HDB ethnic quota: Show the data, not ‘talk thru your nose’?

The HDB should disclose the statistics on the price difference between ‘ethnic quota’ and ‘non-ethnic quota’ flats

I refer to the article “Parliament: No plans to buy back HDB flats from owners who cannot sell them due to ethnic quota” (Straits Times, Oct 2).

It states that “There are no plans for the Government to buy back Housing Board flats from owners who cannot sell them due to the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (Oct 2).

He was responding to Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who had made the suggestion to help non-Chinese flat owners avoid “the squeeze” of the EIP effect on prices.

The policy was implemented in 1989 to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups living in HDB estates, in a bid to promote racial harmony and strengthen social cohesion. Under the policy, each racial group can take up a certain range of proportions in an HDB block and precinct.

Some minority home owners have complained that this makes it difficult for them to sell their flats on the resale market. In September, The Straits Times received three Forum letters on the subject from minority flat owners, who detailed how hard it was for them or their friends to resell their units.”

As to “But the EIP is not the only factor determining whether a flat can be sold, said Mr Wong.

“While home owners may have their own expectations of how much their flat can sell for, flat attributes such as location, storey height, physical condition of the flat, remaining lease and market sentiments would also be considered by prospective home buyers,” he said.

He added that the HDB provides a daily update of transacted prices online to help HDB home owners and buyers make an informed decision in their price negotiation” – this problem has been around for decades.

I hate to say this – but in my opinion – the Government’s response (like the subject one in Parliament) – wreaks of a lacking in compassion and literally ‘speaking through your nose’ to those Singaporeans who are significantly affected.

The Government should provide the statistics as to what is the price difference between those flats (different flat types – 2, 3, 4 and 5-room) in blocks that have reached the ethnic quota, in comparison with Chinese owners’ flats’ transactions.

Since I first started writing about the HDB ethnic quota problem (the first one was to Today on Nov 17, 2003) – the HDB’s replies in the newspaper forums and in Parliament have been similar to the one now.

The problem may have become even more acute now, especially for older HDB flats which may be rapidly declining in value, particularly for those hit by the ethnic quota.

It is like a double whammy – lesser buyers due to both the ethnic quota and the age of the flat.

In this connection, how many ethnic quota appeals to HDB are successful in a year?

How many HDB ethnic quota appeal letters are written by all the MPs in all the constituencies in a year, and how many are successful?

Are there vacant HDB rental flats due to the ethnic quota and how many of such vacant flats are there?

Since the HDB keeps saying that most don’t have a problem with selling their ethnic quota flats – what is the percentage of neighbourhoods that have at least one ethnic group which reached or exceeded the neighbourhood limit?

Is it as high as the 28 per cent at one time, or the 24 per cent in 2003?

By the way, since the number is so small according to the HDB – why don’t the HDB just buy back such small numbers of ‘ethnic quota problem’ flats at an independent market valuation?

After all, a small number should not be a problem for the HDB, but a very serious problem for an individual flat owner who may be getting no buyers at all, or offers that may be 50 per cent lower than that of neighbouring younger non-ethnic quota flats.

Leong Sze Hian



About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.