclusive of employer CPF contribution has gone up from $4,563 in 2019 to $5,070. At a gross level, this means that it has increased by 11%, from $3,900 (2019) to $4,333 (2022).

If we look at the median salary for fresh graduates, the increment is even more significant. In 2019, the median salary for fresh graduates from Singapore’s four autonomous universities was $3,600. As of 2022, it’s $4,200, an increase of about 17%.

Another relevant reference point would be the median household income. In 2019, the median household income among resident employed households (meaning households with at least one employed person) was $9,425 (inclusive of employer CPF contribution). As of 2022, it’s $10,099. At a gross level, it has increased by 7% from $8,055 (2019) to $8,631 (2022).

The statistics above suggest that income has increased from between 7 to 17% over the past four years, depending on what you look at. But we were curious to also understand just how many more households in Singapore have breached the $14,000 level since 2019.

Read Also: Median Salary For Fresh Graduates Has Gone Up By $400 To $4,200 In 2022: Should Singapore Companies Be Willing To Pay More?

The Number Of Households With Income Exceeding $14,000 Have Increased Since 2019

Using data from Singstats, we see that about 22.4% of resident households have a monthly household income of $14,000 or more in 2019. As of 2022, this has increased to 25.5%, an increment of about 3.1% in four years.

In absolute numbers, this is about 43,369 more households with income exceeding $14,000 a month based on the resident household numbers of 1,399,600 as of 2022.

The statistics above should come as no surprise. After all, with salaries increasing each year, whether due to higher productivity or just wage inflation, it’s only logical that more Singapore households are now enjoying an income that exceeds $14,000 a month.

As a side note, it’s also worth pointing out that the average household size has also declined from 3.36 in 2019, with an average of 1.9 employed persons per household, to 3.09 in 2022, with an average of 1.84 employed persons per household.

This means not only are there more households earning $14,000 or more in 2022 compared to 2019, but this is also achieved with fewer employed persons per household.

The Cost Of Resale Flats Have Also Increased Since 2019

As the statistics have shown, about a quarter of Singapore households would exceed the monthly household income ceiling today. Moving forward, it’s likely that the number would continue increasing as wages increase.

The other impact is on households choosing to buy an HDB resale flat, especially if they are unable to qualify for a BTO flat and are priced off the private property market.

In 4Q2019, the resale price index was 131.5. As of 2Q2023, it’s 171.9, an increase of about 34% in four years.

Using the 4Q2019 median price for an HDB resale flat, we see that a 4-room flat in Punggol would cost $463,900. Assuming a household with a combined monthly income of $14,500 who are not eligible for an HDB BTO flat, the household would be paying about 2.66 years of household annual income for the flat.

As of 2Q2023, a 4-room resale flat in Punggol has a median price of $590,000, an increase of about 27%. This is in line with the resale price index and you would see similar observations across other HDB estates. It also means that with a combined monthly income of $14,500 today, the household would be paying a price of 3.39 years of household annual income for the flat.

Also note that even as a first-timer, the household will not receive any government grant as they exceed the $14,000 household income ceiling. So they are suffering a triple whammy – 1) unable to apply for a BTO flat, 2) ineligible for an HDB resale grant and 3) have to cope with higher HDB resale price. And there are more such households today.

Read Also: 4 Reasons Why It Makes More Financial Sense To Purchase An Old Resale HDB With A Shorter Lease Balance

The bottom line here is that as wages and housing prices continue to increase, the proportion of families that the $14,000 household income ceiling cover will reduce. Those who exceed the income ceiling will also need to pay higher prices on the resale and private property market.

One possible alternative is to consider whether the income ceiling should be adjusted more regularly especially when wages and housing prices are rising quickly. For example, should the income ceiling be set such that about 80% of households (in line with HDB ownership proportion) will fall within the income ceiling and only 20% will exceed it?

Time would tell, but one thing that looks for certain is that fewer families will fall within the $14,000 household income ceiling in the future.

Top photo by Moo Kar Ming, DollarsAndSense

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