Photo of Matilda Sundeck Punggol from HDB website

In the latest Built-to-Order (BTO) sales launch by the Housing Development Board HDB) tiday (Nov 22), prices of  4-room government flats are starting from S$497,000 in Kallang’s Geylang Lorong 1-Sim Drive junction.

There are also cheaper options in inconvenient places like Punggol in the far-flung North-Eastern region. Prices for a 4-room flat at Punggol Matilda Sundeck, located just 4km away from the mainland of Johor Bahru Malaysia, are just going for S$258,000.

The total number of units launched this year is 17,891. Along with 10,178 balance flats unsold in previous launches, there are now a total of 28,069 flats untaken.

According to the BTO sales pamphlet, prices of similarly-constructed housing between “non-mature” towns (Punggol etc.) and “mature” towns (Bedok, Toa Payoh, Kallang etc.) differ by as much as 80% due to land prices. Land prices determined by the Singapore Land Authority has always been a hidden cost undisclosed by the government. In addition to the lack of transparency behind land costs, construction costs of HDB BTO flats are also undisclosed. The Singapore government is not willing to declare its profit margin out of fear that the figures might prompt a “welfare mentality” among the people.

The Singapore government’s official stance on public housing is that it is only a cost factor. In 2015, former Minister of National Development (MND) Khaw Boon Wan claimed that the HDB incurred a S$2.02 billion loss from building HDB BTO flats.

Despite so, unaffordable housing remains a primary concern due to lengthy mortgage loans. Mortgage service period of 25 years is common while some see mortgage period stretch as far as 30 years. Deterred by cost, young couples put off family-planning resulting in Singapore posting its lowest birth rate since independence.