Singapore’s fertility rate can be boosted with changes to housing policy

Moving House

Could there be more done in housing alongside moves on other fronts to boost the TFR rate?

First, it may be possible to increase the chances of single young people finding a life partner by allowing them to live independently.

HDB may build homes specifically for young adults. Local singles aged below 35 can lease such public rental housing flats at reasonable prices.

Rental flats designed for young, single people can include the elements that co-living operators promote. These include sophisticated shared spaces which encourage interaction. Include a gym with the latest technology, a fully-equipped shared kitchen, an art studio, and coworking space.

Second, you should give priority to married couples who are 30 or younger when securing HDB flats.

Recent changes gave married couples who are eligible and under the age of 40 an additional priority for getting a BTO. In their applications, they can get an extra vote.

The median first marriage age has been rising over the past few decades. Given that men and woman’s fertility can be affected by age, giving couples younger than 30 priority when it comes to getting a BTO may lead couples to marry earlier and have more babies.

Thirdly, give housing incentives to couples based on their number of children.

As of now, buyers of HDB properties that are classified as Plus, Prime, or Premier will have to reimburse the HDB for a part of their sales proceeds when they resell their homes, since such units built in prime locations receive more subsidies.

A couple with two children in their locality may get a refund of some of what was paid for the BTO. Paybacks may increase for couples who have three children or even more.

Fourth, consider building HDB apartment units that are larger and more spacious than the five-room unit, which is typically around 1,200 square ft (sq. ft).

Build HDB new jumbo flats around 1,500 ft2 each with four or even five bedrooms. Local families with three children or more can buy these HDB-jumbo flats. After all, larger homes are better suited to raising large families.

These jumbo units can be resold to HDB at the current market price

Fifth, offer concessions on mortgage repayments to couples living in the area with children. It is possible to ease the financial stress associated with raising children by providing concessions on home-loan repayments.

In this way, couples with children can take on a more flexible role as needed to allow them to have more time for the child’s upbringing. Most parents would love to spend more quality time with their child, especially when they are young.

Sixth, give local couples with high incomes who are unable to meet the BTO or executive condominium unit monthly income ceiling a chance to own a private residence. The BTO’s income limit is S$14,000 whereas for new EC buyers, the cap is S$16,000.

Young couples purchasing their first private home could benefit from a waiver of the Buyer’s Stamp Duty. A couple could value nearly S$70,000 of BSD savings on a S$2million home.

Helping high earning local couples on their home ownership journeys could prompt young, talented and career-oriented locals to expedite their marriage and parental plans.

Paying the heavy price

The above suggestions do not exhaust the possibilities and may not be sufficiently radical.

Additional measures to support young locals in the housing sector will be equally costly. HDB’s Home Ownership Programme is currently in deficit. In addition, government spending may increase in order to meet growing healthcare needs.

Couples make decisions about having children based on many factors, including the school system and workplace practices.

Respect your choice to be single and childless. Some people choose to remain single, or they may not find the right partner. Some people are against having children and think it is detrimental to the environment.

How about a Jumbo HDB Flat for couples who have at least three children?

Singapore’s TFR (total fertility rate) per woman has reached a new record low in 2023. It was over 1.7 years ago.

The number resident life-births is projected to reach 30,510 in 2023. This compares with more than 46,000 births at the beginning of the 1990s.

TFR could rise significantly as 2024 is the Chinese auspicious year of the Dragon.

Singapore faces a severe problem in terms of the number of babies it has, despite a host policies that support marriage and parenthood.

Housing measures help couples marry. Among them, local couples can buy HDB apartments at subsidised costs if they meet the criteria. In the future, young couples can benefit from owning HDB Build-To-Order apartments by getting married.

As part of recent refinements, starting with the BTO exercise of June, an eligible local couple, such as a pair of full-time servicemen and full-time students, would pay a lower down payment when signing the Agreement for Lease. The remaining 17.5 percent of the purchase is paid upon collection of keys.

However, TFR increases are important in order to keep Singapore’s economies dynamic for the long haul. For the government to be able to collect tax revenue and spend on social services and healthcare, it is imperative that Singapore has a successful economy.

Many parents put a lot into raising their children. Singapore residents will need to pay more for society to make sure they have many babies.

Many countries of the rich world are also plagued by a grave fertility problem. Singapore should still strive to stand out by finding a creative solution to the fertility conundrum.

Let’s work harder in the housing sector and other areas so that many Singaporeans can have large family sizes in the future.

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