Saturday, January 1, 2011

Singapore least likely to have housing woes

SINGAPORE has emerged at the bottom of a Gallup poll of 128 countries on housing - but the result is unlikely to be a cause for complaint.


The global survey by the renowned research firm centred on unaffordable housing. It polled 1,000 or more respondents in each country for the survey and posed this question:


Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to provide adequate shelter or housing for you and your family?


Only 1 per cent of Singaporeans responded 'yes', placing the Republic at the bottom of the heap. The second last was Denmark at 2 per cent.


In contrast, Azerbaijan, Liberia and Chad, which were in the top three places, had 76, 53, and 51 per cent respectively saying 'yes'.


Singapore also fared well against regional counterparts, with China (19 per cent), Malaysia (14 per cent) and Japan (9 per cent) finishing well above.


Gallup had conducted the poll by telephone or face-to-face interviews over last year and this year.


Its latest results, released on Thursday last week, found that many people worldwide, particularly in former Soviet countries and in Sub-Saharan Africa, struggled to put adequate roofs over their heads.


The survey divided the globe into regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, former Soviet countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Middle East and North Africa, United States, Europe and Canada.


And it found that a median of 31 per cent of adults in each region say they had difficulties in the past year in providing housing for themselves or their families.


'Singaporeans, at 1 per cent, are the least likely in the world to report such struggles, and percentages are similarly low in many other countries of developed Asia,' said Gallup.


But in developing Asian countries, roughly half of those surveyed in Cambodia and the Philippines, for example, faced housing difficulties, the firm noted.


The firm acknowledged, however, that what people may define as 'adequate' housing or shelter varies worldwide.


It was 95 per cent confident that the results had a maximum margin of sampling error below 4.7 percentage points.


Dr Yu Shi Ming, head of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) department of real estate, who also sits on the HDB's board, said that the results were not surprising as Singapore's public housing agency, the Housing Board, houses about 80 per cent of Singapore's population.


HDB has had a 'longstanding policy' of making flats affordable for new families, he said.


He did acknowledge, however, that the survey's definition of affordability was quite basic.


Different people also have different perspectives on what defines affordability and that may explain why the survey shows housing to be very affordable but this had been a contentious topic in Singapore in the past year, he added.


Singapore's public housing resale flat prices have risen for the ninth straight quarter on the back of its economic recovery, prompting concerns that flats were being priced out of reach of home buyers, especially first-timers.


Secretary-general of the opposition National Solidarity Party Goh Meng Seng told The Straits Times that he was not surprised by the poll either, as 'there is no doubt' the majority of Singaporeans have a home.


He said: 'HDB has been successful for the last 30 years.. and the survey may show this.


'But it is not relevant politically. My concern is that housing will become less and less affordable for our future generations as prices go up.'

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