Smaller flats have not lowered quality of life: HDB CEO
Nov 11, 2011
SINGAPORE - The shrinking size of public flats here has not lowered Singaporeans' quality of living, according to Housing and Development Board's (HDB) CEO Cheong Koon Hean.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a housing forum yesterday, Dr Cheong noted that there are now fewer people living in one flat which works out to increased living space per person.
"Our families are smaller. In the old days, we have very large families living in a flat. Today, the family is two, three, four (people)," she said.
As a result of rising land costs and the need to keep flats affordable, the size of HDB flats has shrunk by 5 to 10 per cent over the last two to three decades. For example, a five-room flat in Bukit Batok Central built in 1989 has a floor area of 121 sq m, compared to 110 sq m for a similar unit built in 2003.
Based on official surveys, the average household size was 3.5 last year. In 1980, it was 4.9.
This means an occupant of a 110 sq m five-room flat today will have 31 sq m of space, while a resident of a 121 sq m five-room flat in the '80s had about 25 sq m of space. Dr Cheong added that interior design also plays a part in creating good living space.
"In many global cities of the world or big cities, people do pay attention to how they do the inside of the flat as well as optimising the use of furniture and storage. It can be a very comfortable living environment," she said.
PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail concurred with Dr Cheong: "The modern Singapore family is much smaller and living in a bigger place compared to previous generations, and with amenities. The quality of life is not affected."
Mr Ismail added: "And people have a choice to buy three, four or five-room flats."
Still, Mr Ismail noted that with the high property prices, the lower income with many children will be most affected as they have "no choice but to buy within their means, and that means a smaller flat".
Suntec Chesterton International head of research and consultancy Colin Tan disagreed with the suggestion that the smaller flat sizes have not compromised the quality of living.
Mr Tan pointed out that today's modern family needs "at least" a three-bedroom flat with one room for the domestic help or the in-laws.
"And when the children grow up, families will want separate rooms for daughters and sons," Mr Tan said.
Mr Tan noted that unlike the private sector, the HDB does not reduce the size of the kitchen. Instead, it builds smaller bedrooms and this is where Mr Tan believes has the "biggest impact" on the quality of life.
He also argued that Singaporeans, who have become more affluent, have a greater number of possessions which require space. Said Mr Tan: "People who have lived in bigger flats will feel that their quality of life has gone down."
Some flat owners pointed out that it is the size of the unit that affects a couple's decision on the number of children to have. Ms Priscilla Raj, 28, who lives in a five-room Build-To-Order flat, said she was not satisfied with the size of her flat, which might deter her from having more children.
The mother of one said: "(The size) will affect your quality of life - there's no space to have your in-laws or friends to stay over. The cramp makes you feel that you're living in a cell."
Bravo Cheong Koon Hean, you made yourself sound like an idiot on public media trying to justify your organisation greed by building smaller flats while selling them at record prices.
First of all I bet this Koon Hean doesn’t even live in HDB nor she has many friends living in one of her product.
Here is like having someone who eat shark fin everyday telling the person who drink tap water it is good enough to have water as long time ago people dink from the drains.
This again highlighted the poor quality of leadership in government stats boards who are appointed without knowing the needs and hardships of average Singaporean. (Remember the SMRT CEO?)
How will you expect these Elites to do a good job providing the needs of the peasants?
They do not use the product the sell and they are out to maximise profit for their company.
Now we know they are quite stupid as well as they try to tell us how good HDB flats and SMRT are.
"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."