1 Singaporeans are experiencing greater pressure in the arenas of housing and transportation, as population density rose 20% from 2001 to 2011.
2 Commuting congestion generates stress.
3 Increasing transport cost raises cost of living.
4 Low accessibility among the low income.
5 The growth rate of housing prices is outstripping that of monthly incomes.
6 Resale flats are not accessible to the bottom 20% of young home buyers.
7 Erosion of long-term housing affordability.
8 Homelessness on the rise.
Observations about points 7 and 8 warrant further elucidation.
The official position is that housing is considered affordable if mortgages do not eat up more than 30% of income. The Housing Development Board (HDB) tracks housing affordability using the debt servicing ratio (DSR), the ratio of monthly household income to monthly housing instalments. This is a ticking time bomb as it is premised on 30-year loan repayment periods and present low interest rates. Even if rates can be artificially maintained at historic lows, it remains that 30 years of one's working life is encumbered with servicing a debt. HDB reports that the DSR rose from 18% in 2007 to 24% in 2011. Data for 2013 not disclosed.
When Kishore Mahbubani was Singapore's permanent representative to the United Nations, he boasted before the world, "There are no homeless, destitute or starving people [in Singapore]…Poverty has been eradicated." According to the Singapore Social Health Project 2013, and similar reports from Manulife Asset Management, the number of persons and families identified to be in need of shelter more than doubled from 2007 to 2010. Manulife’s analysis shows that the mere accumulation of wealth is insufficient to ensure income security in retirement, especially when the wealth is vested in concrete structures priced at arbitrary market values. The poor, it seems, will be with us always.