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Netizens urge policies overhaul to ease pressure on young Singaporeans rushing into marriage for BTO

A NUS study revealed that the HDB Build-to-Order (BTO) scheme may foster early marriages while also increasing the probability of divorce. Netizens caution against solely blaming young couples for early divorces and advocate for a review of BTO policies. They highlight the soaring public housing prices and the fear of missing out as factors compelling young Singaporeans to hastily marry to secure a BTO at current prices.



Netizens are calling for a reevaluation of the current Housing and Development Board’s Build-to-Order (BTO) scheme to alleviate the pressure on young Singaporeans to marry early solely to secure BTO flats amidst fears of rising HDB prices.

In response to a recent National University of Singapore (NUS) study suggesting that the BTO system may encourage early marriages and increase the likelihood of divorce, netizens advocate refraining from blaming young Singaporeans.

Instead, they urge policymakers to reconsider current policies, taking into account changing social trends and the needs of single individuals. They specifically propose lowering the eligible age for singles to apply for BTO flats.

Study claims BTO scheme may link to early marriages and higher divorce rates

On 4 June, the NUS Business School launched a book titled “Kiasunomics 3: Economic Insights For Everyday Life.”

The book was co-authored by professors Sumit Agarwal and Sing Tien Foo, along with associate professor Ang Swee Hoon, all from the NUS Business School.

One study covered in the book revealed that the BTO scheme may spur early marriages but also contribute to a higher propensity for divorce.

According to the research, from the pre-2000 to post-2010 period, there was an increase in marriages among women aged 25 to 29 and men aged 30 to 34.

This trend coincides with the launch and expansion of the BTO scheme, suggesting that more women in that age range chose to marry “to be competitive in the marriage market,” while men married later due to greater financial stability.

Correspondingly, divorce rates for women aged 30 to 34 rose from 4 to 7.2 percent, and from 3.5 to 6.3 percent for men aged 35 to 39.

The authors noted that this trend parallels the timeline of the BTO scheme with a five-year lag compared to marriage patterns.

“One possible explanation for the increase in divorce rates is that the BTO scheme might have rushed marriage decisions, which increase the likelihood of subsequent marriages,” the book said.

Under the BTO scheme, young Singaporeans engaged to be married and who meet the eligibility criteria can apply for a subsidized public flat. They are then required to solemnize their marriage within three months of collecting the keys to the flat.

The research found that married BTO residents from private residences had a sharp increase in credit card spending upon moving in, unlike those from HDB homes, who also had significantly lower mortgage payments.

This indicates that financial strain from balancing personal consumption and mortgage payments is more pronounced among those with more modest beginnings, potentially affecting their marriages.

“Young couples… should ensure that they are marrying for the right reasons – for love and not for the sake of being eligible for a BTO flat,” the author noted.

Netizens highlight the impact of BTO policies on rising housing costs and social pressures

Observing netizens’ comments on Mothership and the Business Times Facebook posts, some argue against attributing high divorce rates solely to rushed decisions to apply for BTOs, suggesting that various factors contribute to marital outcomes.

However, other netizens delve into the issues with BTO policies, attributing the relentless rise in public housing prices and the fear of missing out as pressures pushing young Singaporeans to rush into marriage just to secure a BTO at current prices.

Some suggest an overhaul of BTO policies, emphasizing changing social trends and the increasing number of Singaporeans staying single, proposing ideas such as lowering the eligible age to apply for BTOs.

Netizen urges holistic solutions over blaming young Singaporeans’ rush to marriage

A netizen argued against attributing high divorce rates solely to rushed decisions to apply for BTOs, stressing the importance of adopting a more holistic approach to foster family-centric societies rather than laying the blame solely on young couples.

Another netizen contested this perspective, acknowledging the correlation with the introduction of BTO but also acknowledging some truth in the data.

In response, while recognizing the link between BTO introduction and marriage trends, the netizen highlighted the multifaceted nature of divorce rates, including factors like cost of living, workplace stress, societal expectations, and childcare.

He questioned whether addressing these broader issues would help sustain marriages and family bonds and proposed alternative solutions rather than discouraging young couples from making decisions based on BTO availability.

Single Singaporeans’ housing needs

A netizen highlighted instances where couples registered their marriage solely to secure a BTO flat, leading to divorces in some cases.

He suggested that the popularity of single flats reflects a growing questioning of the necessity of marriages and family unions, citing it as a global issue in urban cities amid changing lifestyles.

Another comment advocates for allowing singles to purchase 3-room and 4-room flats, suggesting that this could alleviate some of the housing issues.

He argues that the government should acknowledge the societal shift towards more people choosing to remain single, often due to high costs of living and increased stress, and thus should provide more spacious housing options tailored for singles.

Some netizens reiterated a common demand from the Singaporean community, urging for a reduction in the age requirement for singles to purchase HDB flats, arguing that singles may eventually marry and require housing.

As of now, singles in Singapore are required to be 35 years old or above to purchase a new flat from HDB or acquire one from the resale market.

Marriage rush: Fear of escalating HDB prices spurs BTO race

A  netizen criticized the relentless rise in public housing prices and the fear of missing out (FOMO), which are pressuring young Singaporeans to rush into marriage just to secure a BTO at current prices.

She expressed concern over the possibility of even basic 3-room HDB flats becoming unaffordable, questioning whether it’s fair for native-born Singaporeans to face such high costs.

Another comment also highlighted that “FOMO ” often compels individuals to opt for early BTO applications to secure prime locations, leading to rushed decisions. Additionally, societal pressure may push people into unhappy marriages instead of allowing them to remain contentedly single.

There are also critics of the current BTO system, for instance, one questioned the BTO application process, highlighting concerns that individuals may struggle to secure a BTO when they are ready for serious marriage.

Some queried the necessity of the lengthy application process and suggested that land allocated for BTOs should still be used for that purpose even if signup rates are low. They proposed opening applications closer to the completion date to better match supply and demand.

National Development Minister rejects call to lower HDB age limit, warns of potential price surge

It is worth noting that during a Parliament session in March, Hazel Poa, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), made a recommendation to lower the age limit for singles to buy HDB flats to 28, allowing them to purchase new three-room flats.

This change aims to enable singles to own a flat before finding a partner, facilitating quicker family formation when they do find the right partner.

However, National Development Minister Desmond Lee rejected the PSP proposal, emphasising the need to carefully balance the housing needs of various segments, including married couples, families, seniors, and singles, to ensure the stability and sustainability of the housing system

He cautions that implementing proposals without corresponding increases in flat supply could lead to spikes in application rates and resale prices, making it harder for people, including singles, to obtain flats.

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What is the ruling government’s solution to a supply problem for public housing? Segregate the market further. Now they are coming out with “Prime, Plus and Standard” classifications. Wasteful theatrics at taxpayer expense to further obfuscate the failure of the BTO scam. What’s worse, these new schemes introduce more wealth and income segregation into public housing. People who can’t afford “Prime” flats are forced into brand new neighbourhoods with no amenities, bad transport connectivity and distant to their places of work. I.e. If you are poor, we will force to pay for it with your time too (Longer commuting times… Read more »