National University of Singapore
Housing in Singapore means more than the provision of shelter with all the requisite amenities. It also represents an important status symbol and investment. Indeed, it is commonly seen as a hallmark of achievement that is encapsulated in the ‘Five Cs’, namely Cash, Credit card, Condominium, Country club membership and Car. The fact that a large proportion of Singaporeans currently lives in high-standard accommodation can be largely attributed to government intervention. That this intervention has been so successful is remarkable given that at independence in 1959 the country had ‘one of South-east Asia’s largest slum and squatter populations’ (Wong and Yeh 1985). Then a quarter of a million people lived in badly degenerated slums while a further one-third of a million lived in squatter settlements.
By 1990, 88 per cent of homes in Singapore were owner-occupied (Addae-Dapaah and Leong 1996a). This has largely been due to the efforts of the Housing Development Board (HDB), which is the major supplier of public housing in the country. Housing 86 per cent of Singapore’s population, the HDB is funded predominantly from government housing development loans and mortgage finance loans (US$ 5.9 billion and US$ 12.4 billion respectively at the end of 1995). The HDB initially provided housing solely for low-income groups, a policy that was changed in the 1970s due to escalating property prices which priced many middle-income groups out of the private market. Consequently, HDB began to cater for middle-income groups as well.
While this widening of the HDB’s target group has been impressive, it has not resolved the housing problems besetting all sections of the population. The elderly, in particular, have been marginalized by government housing schemes despite the fact that Singapore has the fifth-fastest ageing population in the world: between 1990-2010, this population will grow by 14-26 per cent (Kua 1994). Housing needs change over a person’s life-course and elderly