Housing in Singapore is crazy expensive. The vast majority (about 85-95%) of Singaporeans live in HDB flats – public, residential housing developments. HDB flats are in housing estates, which are like their own self-contained towns. Each HDB area has its own schools, supermarkets, food centers (hawker centers), medical centers, and sports/rec facilities.
HDBs might be government housing or public housing, but HDB’s certainly aren’t like the projects back in the States. These places can be pretty posh, but there are older ones that look rather rundown. The HDB flats are places that you can purchase – well, kinda; you get a 99-year-lease-hold. And they are also expensive – a two bedroom apartment in a high or low rise building can go for about $400,000.
With public housing apartments costing more than most stand alone houses in the U.S., it means that for those of us who aren’t Singaporeans, renting or purchasing a place in Singapore is wildly expensive. If prices on public, government subsidized places start at $400K, private places here start far above that. In a way, the government fixes the price of housing, which keeps all rents on places, public and private, artificially high. There are no market forces to correct such things, which is why you see so many vacant, empty flats around here while still encountering very expensive rents. It makes me a little bit crazy.
We had done a good bit of looking around online at apartments before we came to Singapore, so we were a bit prepared for the sticker shock, but really, nothing can prepare you for rents that are more than the mortgage on your former house in a major U.S. city. Initially when we were still back in Seattle and looking around online, we wanted a two bedroom place, but then as we were packing and getting ready for the move decided that we did not want to furnish that much space.
Our priority upon arriving was finding a one bedroom place that was convenient to the organic grocery stores and transit. I looked at more than 20 apartments with our amazing relator, Enoch. He really was fantastic and patient and taught me a lot about Singapore in our first days here. I am also so appreciative that he helped us to find and secure our fantastic apartment.
I love this picture partner took on our first night in the new place. It is not a particularly good photo in terms of artistry, nor does it quite capture the true awesomeness that is our swimming pool, which is visible from our living room/kitchen and bedroom. But I am loving it because even after studying it,a the reflections and shadows continue to baffle me. Seeing the outline of Partner’s head here makes me smile, but how his legs and feet appear in the pool – distorted to such a smaller size given that I know they are attached to that same head taking the photograph – it both amazes and confuses me.
Still yes, we have a pool. Actually, we have two pools and two hot tubs. The one we look out upon is on the 8th floor. The lap pool is on the 35th floor and provides a great view of the Orchard Road area, and on a clear night you can see all the way out to the ocean from the lap pool or adjacent hot tub.
It is pretty crazy to be living in a high rise in an area that I can only compare to Time Square. All of this is pretty surreal for me – our new digs have amenities up the wazoo! Currently I am writing this blog post and I spent most of the morning researching a variety of things related to tomorrow’s job interview from the comfort of the business center/reading room which is just across from the lovely 8th floor pool. There is also a game room, a lounge, and a conference room on this floor as well. Oh yes, and there is a lovely gym too. I don’t know that I will ever get used to this.
Housing here is expensive. We could not have gone much cheaper in terms of rent (a bit, yes, but not appreciably), but we could have gotten more space for the money if we had chosen to live further out, but we did not want more space – we did not want to furnish more space. Plus, the added work space of the reading room and the gym facilities give us so much more than we could have gotten with another bedroom or another 200 sqft. Also, the grocery store is just two elevator rides and an escalator ride from my door step – it may not be a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Wegmans, but nothing here is. And, you can’t beat the convenience.