HDB dream: He gave up his citizenship to pursue a return home to Singapore

Singapore flag with brush effect on the left, a modern HDB building in Queenstown on the right.

One woman, who is a former Malaysian, shared her story about becoming a Singapore citizen and owning her own HDB flat. (PHOTO: Getty)

SINGAPORE — In early 2021, PY Ng went to the High Commission of Malaysia in Singapore to surrender his Malaysian passport and identity card.

It was a significant moment for the new Singaporean, who has harbored dreams of living in Singapore since he visited the city-state as a 20-year-old student while on vacation. “I remember looking at Marina Bay Sands in awe,” Ng recalled, in an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore. He also learned about, and experienced firsthand, Singapore’s renowned safety and cleanliness.

His dream in Singapore included building a comfortable home for himself, in one of the many Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats he found around the country.

Now, Ng, 33, and his wife – a 34-year-old Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) from Malaysia – are the proud owners of a three-bedroom HDB flat in Queenstown that they bought from the resale market in 2021.

Ng and his wife have been working as pharmaceutical sales representatives in Singapore since they first arrived in 2014. The two, who had been dating since their university days in the UK, married in 2018. Upon graduation, they worked in London for a year and obtained their pharmacy licenses. They then set their sights on moving to Singapore.

No HDB grants

When sharing his story, Ng clarified that he did not become a Singaporean just so that he and his wife could own an HDB flat – SPRs and foreign nationals are also allowed to own HDB flats, with some restrictions. “I decided to become a citizen of Singapore because I intend to start and raise a family here,” said Ng.

The couple also knew they were not eligible for any of the available HDB housing grants as their combined income exceeded the household income ceiling of S$14,000. For example, through the CPF Housing Grant for the Resale of Flats (Families), qualified buyers can receive up to S$80,000.

“Personally, I think it is a bit unfair to include transport allowances as part of our household income because the transport allowance would surely go out of the pocket every month,” said Ng on having their company-provided allowances count to their household income.

Find an HDB home

Grant or no grant, the couple is determined to fulfill their dreams of owning their first house together in Singapore. They started looking for a flat soon after Ng was granted Singapore citizenship, hoping to find one in Queenstown as they had previously rented an apartment there and really liked the neighbourhood.

It didn’t take long for them to find a unit that appealed to them – one that had the exact same layout as the house they were renting at the time. They have a budget of around S$650,000 while the flat is listed at a price of S$670,000.

“Although it was slightly over our budget, we decided to do it because similar units in the vicinity were actually priced above S$700,000 at the time,” said Ng.

The couple then called the real estate agent, only to be disappointed as they were told that the unit in question was reserved for non-Chinese buyers. It falls under HDB’s Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), which is in place to help preserve Singapore’s multiracial identity in public housing.

After 10 years of renting a room, and staying with uni mates, friends and strangers over the years, we are so happy to finally have our own place to call home.PY Ng

“Actually, we were very lucky in our home buying journey. A week later, the same agent called to ask if we were still interested because the home owner had successfully obtained the necessary approvals for the flat to be sold to a Chinese family,” said Ng.

After some negotiations, they settled on a price of S$660,000 for the flat and signed the Option to Purchase (OTP), including payment of the required deposit, within two hours. The whole process, from contacting the agent to receiving the keys, took about three months. They spent an additional S$65,000 renovating the unit.

Singapore’s dream come true

Looking back on their journey, Ng thinks that although it was a long process – from her citizenship application to finally buying a house – it was a fruitful one.

“After 10 years of renting a room, and staying with uni mates, friends and strangers over the years, we are very happy to finally have our own place that we can call home,” said Ng.

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