Looking at how HDBs were first designed

By February 1, 2023Current
Looking at how HDBs were first designed

TL;DR – Our public housing evolution has come a long way to where it is today and despite the rising resale value of the older HDB flats HDB is dedicated to providing Singaporeans with affordable homes.

HDB took over the Singapore Improvement Trust in 1960 and was tasked to solve Singapore’s housing crisis.

Back then, many people were living in crowded squatter settlements with unhygienic living conditions.

In less than three years, HDB built 21,000 flats. And within a decade, HDB build enough flats for Singaporeans and resolved the housing crisis.

1960s typical HDB flats

The flats build in the first five years were 1-room (23-33 sqm), 2-room (25-45 sqm) and 3-room units (50 – 70 sqm). 4-room flats (70-85 sqm) were only introduced in 1967 at Henderson Road.

The biggest units were the 4-room flats, 5-room flats had not been introduced yet. Flats built during this period were for the sole purpose of functionality and space optimization to keep costs low and allow ease of construction.

Standard Flats in the 60s

1/ 2/ 3/ 4-room: The showers were part of the toilets.

1/ 2/ 3 / 4-room: In 1996, the 3/ 4-room had their toilets separated from the showering area. This is no longer seen in newer layouts. And the blocks had void decks.

Flats in 1970s to 1980s

From the mid-60s onwards, the issue of housing shortage has been resolved and HDB could shift their priorities shifted from speed and practicality to comfort and quality.

HDB started focusing on building larger flats with better designs in more optimally planned housing estates. A wider range of flats catering to people of different economic levels and household sizes were offered.

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In the 70s, homes were built with two separate toilets. This was applied to 3-room, 4-room and 5-room flats (117 – 123 sqm). Refuse chutes were also introduced in the kitchens during the same period. While some homeowners love the convenience, others hate it as it bred pests in their kitchens.

3-room flats were built with a storage, or a utility room and the layout changed to have a designated main bedroom which is bigger in size than the other common bedroom. Previously, both bedrooms were of equal size.

The size of 4-room flats has also increased. 4-room standards were around 70 – 75 sqm while the 4-room improved is 82 – 84 sqm. The flats also have a designated main bedroom that comes with an en-suite bathroom.

The highly coveted 5-room flats were introduced during this period. These flats were highly desirable for their spaciousness and some layouts included a balcony between the main bedroom and the other two common bedrooms which brings light and airflow into the dining area.

Affordable housing

Our public housing evolution has come a long way to where it is today and despite the rising resale value of the older HDB flats HDB is dedicated to providing Singaporeans with affordable homes.

Since 1968, the Government allowed the use of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) to service monthly mortgage instalments as well as lump sum down payments.

Many grants were also introduced to cushion the financial impact on homeowners.

  1. Enhanced CPF Housing Grant – For first-time homeowners with a combined income of less than $9,000.
  2. Family Grant – For first-time buyers of resale HDB flats or Executive Condominiums, with a combined income of less than $14,000. The grant can go up to $50,000.
  3. Proximity Grant – For buyers who are purchasing a resale flat in the same town or within 4 km of where their parents are staying. The grant amounts to $20,000. Those who will be living in the same flat as their parents are able to receive a $30,000 grant.
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Planning to get a place of your own soon? Click here to find out more about the grants that you would be eligible for.

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Nicole Lim

Author Nicole Lim

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