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Singapore has a world-class public housing system that helps Singaporeans own their own homes, from 9% in 1960 to over 90% today.

Yes, Singapore is often talked about and used as a successful example of public housing done right. Our home ownership of 91% lands us in the top three highest in the world, and over 80% of Singaporeans live in high quality and affordable HDB flats.

Housing a Nation

This was not the case in the early years, when most people lived in over-crowded and unhygienic slums. 

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a key driver in of public housing in Singapore. The nation’s founding prime minister had set up the HDB in 1960, and launched an ambitious building programme to provide proper homes for Singaporeans – Housing a nation.

Watch this to find out how Singapore fixed its housing problem,

Let’s Meet the People Living in these HDB Flats

You should have noticed by now that we’re publishing a series of #myHDBstory where we check out Singaporeans’ HDB homes and invite them to share with us their HDB stories. 

We have already covered #myHDBstory of a middle-aged couple with five kids as well as a young couple with a baby girl, let’s check out the home of a single person this round.

Today, we’re checking out the home of Bob Mubarak

Bob’s day job is a Business Manager with, one of the leading bridal resource portals in Singapore. But when he’s not working, Bob transforms into a tastemaker of sorts. Here is someone who has always loved all things beautiful. 

Earlier in this career, he was a highly accomplished makeup artist who helped women look more beautiful. Some years back, he was also running a wedding gift tray business and mind you, he was so good at making beautiful wedding gift trays he was perpetually booked! 

Now, when he’s not working, he’s an accidental Instagram-Influencer who spams lotsa posts of beautiful homes, fabulous reno and cool furnishings. And believe you me, his casual post about something he bought can cause the item to be sold out at all outlets! He also likes to feature yummy food and seemingly fabulous people too!

Bob’s #myHDBstory is #bobsretirementhome

Home to Bob is a 4-room resale flat in Bukit Panjang, a place where Bob insists is much much nearer to town than most people think. It’s also near where his family is staying. The flat was completed in 1998, so it’s around 20 years old. 

He knew he wanted a flat near his family home, so that helped lots to narrow down where to start looking. But even then, he shared that he viewed a total of 13(!!) units! The funny thing is he ended up buying the very first flat he’d viewed. He took over the flat on 19th December 2016, signed the renovation contract on 1st January 2017 and he has been living there in solo bliss for over two years now. 

Bob had bought the flat for around $350,000 in late 2016. Did you know that about 80% of first-time homebuyers are able to pay their monthly mortgage instalment fully with CPF? This means that they do not pay any cash out-of-pocket. That’s the same for Bob too! His monthly housing instalments are all taken care of via his CPF, so no cash out-of-pocket for him too!

Bob’s #myHDBstory is every single Singaporean’s dream

Guess how many IDs Bob had checked out before deciding? Eight.

Whoa. Not only did he top the number of viewings I’ve ever heard of, he’s also right up there in terms of the most number of contractors a homeowner has met for quotes. Anyway, he eventually decided on Tid Plus, an ID that he highly recommends. He says they’re great value-for-money and deliver good work.

Let’s go on a tour of #bobsretirementhome now!

Don’t you just love that gate! And white doors are quite rare in HDB estates!

Come, let’s go in!

Bob shared that he had initially wanted a black-and-white look in the colonial style.  

But once he decided on this unit and fell in love with the abundance of light flowing into the living space, he decided that the natural light would be wasted on a high-contrast black-and-white look. He next considered to go full-on white, but his ID advised him against it. An all-white look might look too sterile and clinical for a home.

In the end, Bob went for a white-and-grey palette which was light and airy, whilst providing some dimension.

Bob truly believes that adding dashes of green in the form of plants works wonders. It warms the space immediately, and gives it life.

I love how the plants and his soft furnishing break the straight lines of the renovation and furniture, softening it nicely to add homeliness to the cool, modern look.

Bob has always wanted an open-concept kitchen. So he worked with the ID to hack away a curved wall that the previous owner had erected. So yea, he got his open kitchen that flows seamlessly into the dining area and opens up to the living space.

Incidentally, this is also where Bob does his work too!

His employer is apparently a very progressive one. Since started in 2000, the team has always worked from home. Very good, they were green and contributing to reducing carbon footprint even before it’s a thing!

And as if he ain’t talented enough, Bob is also a good cook! Man, what can’t this bachelor do?? 

He loves having his friends over and feeding them delish food that he’ll whip up himself. So yea, the kitchen is not mere showpiece for photography, he actually puts it to good use too!

Let’s check out the bedrooms now!

Whoa, I quite like the master bedroom! So fancy!

And, did you know that the room can look and feel completely different with just a change of bedlinen? Check out this, this and this!

And did you think no one will actually sit on that chair? WRONG. Bob does!

We asked him where is his favourite spot at home, and he said it’s right here!

There are two other bedrooms, but we only took photos of one of them since Bob uses the third bedroom for storage.

The second bedroom, with the sofa-bed, effectively is a guestroom.

By now you must be very curious how much the renovation and all cost. Bob had spent $46,000 on the renovation. This seems to be a reasonable amount as resale flats sometimes can cost significantly more than BTO in terms of renovation costs because there are usually hacking and remodelling work, etc.

The TV and refrigerator were gifted to Bob, but even then, he had spent only $5,000 on furniture and appliances! He was very careful with what he spent on, and he even had a rule of not buying anything over $1,000. He would watch the sales and promotions with eagle eyes, and he enlisted the help of his Chinese friends to help him order items on Taobao.

His efforts sure paid off and his home is one of the nicest we’ve featured for the #myHDBstory series. 

More about the Single Citizen Scheme

As with most developed cities, Singapore is also seeing her citizens getting married later in life, and there are also Singaporeans who choose to remain single. The Government has recognised this trend and in order to cater to the needs of singles,  HDB first implemented the Single Citizen Scheme to allow Singaporeans who are 35 years old and above to own their own HDB flats in July 2013. 

Singles can choose to buy BTO or resale flats. Singles can apply for 2-room BTO Flexi units at non-mature estates and for resale units, there are no restrictions on location or size; so singles who want bigger flats or want their flats immediately will usually go the resale route.

There have always been grants for first-time home buyers, be it families or singles. But earlier this month, the Government announced even more good news and these enhancements were effective from 11th September 2019.

  • Eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above, and earning not more than $4,500 a month, can also enjoy an Enhanced Housing Grant (EHG for singles) of up to $40,000, and are subject to the same conditions.
  • The monthly household income ceiling for eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above will also be raised from $6,000 to $7,000.

More about #bobsretirementhome: To sell or not to sell?

Bob was penduluming between the thought of selling the current flat off after the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years, or to carry out another round of renovation at the current unit.

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; #bobsretirementhome | totally loveeee the morning ray on a sunday. why i am up at 7.00am on a sunday, i have no idea. but when your age is approaching 40, it has a funny way of telling you to sleep at 10.00pm and be wide awake at 6.00am. • yes, especially on a sunday. • … and the public holidays. • i was talking to @msofian about selling my house after the minimum occupation period of five years, and then downgrading to three-room flat and try to be as debt free as possible, while simultaneously talking to @tidplus_design to renovate this house to do #bobsretirementhome version 2.0. • this is another peril of old age. an almost immediate dementia. talked about selling the house, and then five minutes later, planning new renovation design of the very home that i intend to sell. • #bobsretirementhome have given me so much. like the huge amount of sunlight streaming through every morning, so many opportunities have opened up for me because of this home too. to sell, or not to sell, that is the question. the answer is, will sell if can earn 100% profit. eh? • and yes, eldershield will be reaching me next year. kurang ajar punya government. tak payah nak remind lah hawau!

A post shared by Bob Mubarak Nasir (@bobmubarak) on

He was wondering if he could make 100% profit if he were to sell off the unit. ONE HUNDRED PER CENT?! That would mean $700,000 leh, so I don’t think so? But it’s entirely probable that he will make a reasonably tidy sum if he were to sell it.

At 25 years upon MOP, the flat is still relatively “young”. 

Besides, remember this: Every flat will be upgraded twice.

To keep all HDB flats safe and liveable, there will be one round of upgrading when your flat is about 30 years old through the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), and a second round when your flat is about 60-70 years old through HIP II. The upgrades will address common maintenance issues such as repairing spalling concrete.

Apart from upgrading, the Government will redevelop old estates through the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) to ensure they remain vibrant places to live. Residents offered VERS will vote as a precinct on whether they wish to return their flats to the Government. They will be compensated for their flats.

So my guess is if Bob were to sell his Bukit Panjang flat, there should be some more upside given the flat’s relatively young “age”, and also that there should be one round of upgrading at around 2028 when it turns 30.

More about #bobsretirementhome: Unlocking the value

If Bob decides to keep the unit and really make it #bobsretirementhome, there are also several ways to monetarise the flat later, especially if he needs money in his silver years.

  • Firstly, Bob can receive cash monthly by renting out his bedroom(s) or even the entire flat and he can go live with his siblings or friends.
  • Secondly, Bob can also sell part of the flat’s remaining lease to get a lump sum cash and monthly payouts in cash, for life. This is under the Lease Buyback Scheme.
  • Thirdly, he can still sell the Bukit Panjang flat later in life, and buy a smaller flat or a flat with a shorter lease. 
  • Lastly, those moving from a larger flat to a 3-room or smaller flat can consider taking up the Silver Housing Bonus, to receive up to $20,000 in cash.