From renting flats to owning one

SINGAPORE - Born in 1959, Mr Roger Ng grew up in a succession of Housing Board rental flats. But he always believed that one day, he would get a flat of his own.

"It is important to own your own home," said the 54-year-old, who got his first flat, a three-room unit in Yishun, in 1985. He has since upgraded to a four-room flat in Woodlands.

"You don't need to pay any rent. It is yours."

Mr Ng, a supervisor in a company distributing testing materials, is one of the many Singaporeans who have made the journey to home ownership since the Housing Board launched the scheme 50 years ago.

When he was barely two years old, the squatter huts of Bukit Ho Swee, where his family lived, were razed in the fire of 1961, which destroyed more than 2,200 attap houses. The family moved to an emergency flat built by the Government.

In 1968, they moved to a one-room flat in nearby Indus Road. But they uprooted soon after to a two-room flat in Queen's Crescent estate. Each one was a rental flat.

His parents never talked about buying their own place, said Mr Ng. "It wasn't seen as the standard thing." And as a seaman, his father had no Central Provident Fund savings to help pay for a flat.

But in 1981, newly married Mr Ng applied for a flat with his wife. In 1985, along with their four-year-old son, they moved into a three-room flat in Yishun.

"We were very excited."

A decade and two more children later, the flat began to seem crowded. "There was no space - they were all growing up," said Mr Ng. So in 1995, they moved to a new four-room flat in Woodlands. Some years later, Mr Ng's parents moved in too.

His father passed away last year. Today, Mr Ng still lives in that flat with his mother, his wife, and their eldest son. His other children have found their own HDB homes. For them, home ownership is a given - a far cry from the days when Mr Ng's parents started a family.

Mr Ng's daughter Ng Shijin, 30, is living with her husband and in-laws while their Build-To-Order flat is being completed. After getting married in 2009, youngest son Ng Jun Tai, 27, finally moved into his BTO unit - just a few blocks from his father's - last month.

Mr Ng is glad his children have the chance to get a place of their own. He said: "I think it's right to start a family when you have your own home."

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