SINGAPORE — In early 2021, Ashley Ng (not her real name) walked into the High Commission of Malaysia in Singapore to surrender her Malaysian passport and identity card.
It was a significant moment for the new Singapore citizen, who had been harbouring dreams of living in Singapore since she visited the city-state as a 20-year-old student while on holiday. "I remember looking at the Marina Bay Sands in awe," Ng recalled, in an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore. She also learnt about, and experienced firsthand, Singapore's reputed safety and cleanliness.
Her Singapore dream included building a comfortable home for herself, in one of the many Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats she saw dotted around the country.
Now, Ng, 33, and her husband – a 34-year-old Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) from Malaysia – are proud owners of a three-room HDB flat in Queenstown which they purchased from the resale market in 2021.
Ng and her husband have been working as pharmaceutical sales representatives in Singapore since they first arrived in 2014. The two, who have 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 grant
When sharing her story, Ng made it clear that she did not become a Singaporean just so she and her husband could own an HDB flat – SPRs and foreign nationals are permitted to own HDB flats as well, with some restrictions. "I made the decision to become a Singapore citizen because I intend to start and raise a family here," said Ng.
The couple were also aware that they weren't eligible for any of the available HDB housing grants because their combined income had exceeded the household income ceiling of S$14,000. For instance, through the CPF Housing Grant for Resale Flats (Families), eligible 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 toward their household income.
Search for a HDB home
Grant or no grant, the couple was nevertheless determined to realise their dreams of owning their first home together in Singapore. They began hunting for a flat soon after Ng was granted her 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 with exactly the same layout as the home that they were renting at the time. They had a budget of around S$650,000 while the flat was listed for the price of S$670,000.
"Although it was slightly over our budget, we decided to go for 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. This fell under HDB's Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), which is in place to help preserve Singapore's multi-racial identity in public housing estates.
After 10 years of renting a room, and staying with uni mates, friends and strangers over the years, we are so delighted to finally have our own place that we can call home.PY Ng
"Honestly, we were very lucky in our house-buying journey. A week later, the same agent called to ask whether we were still interested as the owner of the house had successfully gotten the necessary approvals for the flat to be sold to a Chinese family," said Ng.
After some negotiations, they settled on the price of S$660,000 for the flat and signed the Option to Purchase (OTP), along with paying the required deposit, within two hours. The whole process, from contacting the agent to receiving the keys, took approximately three months. They spent an additional S$65,000 on renovating the unit.
Singapore dream come true
Looking back on their journey, Ng reflected that although it was a long process – from her citizenship application to finally purchasing a home – 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 so delighted to finally have our own place that we can call home," said Ng.
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