Dorm-style public rental housing available for vulnerable singles in Singapore

  • The scheme – Single Room Shared Facilities Scheme – is a new housing model to be piloted by the Singapore Housing and Development Board.
  • Each room is a little less than 100 square meters and equipped with simple furniture, while bathrooms and kitchen facilities are shared.
  • Some say it looks no better than a Scandinavian prison, while others find it decent for a pilot.

In Singapore — the world’s most expensive city according to the World Economic Forum — rents start at SGD2,000, or about US$1,500 for a two-bedroom council flat.

Land is scarce in Singapore, a country less than a quarter the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state. In the last 60 years, according to WorldData, the population has grown from 1.65 million to 5.45 million people.

The Housing and Development Board’s eligibility requirements do not allow singles to purchase public housing before the age of 35. According to Statista, 80% of the population will live in social housing by 2021.

Many prefer to live with their parents until they marry to avoid high rents, while those who have no choice choose to share an apartment with another tenant, typically for around US$500. Dollars for a fully furnished room 30 minutes from downtown.

On March 13, the country’s Housing and Development Board unveiled sample rooms of its new public-rental housing pilot for singles, due to be applied for by the end of the year.

The Single Room Shared Facilities Scheme is aimed at vulnerable singles with an average monthly income of $1,000, although those with higher incomes are still welcome to apply, according to the public housing official website.

According to CNA, the two 11-story buildings were formerly a school dormitory. Previously with only 240 rooms, new additional partitions doubled the number. Each room, a little less than 100 square meters, has the basic amenities of a bed frame, wardrobe, table, chair and mini fridge.

Bathrooms and kitchen are shared, with 12 people allocated to a single bathroom with multiple cabins. 24 people share a communal kitchen. The apartment will also have laundry and activity rooms.

There is a fixed fee each month, calculated based on the person’s monthly income and other factors. According to The Straits Times, the government plans to release more information about the rent later in the year.

After the release of images of the rooms and facilities, there was a mixed reaction on various social media platforms in Singapore.

Some say the rooms look no better than a Scandinavian prison and are appalled at the “poor” standard of living offered to vulnerable singles with the system. “We are the most expensive city, but that’s what HDB (Housing and Development Board) can offer non-prisoners”, a tweet read, with a picture of a bedroom in Norway’s Halden prison.

On the other hand, some are optimistic about the program and say that since it is a pilot program it helps to see if it is working now and what can be improved in the future. “I was concerned when I first saw the pictures. But after looking at the rent, I think this could be a good option for vulnerable singles who need alternative housing to find safety,” another tweet read.

Though the number of homeless on the streets has fallen by more than 40% from 1,050 to 616 in 2021, occupancy in shelters has increased more than six-fold, according to a report by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “The public rental housing system has directly contributed to homelessness,” the same report states.

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