With HDB ( public housing ) in great demand, those without housing allowance find high rents hard to bear
Renting a home is becoming near impossible for many expatriates. Spikes in property rentals – especially for government housing – have mostly affected those who do not receive housing allowance and generally make less than $5000 a month. It does not seem to matter if units are in far-flung locations, nowhere near amenities, and far from MRT stations.
The situation has got to such a point that it is driving some such as Indian national Yogesh Powale, to give up altogether and send his family back to India. Mr Powale spent three months searching for a rental flat when he arrived in November last year. He hound a three-room HDB flat in Bishan, which he rented for $1500 in January.
But after four months of living there, the 37 year old IT consultant has found cost too high. " I’m earning $4000 and paying $1500 for rent alone. It’s not feasible," he explained. Now without his wife and one young daughter, he has moved to another Bishan three room HDB flat, which he shares with two other friends and pays $450 of the $1350 monthly rent.
Like Mr Powale, others too are having problems finding rentals within their means. Property agents say they are mostly from China, India and the Philippines, and are usually here with their families. The problem is supply. Last year alone, the<strong> expat population here grew by 9.7 per cent from 798000 to 875000. Not all can afford to rent private properties, which are in abundance, because rental options can cost more than their wages.
A 760 sq ft apartment ( like a 1 room or studio ) in the East Coast – puny for families – can start at about $2500, while a two bedroom Jurong ( a not so popular part of Singapore )apartment can easily cost $3000 a month.
As many as 20 property agents reported that demand for HDB is now so high, they sometimes have trouble coping with calls, which can number as many as 30 in an hour. Units are snapped up within two days of being advertised in The Straits Times ( Singapore main newspaper ) and interested parties start calling as early as sunrise.
Property agent S.C Ong said: "Even when the flats is in Jurong, my phone can start ringing from as early as 7.30am". Singaporeans themselves are competing for HDB rental units, many sold their private property to make a quick buck from the boom and are looking for a place to live, said Ms May Tan, a rental specialist. They are waiting for prices to dip before buying a new house. While waiting, they rent HDB flats, she explained.
Until more flats come up for rental, finding a place to stay will remain tough. Indian national Raj Ragavan, a project manager, spent two months searching before landing himself a three room flat in Bedok. Said the 42 year old, "Whenever I viewed flats, there would be at least 10 other expats viewing the same unit at the same time."
(extracted from the Sunday times 27 May 2007)
By: Nur Dianah SUhaimi and Cheryl Tan