Is HDB residential property?

Public housing in Singapore is managed by the state’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), hence their flats commonly termed ‘HDBs’. Over 80% of Singapore’s population live in an HDB flat.

HDB flats can be sold as new units in Build-To-Order (BTO) launches, or as resale HDB flats, which are sold in the secondary market.

Pro: Affordable Housing

These units are sold by the government on a 99-year and are heavily subsidised. Coupled with various grants and priority schemes available for application on purchase, HDB flats are within easy reach for the majority of Singaporeans. 

Con: More Restrictions To Follow

With that in mind, these substantially cheaper housing options come with many restrictions. For instance, such units can only be purchased by households with an average monthly income of $7,000 to $14,000 ($16,000 for executive condo and $21,000 if applying as a multi-generational family). Families buying must include a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).

Buyers of HDB properties also need to comply with a Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years, during which the unit cannot be sold or rented out entirely.

For those who are looking to rent or rent out their HDB flat, there is also a minimum rental period of six months. HDB flats can only be rented out to SCs, SPRs or non-citizens who have Employment Passes, S Passes, Work Permits, Student Passes, Dependant Passes, or Long-Term Social Visit Passes with validity of at least six months. Tourists are not permitted to rent a HDB flat.

HDB flats come in various sizes, catering to families and individuals with varying needs:

HDB Flat TypeSize (per square metre)
2-Room Flexi36 sqm (Type 1), 45 sqm (Type 2)
3-Room60 to 65 sqm
4-Room90 to 93 sqm
5-Room110 to 112 sqm
3GenUp to 115 sqm
Executive FlatUp to 130 sqm
Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flatUp to 120 sq m
Executive maisonetteUp to 214 sq m
Jumbo flatUp to 170 sq m
HDB terrace houseUp to 178 sq m

1. 2-Room Flexi

Previously, the Housing Board offered studio apartments, which are just similar in layout and sizes to 2-Room flats, but these come with leases of 30 years and 99 years respectively. Subsequently, both were combined into the 2-Room Flexi flat.

Seniors age 55 and above have the option of buying such a property with leases of 15 to 45 years (in five-year increments), as long as the tenures extend until the buyer and their spouse reach at least 95 years old.

For first-timer singles above 35 years old, as well as families buying their first or second HDB flat, they are allowed to purchase 2-Room Flexi flats with a 99-year lease.

2-Room Flexi flats come in two sizes – Type 1 measures 36 sqm (387.5 sq ft), while Type 2 is about 45 sqm (484.4 sq ft). This unit is intended for the elderly and smaller households with lower budgets. 

Most recently, HDB introduced the Community Care Apartments in the February 2021 Build-To-Order (BTO) launch. These 2-Room Flexi units come with a subscription-based service package to assist elderly residents in communal living. These units are exclusively for individuals aged 65 and above. 

Unsurprisingly, these units are also significantly more affordable than private condos with one or two bedrooms.

Flat Features:

  • One bedroom
  • One bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

2. 3-Room

This unit is a practical option for households who have limited financial resources and ideally, a small family. This is because there are two bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. Layout sizes are about 60 sqm (645.8 sq ft) to 65 sqm (699.6 sq ft).

Flat Features:

  • Two bedrooms
  • Kitchen
  • Living and dining area
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

3. 4-Room

This unit is suited for couples who are set to become parents as it provides flexible and comfortable living space of approximately 90 sqm (968.8 sq ft) to 93 sqm (1,001 sq ft). It is equipped with three bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom.

Flat Features:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Living and dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

4. 5-Room

This spacious unit measuring approximately 110 sqm (1,184 sq ft) to 112 sqm (1,205 sq ft) is perfect for larger families as it features three bedrooms, of which one is a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

Flat Features:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Living/ dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

5. 3Gen

The forward-thinking HDB introduced this unit to cater to multi-generational families. At 115 sq m or 1,237.8 sq ft, this unit is the second largest among the flats currently offered by the Housing Board, and has the most number of rooms. These include four bedrooms, of which two have ensuite bathrooms.

Both new and resale 3Gen flats can only be purchased by multi-generational families, comprising married/engaged couples and parents, or widow/divorcee with kids and parents. The applicant couple must be qualified to buy a flat under the Public Scheme. If purchasing with parents, one of them must be a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident (PR).

Please note that if buying with parents, no one in the nucleus family can own any other properties in Singapore or abroad, and their income will be taken into account to check that your family doesn’t surpass the income ceiling ($21,000). 

3Gen flats were first launched by HDB at Yishun in 2013.

Flat Features:

  • Four bedrooms
  • Living / dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Service yard
  • Storage-cum-apartment shelter

6. Executive flat

At 130 sq m or 1,399.3 sq ft, this is the biggest among the flats currently available at the Housing Board. It has three bedrooms, one of which is a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. It comes with additional space for a study room, while some have a balcony.

Flat Features:

  • Living area
  • Dining area
  • Kitchen
  • Common bathroom
  • Storeroom-cum-apartment shelter

7. DBSS Flats

Flat features:

  • Four bedrooms
  • Large space
  • Have common facilities like barbecue areas and multi-purpose sports courts

In 2005, the Housing Board introduced the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units, which are public housing built by private developers.

Like executive condominiums (EC), which we will cover in a while, these were targeted for the sandwiched class who can purchase better homes than HDB flats but are not ready to buy private properties.

However, the DBSS scheme was suspended indefinitely in July 2011 due to public outrage over Sim Lian Group setting the five-room prices at Centrale 8 to $880,000, which is expensive for most middle-class families. Notably, HDB cannot control the pricing of such units.

Singaporeans also complained that Centrale 8 was badly designed, with buildings packed like sardines and unit sizes smaller than 90 sq m to 110 sq m for HDB flats.

Prices of five-roomers at the development was subsequently reduced to $778,000, but the five DBSS sites tendered before the scheme was suspended yielded five-roomers sold for about $700,000.

Another scandal occurred in March 2012, when the Clementi Ridges BTO project was found to be 20-25% cheaper than the nearby Trivelis DBSS development. The latter’s buyers fumed as they were not aware that a more affordable BTO will be built in the vicinity and wasted their hard-earned money buying at Trivelis.

Overall, 13 DBSS projects were launched with a total of around 8,650 units before it was suspended indefinitely. 

Unlike ECs and HUDC flats, there is currently no option to privatise DBSS units.

8. Executive maisonette

Flat Features:

  • Two floors
  • Large size
  • Comes with three bathrooms
  • Balcony space

HDB executive maisonettes are a type of HDB flat that are no longer in production, and were replaced by the executive condominium (EC) scheme. As such, there is a limited supply of executive maisonettes left in Singapore, mostly in mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Pasir Ris, Queenstown, Serangoon and Sembawang.

9. Jumbo flat

Flat features:

  • Up to 170 sq m
  • Roomy
  • Up to seven bedrooms
  • Balcony space

In the 1990s, there was an oversupply of HDB flats in remote areas such as Yishun and Woodlands.

At that time, these estates were not blessed with nearby conveniences and amenities. As such, HDB had trouble selling these HDB flats.

To entice Singaporeans to purchase these public housing in remote estates and to deal with a large number of unsold units, HDB merged many of the HDB units into one, which effectively gave birth to jumbo HDB flats. HDB later launched such homes for sale in mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Bedok, Hougang, Jurong East, Pasir Ris and Tampines.

Jumbo HDB flats typically measure from 133.96 sq m to 170 sq m (approx. 1,442 sq ft to 1,830 sq ft) as they’re a combination of two flats – either a three-room or four-room flats. Consequently, they contain at least seven rooms with huge living spaces (at least compared to HDB sizes), and some jumbo HDB flats have balconies.

10. HDB Terrace House

Flat features:

  • Same look and feel as landed properties
  • About 900 sq ft of living space
  • Two storeys
  • Located in good locations such as Queenstown and Whampoa

HDB terrace houses were built in the 1950s by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). SIT is the predecessor of HDB and took care of public housing before HDB was born. In total, 285 HDB terrace houses were built in Whampoa and Queenstown area. Each of them has about 900 sq ft of living space that spans across two storeys.

When HDB came into existence, they took over the HDB terrace houses from SIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was when the HDB terrace houses were issued with a fresh 99-year lease. 

Public-Private Hybrid

This hybrid class of housing was introduced to offer buyers the affordability of a bigger space or better facilities than the regular HDB flat.

The biggest incentive for purchasing a unit like this is the fact that they will eventually be privatised. In other words, the purchaser gets to buy a government-subsidised flat and sell it as a private property in the open market when the time comes. Needless to say, these apartments can be highly sought-after, especially if they are located near good amenities. 

Executive Condominiums (EC)

Executive condominiums (EC) are private-public properties developed to cater “sandwich class” Singaporeans. These homes are intended for Singaporeans who are not allowed to buy HDB flats due to surpassing the income limit, but are also unable to afford private residential properties.

In fact, the monthly income ceiling to be allowed to buy ECs is $16,000, compared to $7,000 to $14,000 for new HDB flats. A fusion of public and private housing, ECs are constructed and sold by private home builders, but are more affordable as their land cost is partly funded by the government. 

In addition, applicants can utilise CPF grants to help offset the price of ECs, which come with amenities similar to that of private condos. These include a gym, clubhouse, swimming pools and gated security.

But like buyers of new HDB flats, purchasers of new ECs need to fulfil a MOP of five years, during which the unit cannot be leased out entirely or disposed of.

After five years, it can be sold in the open market to PRs or Singapore citizens. After 10 years, it can be sold to overseas nationals unlike HDB flats. However, ECs only come with a leasehold tenure of 99 years.