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HDB, a place I spent my childhood running around with my friends playing block catching. The place I desperately longed to go home to some nights when I was made to work overtime. The same place that I struggled back to when I had one drink too many. Also, the place I spent time wondering if my parents could hear us at night when my then-girlfriend-now-wife used to stay over. 

Seriously, how much can I talk to you about HDB? 

Home ownership in Singapore stands at over 90%, and out of these, over 80% of us live in HDB flats. This also means it’s pretty difficult to write about something so many of you are familiar with in your everyday life and that would make you want to click and share.

It is not like in the 1960s where people had to be convinced to move into HDB estates from their kampungs. Back in the day, only around 9% of Singaporeans were staying in HDBs. I really cannot imagine how that version of Singapore was like. How could I have survived living in the kampung without internet and tinder? #FirstWorldProblems 

This is a picture of a nice HDB flat.jpg

This is the part where you go, “WOW, this one really HDB meh?” 

This is a photo of the nice couple who allowed me to do a photoshoot of their hdb flat.jpg

Boy met girl, fell in love, got married, got a flat, popped a baby. And they will live happily ever after. #myHDBstory

I was there because my boss we thought writing a human interest story might be more interesting for netizens to read. My boss calls it the “feel-good” story. The thing about the internet these days, the only “feel-good” for most people is when people get to read see some leaked video or pictures. Trust me, I have been writing on the internet for years but those articles that travel the furthest are still those stupid tabloid articles. #FaithInHumanityInTheToiletBowl.

Jon and Felicia (in their early 30s) were very lucky. They got their HDB just by balloting once. 

If you think you can also be lucky like them, don’t. Luck is one thing we cannot bet on. (The irony of that sentence).

Most couples usually manage to get their BTO these days on probably the 3rd or 4th try. Sorry, no stats on this. I tried to google for an answer but nope, nothing. I then did my own survey with a really huge sample size of 5 friends. Okay, to be fair, I do not hear many complaints from young couple these days as compared to say maybe 10 years ago where couples could try up to 10 times and still could not get lucky with the balloting system. Some even resorted to seeking their MPs for help. Looks like our HDB system did get a lot better these days.

I looked at the couple and the couple looked at me awkwardly, a stranger taking photos of their home. After all, our homes are really intimate spaces to most of us. They were probably wondering what kind of articles I would come out with. To be honest, at that point in time, I had no idea. 

I had no choice but to take more pictures considering the fact that most Singaporeans do not really read much. Visuals and optics always win the day. Therefore, here are a few more of these nice HDB images to impress you and make the length of this article look more acceptable. #fakeittillyoumakeit.

Obviously taken in August.jpg
Don’t focus on that iphone cable.jpg
Babies sold separately.jpg 

Just like many of us married people, the couple got this place because it is near their parents. Not only is it easy to go home and freeload meals off your parents, ask for their help to watch your baby, you will also get to enjoy this thing called the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG).

And that’s a cool $20,000. WHAT? Looks like the famous Internet saying of “give chicken wing and take back whole chicken” is not true after all. After all, when was the last time you paid $20,000 in taxes?

I was just daydreaming and pretending to take notes most of the time during the interview. The only thing that caught my attention was when the couple talked so animatedly about how happy they were that they got their CPF robbed deducted for the purchase of their HDB.  

“It was a relief to be able to use our CPF to cover a good amount of the cost, instead of cash upfront. In fact, the loan is fully covered by CPF, without the need for out-of-pocket cash.” 

For real? Jon went on to explain that cash flow is very important to young couples like themselves. Besides getting their own place, they also really wanted to have some liquidity and flexibility to get their renovation done up. I guess that is why his HDB is so pretty. #becauseCPF

Although they were not able to get the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) because their parents only moved into the hood after they did, the couple benefitted from the Additional CPF housing grant or Special CPF housing grant which was recently revised into the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) .

“The grants we received were definitely helpful. But it’s really a bonus that HDB is supporting families with their housing. We also see it as our own responsibility to work and save for the home that we want for ourselves.”  

Wah, this man is so politically correct I think we might just see him on the next GE’s poster! 

Their HDB, it seems, is more than just a house and a roof over their heads. The couple went on to tell me about how they enjoy the company of their neighbours. Both families’ kids were born just weeks apart and it has been quite an amazing journey together, with lots of shared experiences. I guess the kampung spirit does not always get lost in the concrete jungle.  

Shucks I forgot to remove the red pail.jpg

I finished my cup of tea, thanked the couple and left their flat. I walk past a playground toward the nearest bus-stop which was just three minutes away based on Google maps.

I saw some kids running around which reminded me of myself as a child. There was this old man seated at the bench beaming, one can hazard a guess that these kids were probably his grandchildren. That scene reminded me that life for most Singaporeans isn’t that bad after all. I mean unless those kids are not his grandchildren, then it might potentially be worrying to see an elderly man watching small kids and smiling widely, hurhur.

I guess HDBs have provided us with more than just a roof over the heads. The HDB life is also a way of life as each estate is really more like a township with MRT or LRT stations, bus stops, schools, shops and amenities. The bigger ones even get their own bus interchanges and shopping malls! The people at HDB did not stop at building homes and amenities too, but also went on to build communities.

Pretty sure I’m a city guy and I seriously doubt I could get used to living on a big plot of land, some three hours’ drive away from the nearest convenience store just to pick up diapers for my baby. Like Jon and the other 80% of Singaporeans, I’m pretty much happy with #myHDBstory.