Every Type of House in Singapore - Public Housing (WAT #5) - Mortgage Master Blog

Every Type of House in Singapore - Public Housing (WAT #5)


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by Kyler Q. on


Singapore’s housing scene is simple ...

.... right?



I mean, any house in a 13-storey building that has a monochromatic colour scheme is a 4-room flat.

If that same flat is in a gated community with a disappointing swimming pool, it’s a condo.

And if the house has its own gates, then that’s a bungalow.


See … simple.

Guy saying It's Easy;



Except .. there are probably 20+ other types of houses that you might have missed out.


So, if you’re planning to get a house soon and you want to see your options, or if you wanna show off to your friends how well-versed you are with the different types of houses in Singapore, your boy's got cha.



Here’s how this article is structured.


A timeline showing the chronological order for this article, with public housing starting first

(I assure you, this is not the new SMRT train map)



For each house, I’ll give

  1. a brief history/explanation
  2. the number of rooms included
  3. if they’re any income restrictions (only for public housing).
  4. and plot size/restrictions that differentiates one from the other.



Of course as always, if you’re ever interested in knowing more about any specific house, feel free to send in your suggestions/feedback to kyler@mortgagemaster.com.sg. It might be published as an article or a podcast episode, and I’ll give you a virtual fist bump .


Without any further ado, let’s begin.

Public Housing

  1. Studio Apartments/1-room flats
  2. 2-room flexis
  3. 3-room flats
  4. 4-room flats
  5. 5-room flats
  6. 3-Gen flats
  7. Executive Flats/Apartments (EA)
  8. Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats
  9. Maisonettes
  10. Jumbo flats
  11. Adjoined flats
  12. HDB Terrace flats

Public-Private Housing

  1. Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flats
  2. Executive Condominiums (EC)




Public Housing

  1. Studio Apartments/1-room flats

    Beginning with the basic and fundamentals, a studio apartment/1-room flat offers you everything you should have in a home - a bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, and that’s it.

    Whatever remaining limited space you’re left with, well .. you can go ham with it.

    The reason why I combined both of these units together is because
    1) my OCD will trigger if “1-room flat” is #2 on the list (and so forth)
    2) they are more or less exactly the same, except for 1 difference


    What differentiates a studio apartment and a 1-room flat is that a 1-room flat has an additional wall that sets a boundary between the bedroom and the rest of the flat, creating that divide.

    A studio apartment has it’s bed, kitchen, bathroom all in one big living area, like an open concept kinda space.


    A comparison between a studio apartment vs a 1-rm flat

    Source/Source


    As you can see, the 1-room flat on the right has a wall (in the poorly-shaped red border) that acts as a partition between the bedroom and the living room, whereas the studio apartment on the left is more open.


    These units are getting rarer because HDB isn’t releasing any of these units in their BTO launches, which means you can only rent/buy these units from resale.


    (Also, these units are usually households for lower-income residents and families, so if you can comfortably afford something bigger, please try your best to do so, as to not lower their supply of available units)


    Rooms included: 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 kitchen, 1 living room (for 1-room units)
    Average room size: <36sqm
    Income restrictions: None
    Where you can find these units: Pretty uncommon. There are blocks of such units in Chinatown, Bukit Merah etc.

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  1. 2-room flexis

    Introduced in 2015, 2-room flexis are the new studio apartments, ever since HDB discontinued offering the latter. In terms of layout and size, it has an additional bomb shelter/storage room, from the 1-room flat.


    There are two types of 2-room flexis - Type 1 (36sqm) and Type 2 (45sqm).


    The biggest portion of residents who live in 2-room flexis are elderly people and singles.

    This is because elderly people whose children have already moved out, may now choose to downgrade from their unnecessary bigger house.

    Singles, on the other hand, can only BTO for 2-room flexis (in non-mature estates). They can buy bigger units through resale, which we’ll now move on to.


    Rooms included: 1 bedroom, 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, living room, 1 storeroom/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 36sqm or 45sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples, <$7,000 for singles
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore

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  1. 3-room flats

    Usually the starting point for most families when they consider a flat, a 3-room flat is suitable for families because now, there is a master bedroom (with a bathroom attached), and a second bedroom.

    Essentially, the upgrade from a 2-room to a 3-room is a master bedroom with a bathroom attached (aka ensuite bathroom)


    Guy in a bathroom that's also his home office;



    Residents living in these units can be quite diverse, ranging from young families, to families on a budget, to single-parent families, to singles buying it as a resale.


    Rooms included: 1 master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 1 bedroom, 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, living room, 1 storage/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 60-65sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples, <$7,000 for singles (resale only)
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore

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  1. 4-room flats

    Quintessentially known as The Singapore Flat, when people mention ‘HDB flat’, people think of the 4-room flat.

    A 4-room flat has everything a 3-room flat has, plus 1 bedroom. It’s the ideal unit that strikes a balance between affordability and comfortability.


    2020 Statistics show that 31.6% of household residents stay in a 4-room flat, the highest among all other house types.


    Rooms included: 1 master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2 bedrooms, 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, living room, 1 storage/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 90-100sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples, <$7,000 for singles (resale only)
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore

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  1. 5      -       room flats

    See the header? Yeap, that’s how much more S P A C E a 5-room unit offers.

    A 5-room flat is like the upsized version of the 4-room.
    Everything’s the same, just that you get more space.


    More often than not, the additional space of a 5-room unit comes in the form of an additional dining room, or a balcony, or just a bigger living area, thus the "extra room"

    Maybe consider this if you host lots of gatherings (after COVID-19 ofc), wanting the space to play mahjong, or if you foresee your child taking up breakdancing.


    Rooms included: 1 master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2 bedrooms, 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, bigger living room, 1 storage/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 110sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples, <$7000 for singles (resale only. This is also the biggest a single can purchase as of 2021)
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore

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  1. 3-Gen flats

    Oh … you thought we were done with public housing?
    Nah fam, we’re only halfway there. (somewhere in the distance, Bon Jovi approves)


    Introduced in 2013, the purpose of a 3-gen flat is to encourage Singaporeans to live with their parents.

    True to its name, a 3-Gen flat must have 3-Generations of a family living in that house. This means you + your partner, your parents (or in laws) and your child must all stay in that household.


    There are also some restrictions that 3-gen house owners must follow.
    1) Your parents must be registered as an owner, which means they cannot have their own house, local or overseas
    2) Your parents income will be included, hence the incoming ceiling for this unit is increased to $21,000, instead of the usual $14,000
    3) When you want to sell a 3-gen flat, you can only sell it to another buyer who also has a 3-gen family


    If you’re widowed or a divorcee, you can still apply for a 3-gen house with your child & parent(s).


    Rooms included: 2 master bedrooms (w/ ensuite bathroom each), 2 bedrooms, 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, bigger living room, 1 storage/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 115sqm
    Income restrictions: <$21,000 for household
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore. There have been 31 launches for 3-gen flats.

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  1. Executive Flats/Apartments (EA)

    Remember how I said the 5-room was an upsize of the 4-room?

    What happens if you decide to make your medium drink a large, you add an ice-cream to it, and make it a complete meal?

    That’s what an EA offers.


    The biggest unit for a typical HDB flat, the extra space can be converted into several uses such as a guest bedroom, a study room or a game room.


    The main difference between an EA and a 5-room is that an EA has even more space, and a likelier tendency to convert that extra space into an actual room, and not just a bigger living/dining room.


    Rooms included: 1 master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2 bedrooms (potentially 3), 1 common bathroom, 1 kitchen, even bigger living room, 1 storage/bomb shelter
    Average room size: 130sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: Mostly heartland areas such as Punggol, Pasir Ris and Yishun.

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  1. Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats

    DBSS units are public houses, but designed, built and sold by private developers.


    Introduced in 2005, DBSS offers a more visually-pleasing HDB block, for a higher price. However, the units inside were still the same, ranging from standard 3-5 room flats.

    Trivelis @ Clementi Source


    Quite chio right, compared to our standard HDB blocks.


    Originally tailored for the sandwiched class, this initiative proved to only be somewhat successful.

    • Sandwiched class refers to people who earned more than the income ceiling for public housing, but less than what they could afford to sustainably live in private housing.


    Joe Bastianich holding 2 buns to his ears and asking 'what do you call this sandwich?';


    The initiative was suspended in 2011 after backlash about its exuberant prices, setting 5-room units at the price of $880,000. Since HDB wasn’t in charge of controlling the price, reception to this turned sour and eventually led to this scheme being stopped.


    Rooms included: Ranging from 3-5 room units
    Average room size: 60-110sqm
    Income restrictions: $14,000-$16,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: There were only 13 DBSS projects, which you can see here for a complete list.

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  1. Maisonettes

    The concept of having stairs in a public house left me bewildered when I was a young child.

    Then again, I was bewildered by the type of aliens Ben 10 could transform into.


    Currently no longer in production, a maisonette is probably the cheapest option for a house with a flight of stairs in it. That being said, that is the unique feature that sets apart the maisonette and most other types of public housing.


    A shot of a maisonette

    Source


    Not only do the stairs offer some sense of privacy when guests come over (because bedrooms are on the upper level), but simultaneously offer so much more space that only a few others can provide.

    A typical maisonette consists of 3 bedrooms, with 3 bathrooms.


    Rooms included: 1 Master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2 bedrooms, 2 common bathrooms, 1 kitchen, living room, 1 storage
    Average room size: 142-215sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: A mix of mature & non-mature estates. Some examples include Bishan, AMK, Queenstown to CCK, Serangoon and Hougang

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  1. Jumbo flats

    No silly, it’s not when you tabao that seafood place back home that makes it a jumbo flat.


    In the 90s, there was an oversupply of 3/4-room flats, specifically in areas of Woodlands and Yishun. This was because in the past, BTOs were built before people bidded for it.


    So, the marketing genius at HDB decided to combine these leftover units and brand it as a new unit to what we know as the jumbo flat.


    Basically, the wall separating the two units gets hacked down, and it becomes one huge unit .. to the point where apparently people can play badminton in their living rooms.

    A family playin badminton in their jumbo flat

    Source

    Since it’s a combination of two units, it adds to the total number of bedrooms, bathrooms and total living area.

    Fun Fact: President Halimah Yacob was staying in one of these before moving out. Hers was a 5rm + 4 rm unit.


    Given that now BTO application rates are always oversubscribed, there are definitely no jumbo flats in production. This limited supply can only be bought via resale, and often fetch pretty high prices due to how scarce it is.


    Rooms included: 2 Master bedrooms (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2-4 bedrooms, 2 common bathrooms, 1-2 kitchens, jumbo-sized living room, 1-2 storages
    Average room size: 142-199 sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: Majority are in Woodlands, with a few scattered in Yishun, Jurong East, Bedok.

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  1. Adjoined flats

    If you’re disappointed that jumbo flats are no longer in production or there isn’t one for sale in the market, you may be glad to hear that you can make your own jumbo flat.


    Yeap, it’s like that old saying ..

       “When life gives you limited jumbo flats, make adjoined flats
                                                               - Confucious     ”
                                                                        -Kyler Q.   


    The concept of jumbo flats intrigued a lot of people, and there was a demand to have that spacious, luxurious comfort while still being under public housing.


    This gave birth to the HDB Conversion Scheme, where if you own 2 adjoining flats, you can combine them into 1 unit.

    There are a few guidelines that you’ll have to follow if you want to do this, which you can view here.


    Just take note that once you’ve combined the adjoining flats, you cannot divide and sell them as 2 separate units (you can do this for jumbo flats cause HDB was the one that combined them)


    Rooms included: 2 Master bedrooms (w/ ensuite bathroom), 1-3 bedrooms, 2 common bathrooms, 1-2 kitchens, jumbo-sized living room, 1-2 storages
    Average room size: 130-176 sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: Anywhere, as long as you can get approval from HDB

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  1. HDB Terrace flats

    Nani?!
    HDB + Terrace house??


    Welcome to the last and final public housing option, with this arguably being the least known and closest to privatised housing.


    A HDB Terrace House

    Source


    Before HDB became in charge of public housing, there was the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), who was in charge of housing wayyyyyy back in the 50s.


    These units are probably one of the oldest units in Singapore, and are a physical testament to the heritage of Singapore’s housing.


    Despite it’s two-storey layout, it may not be able to compete with maisonettes and even other 1-storey flats in terms of sqm and space, but this is the closest to private housing without actually paying for private housing.


    Furthermore, the absolute lack of supply for these units drive value up, regardless of its dwindling remaining lease. And lastly, due to the space it takes up, there is a high en-bloc potential for these houses, which will result in a huge payday for its owners.


    Rooms included: Hard to say, depends on what the owners wants to built
    Average room size: ~190 sqm
    Income restrictions: <$14,000 for couples
    Where you can find these units: Only at Whampoa & Queenstown, more specifically at Jalan Bahagia & Stirling Road.

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Public-Private Housing

Just a small disclaimer before we start this section.

How Public-Private Housing, aka hybrid housing, works is that these houses start under public housing (under HDB, thus cheaper) before it gets privatized.



  1. Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flats

    Started in 1974, the HUDC was the OG housing for the sandwiched class.


    Similar to the DBSS units, this was the option for people who could afford more than HDB flats, but weren’t that financially comfortable with buying a private house yet.


    Technically, this section on HUDC should belong in the private housing section because the remaining HUDCS in Singapore are currently privatised.


    A shot of Ivory Heights

    (Ivory Heights)


    The other 12 HUDCs have been demolished to make space for new buildings such as The Interlace and Orchard Scotts Residences.


    You know how some people joke that the panda is the most inclusive animal because it’s Black, White and Asian?

    In the property world, the HUDC flats are kind of like the same thing. It looks like a HDB block (because it was built in the 70s), it has condo facilities (like tennis courts and swimming pools), and is a private property.


    Rooms included: 1 Master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 2 bedrooms, 1-2 common bathrooms, 1 kitchen, almost jumbo-sized living room, 1 storage room
    Average room size: 139-158 sqm
    Where you can find these units: The 7 remaining HUDC units are
    1) Lakeview Estate @ Bishan
    2) Laguna Park @ Marine Parade
    3) Braddell View @ Toa Payoh
    4) Chancery Court @ Novena
    5) Ivory Heights @ Jurong East
    6) Pine Grove @ Bukit Timah
    7) Florence Regency @ Hougang

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  1. Executive Condominiums (EC)

    Ok so far, there’ve been 2 failed attempts at finding a house for the sandwiched class.

    First, there were the HUDC flats in 1970s-1980s.
    Then, there were the DBSS flats 2005-2011.

    Hais … 3rd time’s the charm right?


    Probably the second most common type of housing after HDB units, ECs are seen all in almost every town in Singapore.

    This is because the EC has been the consistent answer to address the issues of people in the sandwiched tier.

    Since the 1980s and the decline of HUDC flats, people started becoming richer, bringing in a higher income, which led to a rise in the sandwiched class again.


    ECs start off as designed and sold by external contractors, but are under Government subsidies, thus making it public-private housing.

    As it starts off under public housing, there are income restrictions for these units as well.


    After 10 years, the EC becomes fully privatized (which also means you can now sell it to foreigners)

    • After 5 years, you can only sell it to other Singaporeans/PRs


    A shot of Prive Executive Condo

    (Prive @ Punggol Field, the next EC to become a private condo, in 2023)


    Accompanied with a swimming pool, a guardhouse, and diminishing appearances of tennis courts, ECs are almost built the same.

    They’re kinda like the HDB of private housing, in terms of relative uniformity and commonness.


    Rooms included: 1 Master bedroom (w/ ensuite bathroom), 1-2 bedrooms, 1-2 common bathrooms, 1 kitchen, living room, 1 storage room
    Average room size: 97-111 sqm
    Income restrictions: <$16,000. It’s recommended to have an income of $14,000-$16,000.
    Where you can find these units: All over Singapore

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Click HERE for Part 2 of Every Type of House in Singapore




Posted in WAT on Mar 24, 2021.