On a recent trip home to Singapore, I was startled to learn just how much housing prices in the city-state have risen in my absence.
A cousin said he had recently paid over S$600,000 — about US$465,000 — for a yet-to-be-built 99-year-lease flat. Such numbers are hardly out of place in any major metropolis but this was for a state-subsidised three-bedroom apartment.
Soaring housing prices have fueled popular discontent — little wonder as median monthly household incomes have stagnated at around S$5,000.
For its part, the government — which houses 80 percent of people on the densely populated island — insists that public housing prices are shaped by ‘market forces’, pointing to a raft of financing schemes to help first-time buyers.
What’s less contentious is that Singapore is only part of a regional real estate boom that has driven property values by as much as 70 percent since the start of 2009 in cities such as Sydney, Hong Kong and Beijing.