Sample Household Survey 2018: Living Preferences and Housing Aspirations of HDB Residents
Family ties between married children and parents remained strong, with those living near each other visiting more frequently
Family ties remained strong between married children and parents, with nine in 10 satisfied with family relations, HDB’s latest Sample Household Survey (SHS) has found. Among younger married residents1, close to six in 10 lived with or near2 their parents. Those living within close proximity also visited one another more frequently.
2 In terms of housing aspirations, more younger residents (aged below 35 years old) aspired to upgrade. In contrast, the proportion who were content with their present flat increased with age, with most elderly residents (aged 65 and above) preferring to reside in their existing flats.
3 Since 1968, HDB has been conducting the SHS once every five years to gather feedback about public housing and identify changing needs and expectations of our residents. For SHS 2018, close to 8,000 households in all HDB towns and estates were interviewed between January and September 2018. The surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews and online surveys, and covered three main areas: (i) HDB Resident Population and Households; (ii) Social Well-Being of Residents, and (iii) Physical Living Environment.
Profile of HDB Resident Population & Households
4 The number of Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) living in HDB flats3 had decreased from 3.06 million in 2013 to 3.04 million persons in 2018, as more people moved to private housing. Despite this, the number of HDB households continued to increase, crossing one million occupied dwelling units in 2018.
5 The average household size has decreased over the last decade, from 3.4 in 2008 to 3.1 persons in 2018, as the proportion of households with two or more generations living together declined. Nonetheless, family-based households remained the predominant household type, at 86.6% in 2018.
6 The proportion of one-person households increased from 8.0% in 2008 to 11.9% in 2018, largely due to Singapore’s ageing population and the relaxation of HDB’s housing policy which enables singles to purchase a new 2-room flat.
7 Similarly, the proportion of elderly residents (aged 65 years and above) increased, from 9.8% in 2008 to 16.5% in 2018. The number of elderly residents had been rising, crossing half a million persons in 2018.
(i) Proximity important for family interaction and caregiving
8 Proximity to parents was important for married couples, especially for families with young children. The proportion of younger married residents4 who lived with or near their parents, as well as older residents5 who lived with or near their married children for mutual care and support, remained at close to six in 10 in 2018. In particular, the percentage of younger married residents who were living in close proximity or in a nearby estate from their parents increased slightly from 42.8% in 2013 to 44.9% in 2018. Likewise, the proportion of older residents living near their married children rose from 37.9% to 43.5% in the same period. Conversely, fewer extended families lived in the same flat.
9 The frequency of visits between parents and married children remained consistently high over the years, with those who lived within close proximity visiting more frequently. Some 81.2% of younger married residents living within close proximity of their parents visited one another at least once a week, compared to 63.0% if they were living elsewhere in Singapore (Table A).
Table A: Frequency of Visits between Younger Married Residents and Their Parents by Proximity
* within close proximity refers to living next door, in the same block, in a nearby block, or in the same estate
** Excluding those who lived with their parents and non-response cases
10 The SHS findings showed that proximity facilitated family interaction, caregiving, and provision of support. HDB will continue to provide a range of housing policies and schemes (e.g. Married Child Priority Scheme, Senior Priority Scheme, Multi-Generation Priority scheme, Proximity Housing Grant, etc.) to support extended families who wish to live with or near one another. To understand the aspirations of young couples and families, the Government will be launching a series of conversations where participants can share their thoughts and priorities in relation to marriage and parenthood, and whether any of these have changed following COVID-19. This will enable the Government to better support families in the future.
(ii) Strong family ties between married children and parents
11 Family ties remained strong between younger married residents and their parents, with nine in 10 expressing satisfaction with familial relations (Table B). Almost all residents expressed a high level of commitment to their families, with more than 90% agreeing that they would do their best for their children/parents, at their own expense. The extent of trust and reciprocity among family members was high, reflecting the presence of strong family ties and mutual support (Table C).
Table B: Satisfaction with Family Relations by Year
Table C: Norms of Trust and Reciprocity with Family Members
With Family Members
Younger Married Residents
Older Residents with Married Children
(Mean score: 0 – 10)
12 For older residents with married children, children were their primary source of support. Some nine in 10 said they were able to rely on their children for emotional support, and seven in 10 for physical support, which includes helping with household chores, marketing, as well as accompanying them for medical appointments. In addition, more than seven in 10 (73.8%) received financial support from their children on a monthly basis, with another one in 10 (11.4%) receiving some form of support in kind from their children. Among the 14.8% who did not receive regular financial support, the majority of them were in the labour force.
Elderly in HDB Estates
13 Elderly households6 continued to show a strong preference to age in place. About 86%, up from 80% in 2013, intended to continue living in their existing flat, as they found it comfortable or had an emotional attachment to it, having developed fond memories of the time spent with their family in the flat. They were also highly satisfied with their flat, citing the spaciousness of their flats or the convenient location as main reasons. 94.7% viewed their flat to be value for money and 80.0% were proud of their home. Among the elderly who felt that their flats were value for money, most attributed it mainly to affordable flat prices at the time of purchase, followed by the appreciation in the value of the flat. Some also mentioned that the flat was in a good location and close to various facilities.
14 Should they require help with daily life, close to half of the elderly households felt that their ideal living arrangement was for family members or domestic helpers to care for them in their own home. Additionally, more than four in 10 were willing to stay at assisted-living facilities should the need arise, so that they could have access to professional medical and nursing care.
Housing Mobility and Aspirations
(i) Housing aspirations by age
15 Housing aspirations differed by residents’ age. Younger residents, with more working years ahead and higher income-earning potential, were more likely to have higher housing aspirations. About seven in 10 of residents aged below 35 years aspired for better housing7, while close to eight in 10 elderly residents were content with their present flat type (Chart D).
Chart D: Housing Aspirations by Age
(ii) Housing aspirations by flat type
16 The housing aspiration of households living in 4-room and smaller flats had risen over the years. In particular, the proportion of households living in 1- and 2-room flats that aspired for better housing registered the greater increase, from 37.3% in 2008 to 51.9% in 2018 (Chart E). On the other hand, at least half of the households living in 3-room and bigger flats were content with their present flat. Amongst them, the proportion of households living in 5-room and Executive flats who were content with their present flat had increased compared to a decade ago. These larger flats were able to serve residents throughout their life cycles with ample space for the family.
Chart E: Housing Aspirations by Flat Type and Year
* Proportion of households who were living in 1- & 2-room flats and content with smaller flat type was dropped due to high coefficient of variation (CV)
(iii) Preferred housing type for old age
17 About 92.3% of HDB households would like to live in HDB flats in their old age. Of these, close to half would prefer to live in 3-room and smaller flats in their old age (Chart F), citing ease of maintenance and the need for less space, as their household size decreased in their later years. On the contrary, those who preferred 5-room and Executive flats wanted more space for their family members to live together or to hold gatherings.
Chart F: Preferred Housing Type for Old Age
* Including retirement villages, overseas properties, old folks’ homes, temple/religious institutions etc.
(iv) Residential mobility
18 The proportion of HDB households that had moved at least once since marriage increased from 72.6% in 2013 to 80.0% in 2018. Common reasons for moving include life cycle changes and life events. In addition, more households purchased Built-to-Order (BTO) flats between 2013 and 2018, when HDB ramped up the flat supply. Generally, families with children tended to move more than those without children, due to the changes in household size. About eight in 10 families with children had moved at least once, compared with only half of those without children.
19 Although the majority had no intention to move, the proportion of those who intended to do so in the next five years went up slightly, from 12.4% in 2013 to 13.3% in 2018. In particular, households living in smaller flat types and younger households were more inclined to move. Comparatively, older residents were less inclined to move, likely due to their sense of attachment to their homes and a stronger desire to age in place.
20 The findings from the SHS 2018 provide insights into residents’ current sentiments, and serve as important feedback for policy reviews and help HDB to identify areas for improvements. They will enable HDB to better understand and keep pace with the evolving needs and lifestyle patterns of residents across different demographic profiles.
21 Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore, who is also chairperson of the HDB Research Advisory Panel which advised HDB on the research scope and data analysis of the SHS 2018, noted that HDB living is a quintessential Singaporean experience, with HDB residents forming the heart and soul of public housing estates. He said: “It is thus critical for HDB to keep its pulse on residents’ housing preferences and aspirations, so that it can continue to provide better homes and towns for all. For example, the survey findings indicated that family ties remained strong with frequent visits, and parents can count on married children for good familial support. This is important, in the face of our rapidly ageing population. The results also showed that young home owners aspire to move up the housing ladder, which is a sign of upward social mobility. To this end, the findings provide useful feedback for HDB to chart the future directions of public housing, not only in formulating relevant housing policies, but also in refining its designs to meet residents’ needs.”
22 HDB will continue to provide quality homes for our residents, and tailor our policies and programmes so that public housing remains affordable and accessible to Singaporeans at different stages of their lives. We will also continue to offer variety in our flat offerings to cater to households with different needs and budgets. Whether they are first-timers, second-timers, extended families, singles or elderly, flat buyers will have a wide range of options from which to create their home.
1 For this survey, younger married residents are defined as those aged 54 years and below (with parents living in Singapore) while older residents with married children are those aged 55 years and above.
2 This refers to those who live within close proximity (living next door, in the same block, in a nearby block, or in the same estate) or in a nearby estate from their parents.
3 Refers to flat owner/co-owners, HDB rental tenants, and occupiers.
4 This group comprises married residents aged 54 years old and below who have parents living in Singapore. It comprises 22.2% of all HDB households.
5 This group comprises residents aged 55 years old and above who have married children. They make up 29.3% of all HDB households.
6 An elderly household is defined as one where the decision maker of the household is aged 65 years old and above, and comprises mainly owner, co-owner of HDB sold flat or registered tenant of HDB rental flat or their spouse.
7 Larger than current flat type, private property, from rental flat to sold flat.