Implications of letting HDB flat owners buy private homes

Mr Chiam Tat Ang ("Continue letting HDB flat owners buy private property"; last Friday) has overlooked some essential differences between public flats and private properties.

HDB flat owners enjoy substantial subsidies as part of the Government's aim to give every citizen a chance to own a home. The minimum occupation period (MOP) ensures they make the houses their homes for a certain period to justify the subsidies.

In contrast, private property owners do not enjoy government subsidies. Thus, requiring them to fulfil an MOP is unjustifiable.

Each HDB home owner who buys private property while holding on to his unit deprives the resale market of one flat, which could have benefited an aspiring HDB home owner, and in turn pushes up resale prices.

The Government would then need to build more flats to meet demand, which means more subsidies flowing into the public housing market.

An HDB flat is essentially a public good that serves to mitigate the uneven income distribution in Singapore.

Letting HDB flat owners rent out rooms can help the less well-off with their living costs. But letting well-to-do flat owners enhance their wealth by way of a second property acquisition, while keeping their flats, is akin to commercialising a public good and further skews the uneven income distribution.

Letter by Liew Eng Leng

This article was published on May 15 in The Straits Times.

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