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My Move To Public Housing

Categories Moving Again (And Again), Moving To Singapore6 Comments
Toa Payoh HDB

We moved last month.  We hired a company to come and pack up all our belongings and move them to our new home.  It was pretty cool to watch actually—not in an existential, my-entire-life-inside-cardboard way, but the way they managed this task.  The packers took the packed boxes, stacked them 5-9 feet high on roller boards, set up hard-to-pack items like the ironing board against the stack, and cling-wrapped the entire thing.  They pushed all these towers to the corner of my living room, where they waited to be moved into a truck and then into my new home the next day.  It was an incredible sight—especially the one that had our couch standing vertically on it.  It seemed quite a bit more efficient than taking each box or two out to the truck, especially for a condo where you must take the elevator down then take the items out to the street where the truck was parked.

moving collage

And why on earth did I consent to such a luxury when I have two hands to pack my own boxes? Because we just saved a ton of money on our rent by switching to public housing.


For the last two years we have lived in a gorgeous condo, on a high floor with an incredible view at night.  The three pools made the grounds resemble a resort, and there were numerous other amenities that I rarely used.  But Singapore is an expensive place; you gotta make cuts where you can.  We are staring down the barrel of private primary schools costing upwards of S$20,000 a year, per kid, plus thousands in fees, and with local schools taking in fewer and fewer foreigner students, private school might be our only option. The only real downside of the move is that I have no bathtub now, only showers.  I would argue that there is nothing more relaxing than b^4:  bubble-bath, book, and beverage.  :D  But I can manage the loss for a savings of S$30,000 ($21,376 USD) over a period of two years (the typical rental lease time length).

Now, when I say public housing, it is way more awesome than what you might picture if you are from somewhere else, because Singapore has (dare I say) the best public housing in the world.  Back in the 1950’s, Singapore was dealing with a population boom and trying to figure out its future.  Lee Kuan Yew wanted to improve conditions for the people, so he created programs to move people from the kampongs (villages) to apartment buildings.

Kampongs in Singapore
Kampongs in Singapore

These apartments were quite small to begin with, but they provided kitchens with running water and toilets to improve health and safety. Over the years, the government worked to provide housing for all through grants and helpful schemes, and in 1989 they instituted the ethnic integration policy to ensure racial harmony.  Now 85% of Singaporeans live in housing created by the Housing Development Board (HDB).  Those apartments are called HDBs, and they vary in quality depending on the year they were built.  For more info about HDB and the history of the homes they created, click here.  You can see the new models and get a (really cool!) video tour of their show flats by clicking here.  Singapore has many programs to keep housing affordable, though not all Singaporeans feel this is the case.  However, from my point of view, it is normal to have debt for your entire life, especially for your home.  Yet prices on show that to buy a condo in Ang Mo Kio (an average neighborhood) will cost over S$1,000,000 ($713,445 USD), while an HDB of comparable size will be in the S$400,000 ($285,378 USD) range.

HDB collage
HDB in the 60’s/70’s, then in the 80’s/90’s, Lee Kuan Yew, HDB’s in the 60’s, floor plans for emergency 1 room and 2 room flats.

So what is the difference between condo living and HDB living?  My neighbors are now mostly local folks instead of a blend of locals and foreigners. It was noisy here with lion dances during Chinese New Year, and I often get asked where I am from by others living in the building.  There are covered walkways to get around the area, which is comprised of maybe 10-15 buildings.  I can get to the bus stop without getting soaked when it is raining.  There is a little food center and convenience stores within a 5 min walk, and an MRT, mall, and huge food center within a 10-15 min walk.  We are regulars every weekend at our little, local food center and we love the aunties there.  :)

breakfast collage

There are metal cans all over the area for burning joss paper to send to loved ones in the afterlife.  There is a gated doorway so I can let air circulate without worrying about the kiddos leaving on their own.  Windows are also gated, I suppose for security, but also maybe to keep pigeons out as we have no screens.  We have LOTS OF PLAYGROUNDS.  I love this.

playground collage

And I love that we have more SPACE.  Our new home is 1,500 sq ft, compared to the 1,000 we had before.  No more bruises on my hips from clipping the bookshelf in my kids room.  No more bruises on my thighs from knocking the end of the bed in my room.  No more tripping on legs when trying to get to my kiddo’s bed for storytime while the hubs sits on the floor.  Did I mention I used to get hurt a lot? Lol.  We had just barely enough space before; now we have plenty.  :D

I also really love the laundry room.  Now that we have gotten a helper (maid) and had our helper leave, I am the cleaner once again.  But these pole holders outside let me hang big laundry easily, and they are also in the ceiling indoors for when it rains.

laundry collage

Ants are still an issue, but we are much better at finding where they are coming from and blocking those paths, and we have learned to treat all sugar-containing items as contraband that must be confined to the refrigerator.  Here is a peek at the rest of our home, for all you nosy-bodies out there.  I was super curious what an HDB looked like before we moved here.

home collage

For a look back at how we started, read my post about finding our first home and about getting settled in Singapore.  Overall, we are super happy here.  We miss the pool and we miss our friends from our old building, but we are not far away.  Singapore public pools are super cheap, only S$1.50 ($1.07 USD) admission.  The space really is great too–our family and friends who come to stay will enjoy it a bit more I think.  We even have a Domino’s Pizza nearby should we get homesick.  :)





Jennifer Jasensky is currently a New Jersey resident, formerly a resident of Dubai and Singapore, and a Chicagoland native. A former mathematics teacher and dancer/choreographer, she is an outgoing homebody and perpetual idealist whose love of learning knows no bounds. She hates writing bios, so that's all you get. :D

6 thoughts on “My Move To Public Housing

  1. Oh Yes ! We are indeed fortunate to have Ah gong Lee kuan Yew and Dr. Goh Keng Swee, the very tough generation of leaders, that has built this tiny little red dot with no fear. They really had what was then the almighty to be, to tough it in early 60s.

    They even solved the Precious Water issue for us way before Malaysia could ever goes on and on threatening us.

    1. Hello! It’s sad to read that you and your family are leaving our little Island. I wanted to say something about the eczema. I’ve got dermatitis and it used to seriously bug me. But I’ve learnt that washing the affected areas in head and shoulders shampoo helps to prevent flareups. To prevent dryness, I use the banana boat after-sun moisturizing lotion in the morning and before I sleep. I hope this helps for the limited time you guys will still be in Sg. Good luck in Dubai! :)

  2. Hi! I got directed over from the mothership website. It’s been really interesting reading your blogs! Hope you are having a good time in Singapore ;)

    1. I LOVE SINGAPORE. Except the eczema I have here. And the allergies. But truly, it is such an amazing country with so much to offer that is so different from everything I am used to.

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