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1930s, 1940s, 1950s – SIT era
Singapore Improvement Trust set up in 1927, public housing developments were small-scale, until Tiong Bahru started in 1936 and Queenstown started in 1952 and completed by HDB in 1960s. In 32 years, SIT built only 23,000 flats, housing 8.8% of Singapore population in 1959.
The SIT housing was similar with British housing, 2-storey terraced houses, 3/4-storey walk-up flats, and since 1950s, 7/9-storey high-rise flats, plus one 14-storey block built in Queenstown in 1956. The blocks built at just 10-15 meters apart, denser than HDB estates. List of SIT estates.
Queenstown: Princess Margaret (SIT 1952-1958) vs Tanglin Halt (HDB 1962-1964), source: myheritage.com.sg
SIT floor plans
Collection of Tiong Bahru Pre-War SIT blocks floorplans (3-room to 5-room):
After war, SIT built mostly 2-Room and 3-Room, but 4-Room flats were built too in Alexandra North, Silat Estate and Tiong Bahru (at least), no floorplan available. To speed up construction, flats were downsized in 1955 and fewer 4-room were built. 1-Room flats were introduced in 1958, as 3-storey blocks with double-loaded corridor. It also built tenements (blocks with communal kitchen and toilets, opposite of “self-contained flats”), that can be built quickly for the victims of various fires.
Some floor plans of rental flats are available on HDB InfoWEB under PPHS (whole block floor plans, no dimensions).
Landed public housing
During 1950s (or even earlier), SIT also built terraced houses, two clusters survived: Jalan Bahagia (in Whampoa, 28 blocks, 200 units), Stirling Road (in Queenstown, 13 blocks, 84 units). Most units are 3-Room (originally 78 sqm) but on Stirling Road there are some 4-Room (99 sqm). Over time, the owners built additional rooms in front, rear, and side of corner units, expanding some houses to over 200 sqm according resale transactions.
1960s – HDB beginnings
HDB was founded in February 1960, shortly after People Action Party won national elections of 1959.
HDB continued construction of some SIT estates: Queenstown, Kallang Airport, St. Michael, Kampong Tiong Bahru, and launched new estates like Bukit Ho Swee, Brickworks, Alexandra Hill, Redhill, Henderson (in Bukit Merah); Bendemeer, Boon Keng, Kallang Bahru and Tanjong Rhu (in Kallang), Upper Changi Road aka Chai Chee (now part of Bedok), MacPherson (in Geylang), MacPherson Homes (in Toa Payoh).
On 13 February 1959 a fire started in Kampong Tiong Bahru, leaving 12.000 people homeless (source: NLB). SIT quickly cleared the area and built few 5-storey blocks with 1-Room flats and 9-storey blocks as well as terraced houses. A bigger fire in Bukit Ho Swee on 25 May 1961 left 16,000 people homeless, as coincidence HDB completed in September 1961 the Kampong Tiong Bahru flats started by SIT and moved the fire victims there, after few months of temporary housing in Queenstown. These fires helped popularity of HDB.
Construction of Toa Payoh, first project called “New Town”, incorporating a town centre and several neighborhoods, started in 1965. Note: Queenstown is unofficially first New Town.
The first blocks completed by HDB are Queenstown blk 45, 46, 49, 7-storey blocks styled like SIT.
Redevelopment of uneconomical SIT estates started in 1967, single-storey artisans quarters built by SIT in 1951-1953 at Henderson and Upper Aljunied were demolished and replaced by high-rise blocks.
In Master Plan 1958 you can see numerous terraced houses (planned by SIT and unbuilt) around Redhill and Whampoa. HDB changed housing typology to massive blocks with smaller flats and eliminated terraced houses.
1960s estates composed only by linear slab blocks (corridor style) in most common height of 10 storeys and usually with 12 units per floor, but several blocks were very long, plus 2-storey shophouses. Minimal distance between facades was not regulated, usually 15-30 metres.
HDB aimed to build 50000 dwelling units in first 5 years, so a simple brutalist architecture was chosen, in contrast with the Art Deco and Modernist themes used by SIT. Kampong clearance has been started.
1960s typical HDB floor plans
Standard flats by HDB had WC and shower in same room, were built in proportion of 40% 1-room, 30% 2-Room, 30% 3-Room. 4-Room were introduced in 1967 at Henderson Road.
Improved flats were introduced in 1966, having separate WC and shower. The Improved blocks feature void deck.
Emergency flats with 1/2-room were also built Floor plans without dimensions on HDB InfoWEB > Public Housing > Cost Effective Designs.
Tenements (flats with communal kitchen and toilet, opposite of self-contained flats), were also built, for example Bukit Ho Swee blocks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, according iremember.sg blog. I do not know if other tenements blocks were built.
The floor areas have broad range, 1-Room (23-33 sqm), 2-Room (35-45 sqm), 3-Room (50-70 sqm), and unlike SIT, HDB built just very few 4-Room (70-85 sqm) in Outram Park, Henderson and Toa Payoh.
The only standing 2-room Emergency flats are blk 91, 92, 93 Henderson Rd , blk 1 Maude Rd, blk 2 Kitchener Rd.
I estimate average size during 1960s around 40-50 sqm.
1960-1970 slab blocks with 2-Room Standard (44-45 sqm), 3-Room Standard (50-55 sqm), 4-Room Standard (70-75 sqm)
Most blocks of this type were upgraded with utility rooms, some with bedroom extension including en-suite toilet.
1967-1978 (estimated years) slab block with 1-Room Improved (33 sqm)
The ONLY current 1-room block with owned flats is blk 7 Telok Blangah Crescent, all others are rental.
Some 1-Room blocks are 2 meters wider, flats 50 cm longer, toilet is squarish and kitchen is L-shaped around toilet (example blk 123 Bukit Merah View). No floor plans available, because HDB never provide floorplans for rental flats.
1967-1978 and 1982-1988 slab block with 2-Room Improved (44 sqm), 3-Room Improved (60 sqm), 3½-Room Improved (69 sqm)
Most blocks of this type were upgraded with 5-6 sqm utility rooms, these utility rooms vary in shape and size so that is why I posted here original floorplans without utility room.
JTC floor plans
Jurong Town Corporation established in 1968 and built 5 estates in parallel with HDB:
Taman Jurong, built 1964/1969-1974, most demolished in 1990s and 2000s). Earliest blocks were built by Economic Development Board in cooperation with HDB starting from 1964, then JTC took over in 1969.
Boon Lay Gardens, built 1974-1978, mixed with HDB, most demolished in 1990s and 2000s.
Teban Gardens, built 1977-1978, mixed with HDB, some demolished in 2000s.
Pandan Gardens, built 1978-1979, all survived.
Sembawang, built early 1970s, 7 blocks, demolished in 2004.
The 5-Room flats built by JTC feature 2 entrance doors!
Anyone have a floor plan of the JTC 4-Room point blocks (zig-zag ones)? Last ones will be demolished in 2013.
1970s – HDB new towns
HDB planned to build a ring of New Towns around Central Water Catchment.
In early 1970s four new towns were started: Bedok, Marine Parade, Marsiling, Telok Blangah; also for smaller estates like Kallang Basin and St. George (in Kallang); Geylang East, Haig Road, Jalan Eunos and Sims (in Geylang); Dover, Ghim Moh, Holland Village (in Queenstown); Farrer Road (in Bukit Timah), Lorong Lew Lian (in Serangoon), Sin Ming (in Bishan). Construction continued in Toa Payoh (blocks 210-235).
In the second half of 1970s construction commenced for three more New Towns: Ang Mo Kio, Clementi / West Coast, Hougang (only several blocks), and for small estates like Hillview (in Bukit Batok, demolished in 2005), Nee Son (now part of Yishun), Teck Whye Estate (now part of Choa Chu Kang).
HDB also built Rural Centres, mini estates with several hundred flats to house farmers: Changi Village (considered in Pasir Ris), Kranji / Lim Chu Kang (abandoned in 2002), Punggol Road End (in Sengkang area, demolished in 2004), Seletar Road (in Serangoon area), Seletar West Farmway (in Sengkang area).
1970s generation estates were dominated by massive slab block in most common heights of 12, 13 or 16 stories and usually with 14 or 18 units per floor, most were over 100 metres long, plus point blocks of 20 and 25 storeys, and 4-storey shophouses. Minimal distance between facades was 30 metres.
1970s typical HDB floor plans
In mid-1970s were introduced New Generation flats: 3-Room (67 / 82 sqm) and 4-Room (92 sqm), compared with Improved flats, the NG flats feature 2 toilets, both with WC and shower, one attached to master bedroom, plus store room. The HDB Floor Plans 1930-present is copyrighted by www.teoalida.com.
Point blocks with four units per floor and taller than surrounding blocks, were introduced in 1972, featuring 4-Room Improved flats (84 sqm).
5-Room flats (117-125 sqm) were introduced in 1974 in point blocks, all 5-room flats, Standard and Improved, have 2 toilets, both with WC and shower, one attached to master bedroom. Starting from 1978, 5-Room flats were introduced also in slab block form.
Point blocks were built until mid-1980s, 2 with 3-Room, 26 with 4-Room and 247 with 5-room. After 1980s they still built blocks with 4 units per floor but with height similar with surrounding blocks so I have not included them in above count.
3/4-Room Standard flats disappeared in early 1970s and Improved flats in late 1970s.
The average size rose from 60 sqm in early 1970 to 75 sqm in late 1970s estates.
Marine Parade was, and is still the most prestigious HDB estate, also the oldest HDB estate remained intact (no demolitions, no new blocks). Built between 1975 and 1977, it contains about 7900 units in 56 blocks, slab blocks with 2/3/4-Room Improved flats and also 17 tower blocks with 96 units of 120 sqm 5-Room Standard flats. Average flat size: 76 sqm, a record for its time (today average size is a little bigger due of upgrading with utility rooms and many 3-room flats adjoined.
1976-1988 slab block with 3-Room New Generation (67 sqm), 3½-Room New Generation (82 sqm), and 4-Room New Generation (92 sqm), big kitchen
1976-1988 slab block with 4-Room New Generation (91 sqm), two units per staircase
1976-1980 slab block with 5-Room Standard (117 sqm), also 4-Room New Generation (89 sqm) at lift level
1978-1985 slab block with 5-Room Improved (121 sqm), also 4-Room New Generation (98 sqm) at lift level
1974-1979 point block with 5-Room Standard (114-123 sqm)
1977-1985 point block with 5-Room Improved (117-121 sqm)
Some Standard flats have long master bedroom like Improved flats. Other flats have balcony at living room. I don’t know the real difference between Standard and Improved.
See more 1970s floor plans
1980s – More HDB new towns
In the early 1980s seven New Towns were started: Bukit Batok, Hougang, Jurong East, Jurong West, Serangoon, Tampines, Woodlands (integrating Marsiling), Yishun (integrating Nee Son), as well as small estates: Kaki Bukit (in Bedok), Bukit Purmei (in Bukit Merah), Ubi (in Geylang), McNair (in Kallang), Potong Pasir and Upper Aljunied (in Toa Payoh).
In the late 1980 four more New Towns were born: Bishan, Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang (integrating Teck Whye), Nanyang (extension of Jurong West), Pasir Ris, as well as Estates: Simei (near Tampines), Kembangan (in Bedok), Toh Yi (in Bukit Timah).
1980s towns were composed by slab blocks with 10-13 floors, usually 12 floors, usually with 10 or 12 units per floor, plus the 25-storey point blocks. Compared with previous decade, the blocks were arranged in more rigid patterns, with corners bend to give the precinct a sense of enclosure. Most 10/12-storey blocks were perfectly aligned to east-west direction to avoid sun, while on east and west sides they are surrounded by 4-storey walk-up blocks. Minimal distance between facades was 24 metres.
By unknown reasons, after 1985 only few blocks were built with more than 12 storeys.
Ground floor units were reintroduced, most 1980s high-rise blocks have few (usually 4) units at ground floor and the rest void deck. Most 4-storey blocks do not have void decks, but ground floor units.
In 1980 first prefabrication contract was awarded, raising the construction ratio to about 190.000 flats built in 1981-1985, the record being 67856 flats in 1984. Prefab blocks were built in 16 months, 20% faster than 20 months for normal blocks (source: Straits Times 1982). Wikipedia’s Tampines page says “Using prefabricated parts, a block of high-rise flats could be built in a month” – do not believe.
These 1980s prefab blocks with load-bearing walls can be identified by being uglier, having simple floorplan, plain external walls (unlike normal blocks which have columns visible on facade and windows pushed back). Flats achieve lower prices than ones in non-prefab blocks, hacking walls is not allowed except a door-size opening, ceiling leaks are common.
A confusing thing: today BTO blocks use prefabricated panels too, but does not look similar with 1980s blocks, construction time is double, 3-4 years, and internal walls can be hacked. Probably they were referring that in 1980s they made blocks entirely prefab, load-bearing prefab walls.
Rising home ownership left rental blocks empty. Most 1-Room Emergency blocks built in 1960s were demolished during 1980s and new blocks with 3-Room to Executive flats were built.
The percentage of population living in public housing hit the all-time record of 87% in 1988-1990, construction ratio had to be reduced to 10000 units per year in 1989-1991 to avoid oversupply, leaving some estates unfinished, for example Yishun 4xx with its 8 blocks in middle of empty field.
1980s typical HDB floor plans
Along the 3/4-Room New Generation and 5-Room Improved, in 1982 were introduced Model A flats: 3-Room (75 sqm), 4-Room (105 sqm), 5-Room (135 sqm), 5-Room Maisonette (139 sqm), and in 1984 were introduced Simplified flats, 3-Room (64 sqm), 4-Room (84 sqm).
Executive Apartment / Maisonette (146-150 sqm) were introduced in 1984 and replaced 5-Room Model A flats, in addition of the 3-bedroom and separate living/dining found in 5A flats, EA and EM feature an utility/maid room. Prior to 1993, 80% of Executive units were Maisonettes and 20% were Apartments.
New types of 4-Room Model A, 5-Room Improved, and Executive were introduced in 1987, featuring 4 bedrooms (or 3 bedrooms plus study room with sliding doors), instead of the 3 bedrooms plus utility room for former Executives.
Multi-Generation flats were introduced in 1987, on structure similar with the 3/4-Room Simplified blocks, but flats are paired two by two and reconfigured as a 3-bedroom + Studio (granny flat), having 2 entrances and a communicating door. The granny flat was not used as intended so the concept was abandoned after building 8 blocks (source: Straits Times 1986 + Straits Times 1988).
Last 1/2-Room Improved blocks built were Tampines 441, 442, 466, 471 in mid-1980s. Average HDB flat size for 1980s estates is 90-100 square meters.
New Generation flat types were phased out around 1985, but surprisingly, few blocks with 3-Room Improved were built in late 1980s. All 3-Room but also the 4-Room Simplified flats were phased out in 1989, boosting average size of new HDB flats from 100 sqm in 1988 to 120 sqm in 1991.
STRANGE, very few flats have leases 1990 and 1991, despite that construction rate was constant, at least 10000 dwelling units being completed each year. Number of flats with lease 1991 is about 6% of the number of flats with lease 1989 and 1992 according my analysis of HDB Resale Flat Prices database. A possible hypothesis is that HDB decided to set lease start date later than actual completion date (confirmation needed).
1982-1989 slab block with 3-Room Model A (73-75 sqm) and 4-Room Model A (105-108 sqm)
3½-Room Model A (88-90 sqm) exists but is so rare that I never found floorplan.
Website visitors reported that early 4-Room Model A have different floorplan, similar in shape with 4-Room New Generation with toilets near each other, but big as 105 sqm instead of 92 sqm.
1983-1984 slab block with 5-Room Model A Maisonette (137-140 sqm, some -155 sqm) and 4-Room Model A (109 sqm) on corners (no floor plan found)
1984-1988 slab block with Executive Maisonette (144-147 sqm, some -160 sqm) and Executive Apartment (146 sqm) on corners
Many people asked me what is a 5-Room Maisonette or what is the difference compared with Executive Maisonette, the primary difference is the building year, because the two-storey Maisonettes were introduced earlier than Executive naming.
1990-1992 slab block with 4-Room Model A (103-107 sqm) and 5-Room Improved (121-123 sqm), 2 units per staircase.
Except corner units, all units are 4A, units at lift level are similar with 1987-1990 blocks, but units at next level up are 4A too instead of 5I, with a huge balcony, units at other non-lift level have a small balcony facing over staircase void and big balcony of below units. Staircase landing is at middle f block, making lift upgrading unfeasible. Many such blocks did not got LUP.
Blocks leased in second half of 1992 are WEIRD:They are the first blocks with lifts stopping at every floor, corridors are at every floor but not continuous (a part of block have corridors at floor 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, other part at floor 3, 6, 9), in some blocks this design leave about 10% of units with no lift access. Who live in this type of block, please clarify!
See more 1980s floor plans
1990s – The modern HDB blocks
In the early 1990s extensive construction was done in Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Pasir Ris, Tampines, plus many small precints in other towns.
In the late 1990s three New Towns were started: Sembawang, Sengkang, Punggol. Construction suddenly stopped for Tampines and Pasir Ris but continued for Bukit Panjang, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong East, Jurong West (Pioneer neighborhood), Woodlands.
1990s was a decade of rapid development and innovation, raising the standard of living in public housing of Singapore to a level similar with private housing in other countries:
1993 – all blocks completed in 1993 have lifts stopping on every floor now and centralized refuse chutes, and multi-storey carparks (up to 1994 some blocks have lift machine room at top floor so the flats at top floor do not have direct lift access).
1996 – introduction of yards for kitchens and by-panel main door.
1998 – introduction of household shelters and A/C ledges placed opposite of kitchen window, that double as second support for drying on bamboo poles.
2001 – first blocks competed in Punggol, a town built without corridor-facing flats
2004 – last corridor-facing flats.
1990s HDB blocks are highly decorated and grouped in precints with distinctive styles, ground car parks were replaced by multi storey car parks, this allowed higher density, taller blocks, and a lot of green space between blocks. All blocks are linked with car parks, bus stations and other facilities, with covered walkways, so no more problems if the sun is too hot or is raining. Blocks height vary between 9 and 18 storeys, most are 15 storeys. No more walk-up blocks were built. Unfortunately minimal distance between blocks was reduced to 18.3 metres (60 feet).
Since 1989 structural elements became thicker, 30 cm or more, rather than 20 cm in 1980s blocks, and more pillars per block (I do not know if HDB blocks are designed to withstand earthquakes).
Design & Build scheme was introduced in 1991, calling private architects to inject more variety into public housing designs (source), first project being at Tampines Street 24, featuring curved facades.
Design Plus followed in 1996.
Premium Apartments were introduced somewhere in 1990s, precincts with unique block design, and featuring better quality finishes, you get them in ready-to-move condition, with flooring, kitchen cabinets, built-in wardrobes. In Standard Apartments you get raw concrete waiting for your renovation.
Executive Condominium scheme was launched in 1995, subsidized private housing with same eligibility conditions like HDB (source: HDB Press Release 29 August 1995). See List of EC.
Privatization of the former HUDC estates started in 1995 too.
Many land parcels were sold to private developers, making the percentage of population in public housing to fall.
Rejuvenating the old estates started, to keep them attractive and prevent forming enclaves of elderly people, various upgrading programmes were launched since 1991, which involved building multi storey car parks in old estates and converting surface car parks into green space, installing new lifts that stop on every floor, and adding features on facade to give a more modern look for corridor blocks.
Although small-scale redevelopment of old estates started in 1966, a massive demolition of 1-room blocks occurred in 1988-1989 and continued into 1990s. New blocks with 5-rm and Executive units were built in mature estates like Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Toa Payoh.
Remaining rental blocks were converted, units adjoined, creating what is unofficially called Jumbo Flat and sold with fresh leases from 1992 to 1996. Since 1994 flat owners were allowed to buy an adjacent flat and adjoin them, but only for 3-rm or smaller flats, officially called Adjoined Flat. The HDB Floor Plans 1930-present is copyrighted by www.teoalida.com.
Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme was announced in 1995 to demolish owner-occupied blocks built up to 1980 and rehouse the residents in new blocks built in nearby location, to maintain community. Usually low-rise blocks with large space between them are selected for SERS, while dense and tall blocks are selected for upgrading. See List of SERS sites.
Some owner-occupied blocks were demolished before implementation of SERS. With no dedicated replacement blocks, residents were compensated at market value and moved anywhere they wanted.
HDB stopped deciding the prices of new apartments based on construction costs, instead they decided based on market prices. Prices of resale flats and new flats entered in a vicious circle, rising 50% in just 6 months of 1993 and tripled to 1996, then felt down 30% to 1998 and remained constant to 2006.
1990s standard HDB floor plans
1990s HDB flats provide high variety of layouts in various sizes: 4-Room Model A (100-108 sqm), 5-Room Improved (120-128 sqm), 5-Room Model A (133-137 sqm), Executive Apartments / Maisonettes (142-150 sqm). Share of 5-Room and Executive flats increased, raising average size of new flats to over 120 square meters in 1991-1996 (even 130 sqm in 1994-1995 due of Jumbo converted blocks.
Strangely, a small number of 2-Room flats have been built in 1994 (Pasir Ris block 142), does anyone have any info about these mysterious dwellings?
1996-1998 slab block with 4-Room Model A (100 sqm) and 5-Room Improved (120-123 sqm), some blocks have some smaller units named 4-Room Model A2 (90 sqm), some have different corners with 4-Room and 5-Room units, others have a wing with 2 units of 5-Room
1993-1998 point block with Executive Apartment (144-147 sqm), some blocks are L-shaped with 4 units per floor (3 or 4 different layouts), or U-shaped with 5 units per floor, some are longer like slab blocks and include corridor units, some blocks are combined with Executive Maisonette
1996-1998 blocks provide service balcony for kitchen
1993-1998 point block with Executive Apartment (146 sqm), 4 units per floor, two 146 sqm layout and other two different kitchen shape
1993-1998 atrium block with Executive Apartment (143-146 sqm), 6 units per floor, four 146 sqm layout and two 143 sqm layout
UNIQUE, HDB Penthouse Maisonettes
They are located in topmost floor of some 1990s precincts in Bishan (52 units, up to 199 sqm), Choa Chu Kang (12 units, 182 / 215 sqm), Queenstown-Strathmore (4 units, 192 sqm), (source), also unknown number of units in Hougang (176 sqm) and Pasir Ris (189 sqm).
Jumbo and Adjoined HDB Flats
Jumbo Flats: blocks taken back by HDB, flats joined into bigger flats and resold with fresh leases (1992-1996), they appear in HDB Resale Transactions as 4-Room Model A, 5-Room Improved / Model A, Executive Apartment and you cannot tell which of them are converted. Jumbo converted flats size vary from 90 sqm (2-Room + 2-Room) to 189 and 192 sqm (3-Room + 4-Room Model A), and larger ones have 3 toilets. Unlike the 1980s Multi-Generation flats, Jumbos DO NOT have 2 entrances or 2 kitchens.
Most Jumbo flats are in Woodlands and Yishun, few are in Tampines, Jurong East, and Ang Mo Kio (only smallest type from 2-room blocks).
Adjoined Flat: flats joined by owners, they appear in HDB Resale Transactions as 4-Room / 5-Room / Executive Adjoined Flat, unlike Jumbo flats, the adjoined flats CANNOT be 3-rm + 4-rm, can have 2 entrances but most owners walled one entrance.
First downsize of HDB flats
Another revolution is visible for the HDB flats completed since 1998: Block naming system (slab, point, atrium) has been abandoned. Flat naming system (Improved, Model A, etc) is no longer used in sale brochures but is still shown in resale transactions, where all 4-rm are Model A and all 5-rm are Improved. In sale brochures, the word Flat was replaced by Apartment, a new naming system was introduced: Type A = 4-rm, Type B = 5-rm, Type C = Executive.
The flat sizes were standardized to smaller size: 4-Room (100 sqm), 5-Room (120 sqm), Executive (140 sqm). The 5-Room lost the study area, being just a 3-bedroom flat with larger living room. Executives are 3 bedrooms plus open study area that can be walled into a 4th bedroom. Average flat size 110 sqm.
A household shelter was provided in every flat, a store room with strengthened 30 cm walls and sealing door. Useless feature in my opinion, the shelter eats about 5 sqm, sometimes placed in middle of flat, hacking it is not allowed thus the floor plan is less flexible (some exceptions in 2000s: 1/2-rm rental blocks and some 2/3-rm sold blocks have a storey shelter instead of household shelter).
Second downsize of HDB flats
All HDB flats completed since 2000 lost 10 sqm. 4-Room (90 sqm), 5-Room (110 sqm), Executive (130 sqm), Maisonettes were no longer built.
In attempt to minimize number of corridor-facing flats, the shape of blocks became complex, with many corners containing 5-Room units, their number exceeded the number 4-Room units built in 2002 and 2003, so the average flat size remained high as 105 sqm in 2000-2005.
See more 1990s floor plans
2000s – The decline
During 2000s, no other New Town or Estate were started. Construction continue only in existing estates. Taller and taller blocks were built in all estates not too close to airports to have height constraints. 30-storey complexes appeared since late 1990s, and the first 40-storey complex (Toa Payoh Towers) was completed in early 2005 (source).
The demand for new flats felt sharply after 1997 Asian Crisis. 2003 SARS outbreak and low immigration rate in early 2000s also slowed down the demand for flats. This happened right after the most prosperous decade, with 24000-36000 flats completed each year between 1994 and 2001. The queue, once 5 years long, vanished and left about 40000 unsold completed flats in the year 2000, most of them being 5-Room and Executive.
The Registration for Flat (queue selling system) was suspended in 2002.
Walk In Selection has been introduced in March 2002 to help clearing the stock of unsold flats. It ended in February 2007 and was replaced by Quarter-Yearly Sale of 2/3-Room flats and Half-Yearly Sale of 4-Room and bigger flats, which in 2010 were combined in Sale of Balance Flats, containing leftover flats from past BTO and SERS projects, plus old flats repurchased by HDB. Some flats are completed and available without waiting time, SOBF draws much interest, the battle being about 10 people per each flat.
Build-To-Order was introduced in April 2001 and became main supply of flats. Flats are offered for sale before being built. Tender for construction is called only if at least 70% of units have been booked (50% since 2011), otherwise the project is canceled and may be re-launched when will be more demand, with a different name and sometimes different design. The first projects enjoyed low interest, 5 of them being cancelled, but after Walk in Selection ended, most BTO projects were oversubscribed, from 2008 HDB launch 2 BTO projects every month. See my List of BTO launches including statistics.
BTO system prevent HDB to built surplus of units, but it created a lag in housing supply, leading to rising flat prices since 2007. BTO system give you the advantage of choosing exact location of your home and estimated completion date (3-4-5 years, depending by development size), but the disadvantage is that some people apply multiple times until get the luck to pass the ballot exercise.
Design, Build and Sell Scheme are public housing built and sold by private developers, it feature condo-style facades, but without guards, pool, or other condo facilities, it is still public housing! First DBSS project was launched in 2006 and completed in 2009. DBSS land sales were suspended in July 2011 after the Sim Lian Group, developer of Centrale 8 (8th DBSS) set outrageous prices around $880.000 for 5-Room. 13 land parcels were sold for DBSS, totaling about 9000 apartments. See the list of DBSS on HDB InfoWEB and my list of DBSS projects that include statistics.
Punggol 21 was announced in 1996 and got first residents in 2001, a modern waterfront town featuring a mix of high-end HDB and Executive Condos, it is the first HDB town where each precint is individually designed and feature integrated carparks with green roofs, and no corridor-facing units. But due of Asian Crisis, it turned into a ghost town with many unsold flats and no amenities. As 31 March 2004 it had 3768 4-Room, 10031 5-Room, 1126 Executive units, then construction was very slow until 2010. The LRT line east loop opened in 2005 while the west loop is still unopened as 2014.
Pungool 21+ was announced in 2007 to rejuvenate the town, involving building a waterway through undeveloped part of town, amenities and low-end BTO projects with 2/3/4-room units. Imagine that if the crisis would never hit, Punggol was developed with big flats but without waterway!
2000s random HDB floor plans
Along 4-Room (90 sqm) and 5-Room (110 sqm), HDB reintroduced 3-Room (60 sqm, later 65 sqm) and 2-Room (35/45 sqm). Officially 3-Room was introduced in BTO Fernvale Grove in 2004 (completed 2008) but actually there are 3-room completed early as 2002 (Cantonment Towers, SERS project).
Studio Apartments (35/45 sqm) were introduced in 1998 for people aged over 55, they are sold with 30-year leases and cannot be sold in resale market. Originally were built in all-studio blocks, but from 2006 were mixed in BTOs with normal 3-, 4-, 5-room units.
HDB made a surprise decision in 1995 to close the registration queue for Executive flats, shortly after introduction of Executive Condominiums. Last EA was completed in 2004, last EM in 2000, for people in the queue. A common misconception is that Executive Apartment were replaced by Executive Condos. NO, Executive Condo flats are priately-built in variety of sizes from 50 to 300 sqm.
Due of many unsold flats, very few 5-Room were completed in 2007-2009. Economy recovered in late 2000s, HDB raised production of 5-Room flats but do not reintroduce Executive Apartments, motivating that these flats were purchased by rich families who can afford too much space for no reason, also the average household size dropped thus larger flats are no longer necessary.
The average size of new flats dropped from 105 sqm in 2000-2005 to 90 sqm in 2007 and around 80 sqm later.
HDB resumed building rental blocks in 2007, corridor-style with 1- and 2-room apartments, in 2007, for people who are unable to own a flat.
Each 2000s project is unique designed, but most flats feature similar circular pattern: living – common bedrooms – master bedroom – bathrooms – kitchen, but with a lot of variations in room sizes and windows, there are variations even from one floor to another floor of same block, so I cannot post on my website all possible floor plans.
2000s flats offer full privacy (except rental blocks). Flats with rooms facing to corridor were built in small numbers until 2004 lease year. First BTO project was completed in 2005 and got lease from 2006, so all BTOs offer full privacy. Compared with 1990s flats, the layouts were improved, bedrooms were downsized in favor of larger living room, the study area returned in 5-room flats, and common toilet entrance is no longer in kitchen.
Looking for floor plan of certain flat? Do a Google search with street or precinct name (rather than block number). Look on www.renotalk.com or other forums, where people post their floor plans asking for renovation ideas, or buy from HDB for $5. Do not ask me for floor plan because is unlikely to have and give you the correct floor plan, I do not have more than what can yourself steal from forums.
Pinnacle @ Duxton, the first 50-storey public housing complex, was completed in December 2009, as HDB anniversary 50 years of history in February 2010. It is the biggest BTO project, having 1848 units (7 blocks × 44 residential floors × 6 units per floor), 2 levels of skybridges, 2 flat types (S1 4-Room 90-93 sqm and S2 5-room 103-106 sqm), different combinations of bay windows, balconies and planters create 35 distinct flat layouts.
Nice find! http://www.msaudcolumbia.org/summer/?p=3032 – full complex floor plan and elevations.
See more 2000s floor plans
2010s – Today trends
Three new housing areas were announced in HDB Press Release in 2013: Bidadari Estate (within Toa Payoh planning area), Tampines North and Punggol Matilda. NO new town was officially announced so far. Additional construction is done in Bukit Batok (west end), Choa Chu Kang (south end), Yishun (east side) and Sembawang (very ulu area).
The planning work for Bidadari started in 2012 and may get first BTO launches in 2015.
Some unreferenced info on Wikipedia state that after the current New Towns will be saturated, HDB will start Tengah, Simpang, Bukit Brown, Bidadari and Seletar… this info may have been extracted from Concept Plan 2011 but the Concept Plan itself seems that was not yet published as 2013.
BUT in my opinion is not possible to start a new town using the current BTO system, flats sold before being built. Who the fuck will apply for a BTO flat located in middle of nowhere, without knowing how many other blocks or amenities will be launched nearby? The single solution is to start building NOW and sell them through SOBF when some amenities are at least planned! Proof: the very low 0.4 application ratio for May 2013 BTOs in ulu corner of Sembawang.
The demand for HDB flats is very strong nowadays. HDB ramped up BTO supply too late, from 9000 flats in 2009 to 25000 flats in 2011. Since Walk-in Selection ended in 2007, many citizens who are eligible for new flats but do not accept the 3-4 year waiting time of BTO system, turn to resale market, THIS caused the resale flat prices to double from 2007 to 2012 and the prices of new flats grew according to resale prices.
SkyVille & SkyTerrace @ Dawson, two iconic BTO projects were launched in December 2009. SkyTerrace feature lofts and paired units (similar with dual-key units in condos), this design caused some waste of floor space of the already too small and too expensive apartments.
They are most expensive HDB flats ever offered for sale, due of prime location near Queenstown MRT, and were still oversubscribed (9865 applications for all 1718 units, up to 12 applicants for each 5-rm unit, but in case of 3-rm units were slightly less applicants than units).
Flats are even smaller than in Pinnacle@Duxton, to 83 sqm for 4-rm and 101 sqm for 5-rm.
Other BTO projects of 2010s decade remained at the standard sizes 45 / 65 / 90 / 110 sqm (excluding balcony and A/C ledge). Due of high demand for 5-room, the average flat size rose from 80 sqm for BTO flats launched in 2009 to 85 sqm for BTO flats launched in 2012.
Meantime, private developers continue to downsize their flats, affecting DBSS projects too, for example Trivelis use 60 / 80-82 / 105 sqm. Of the 105 sqm 5-room, only 88 sqm is internal, be shocked at floor plan! If they specify balcony size 12 sqm, living room should be 3×5 m, common bedrooms 3×2.5 m, study 2x2m.
For first time in 15 years, HDB launched a bigger flat type in July 2013 BTO: 3gen flats having 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms in 115 sqm (following a trend started by Executive Condominiums offering 5-bedroom flats). Room sizes can be compared with the 4-room flats, having slightly larger living room, an extra 15 sqm bedroom and 5 sqm bath.
Since Executive flats are no longer built because they were often purchases by small but rich families, the 3gen flats with eligibility restricted to a married couple plus another family relative, are welcome in my opinion!
More USEFUL info
What is HDB ceiling height
HDB floor-to-floor is 2.80 meters, ceiling height is 2.60 m, the top floor in 1990s blocks is 2.90 m, I need confirmation if the blocks built in other decades have taller ceiling for top floor.
How to find the age of a HDB block
Use Resale Flat Prices, by this way you also see which flat types available in the block, and their areas. Does not work for rental blocks.
Note: you cannot find the age of block, you will find the Lease commence date, which is more important than block building year. Lease year correspond with building year + 1, with few exceptions (see below).
See also Status of HDB upgrading programmes, showing number of units in any block, too bad that they do not display the building year too, as upgrading programmes are usually done by the year of being built.
The only case when HDB publish the real year when a block was built, is when the blocks are selected for SERS.
What is Lease Commence Date
Is when the 99-year lease starts… and the years used by me in naming the floor plans are Lease Commence Date, NOT launch date or construction finishing date. Construction time lasted 2-3 years in 1990s. Household shelter appeared in HDB Annual Report 1996 and first blocks have leases from 1998.
Lease starts usually after up to 1 year from when construction is finished, this rule does not apply for pre-1973 blocks, in which Lease Commence Date is the year in which HDB decided to sell / allowed tenants to buy their flats. Tiong Bahru blocks built in 1948-1954 blocks have leases from 1973, Redhill blocks built in 1955 have leases from 1983, some 1970s 2-Room blocks were reserved for rental until 1986, the blocks converted during 1990s into Jumbo flats have leases from the year of conversion.
Home Ownership Scheme was introduced in 1964, but oldest HDB leases are from 1967. HOS was piloted in Tiong Bahru pre-war blocks in 1965-1967 and people could use CPF to purchase their flats, they are also the only SIT/HDB flats transacted as private properties (source). So, in 1967 they realized how to implement HOS without privatization?
What happen when 99-year lease expire
Nobody knows. Lorong 3 Geylang houses are the first leases to end in 2020 (private, 60-year lease). Let’s wait and we will see what happens!
Why do you care? Oldest HDB leases are from 1967, and most of 1960s HDBs have been already demolished, most condos are en-bloc after only 20-30 years. It’s unlikely for a HDB flat to reach the end of lease in 2060s, considering that the blocks are not structurally designed to stand 100 years, but I cannot imagine how Singapore will look like 50 years from now, too many blocks were built since 1980s onward to replace them.
I remember a funny guy saying in a forum that Freehold property remains yours forever while a Leasehold means that you will be kicked out at end of lease, and another guy correcting him: Government can takeover both leasehold and freehold properties, but only freehold owners are rewarded at full value. Also owners can apply for lease extension.
How urban planning in Singapore was done
Since 1960 to 1990s all HDB towns were planned using a standard density of 200 dwelling units per hectare. Flat sizes were growing over the years, leading to a stupid situation: the blocks with big flats were closest apart, they were inhabited by richer people who were expecting more privacy and more space to park their cars… while the 1-room rental flats had largest spaces and empty carparks.
Since 1990s (not sure exact year), urban planning control is done using plot ratio (gross floor area divided by land area). To create a vibrant city, low-, medium and high-density areas were created.
The ratios were revised and raised in Master Plan 1998, today most public housing are in 2.8 – 4.2 range, low-density condos are low as 1.4 and office buildings in Central Business District reach a plot ratio of 12.
How many New Towns built HDB in Singapore
Usually is said that 27, but this is the number of Planning Areas-based “Towns”, do not confuse with “New Towns” .
Based on construction stages:
Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) built 20 New Towns (10000-70000 units) and about 70 small estates (under 10000 units).
Economic Development Board (EDB) built in 1964-1968 and Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) built in 1968 and late 1970s a small number of blocks for low-income people, in Jurong and Sembawang industrial areas.
Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) built between 1974 and 1987 21 estates totalling about 9500 units, of which 18 estates sandwich housing for middle-income people who did not qualify for HDB flats but could not afford a private property, plus other 3 estates for Ministry of Finance and Singapore Armed Forces. List of HUDC estates.
HDB took over JTC and HUDC in 1982, becoming sole provider of public housing in Singapore. HDB built few more HUDC estates up to 1986.
The HDB Annual Report up to 1989 display a list of about 100 estates.
URA defined 55 Planning Areas in 1991, HDB New Towns and Estates were reorganized into 20 “Towns” and 11 “Other Estates” in AR 1990, few years later the other estates were regrouped into 6, of which Sembawang and Sengkang were turned into “towns” in AR 1996, Lim Chu Kang was demolished, Punggol was added in AR 1999, reaching today figure of 23 towns and 3 estates .There is no relation between Planning Areas / Towns and historical development HDB New Towns / Estates.
The current 26 HDB Towns and Estates match the URA planning areas with 2 exceptions:
– Kallang-Whampoa is one HDB town stretching on 3 planning areas (Kallang, Whampoa, Novena)
– Pasir Ris town also include Changi Village (from Changi planning area)
– Geylang, Kallang-Whampoa and Bukit Merah towns contains several HDB estates built inside of the main city, which cannot be considered “New Towns”.
– Tampines planning area includes 2 HDB New Towns: Tampines and Simei (I’m doubt to call Simei a New Town, it is only 7036 units, less than Marine Parade Estate).
– Lim Chu Kang planning area contained a very small estate (93 units) which was abandoned in 2001, still appeared on HDB Resale Flat Prices e-service until 2009.
I wrote this article from my own personal research since 2009, because others (including Wikipedia) are incomplete, not detailed, create confusion and may contain errors. Please do not copy any part of page TEXT without my approval. Photographs are from Panoramio, Wikipedia, etc and are linked to their original source. Feel free to use the HDB floor plans, for using photographs you may want to ask permission to their original authors. List of page updates.
How I got floor plans?
During the initial research in 2009, I took floor plans from October 2009 Sale of Balance Flats, copying images from PDF brochures (one PDF per town, few hundred floor plans to choose from). I choose 52 images, the ones with yellow-cream background, about 400-600 pixels tall, 29 pixels per meter. Additional floor plans were collected from random forums and blogs, reaching 100 images in 2012, some PNG, some JPG, different image resolution and scan quality, the page looked like a shit!
Floor plans were displayed on site resized with HTML code “height=200px” so anyone accessing the page, had to download 20 MB of full-size images, growing website traffic caused excessive server load.
In 2014, to reduce bandwidth usage and improve website design, I re-made the floor plans taking them from March 2012 Sale of Balance Flats (1000+ floor plans to choose from, each on separate PDF file, took me about 20 hours to download all PDFs). I took screenshot of PDF file at 100% zoom, cropped image in Paint then added the info bar at bottom. Full-size images about 600-1000 pixels tall (44 pixels per meter), and thumbnail images at 1/4 size. Page size: 8 MB.
See comparison: OLD vs NEW floor plans.
The floor plan collection is far away from being “complete”
This page was intended as educational material, showing HDB history and evolution of typical floor plans, but the audience is mostly resale flat buyers than students, they believe that this is / they want this to be a complete collection HDB floor plans, no matter how many floor plans I post, they want more!
Lots of variations exists. Example: 3-Room New Generation flat (67 sqm), the units that are not next to staircase do not have that thick wall, units that are not next to corridor-end unit do not display a second door on corridor, all these 4 can be mirrored, total 8 possible floor plans. I can post over 1000 floor plan variations, and no one will know how many other variations exists. This would overload website and will create trouble for people trying to find a basic floor plan.
Occasionally I get emails from “contributors” sending me their own floor plan (in most cases, too similar with one posted already, or too rare to worth posting), other people complain that the website is cluttered. This is why I decided in late 2012 to STOP adding more content unless there is something special.
The 100 floor plans displayed in this article represent 90% of all HDB flat types built before BTO era.
I have in my computer over 1000 floor plans saved from HDB website at every Sale of Balance Flats, or collected from various forums. Due of the massive effort needed to collect them and high valuable, I am selling my floor plan collection in Store.
Do note that this is complete floor plan collection of the flats sold at SBF, not complete collection of all possible HDB floor plans.
Trouble finding floor plan of a certain block? Have a floor plan but do not know where it is located?
Provide me block number or floor plan image. I am happy to help up to 5 people per day for FREE.
I have in my computer over 1000 floor plans saved from HDB website at SBF launches or collected from various forums.
If you ask about a flat built before 2000s, there are 90% chances to have a similar floor plan, but in case of BTO flats and 1990s premium projects the chances are less than 20%. Do not ask me floor plans of blocks under construction, floor plans with dimensions are provided at key collection, not earlier. I can give you PDF brochures, without dimensions.
I have high experience in HDB architecture so I can identify flat types in 99% of HDB blocks just by looking in satellite photos, eventually street view, takes 5 min to provide you possible floor plan (if I have), you get a rough idea of flat layout before purchasing, but I offer NO guarantee that will be 100% matching / correct for your flat.
If you already purchased a flat and want a floor plan for renovation, you are advised to buy floor plan from HDB for $5 to get the CORRECT floor plan.
Do not make stupid request like “Gimme the 4-room floorplan AMK model”, every town have many different floor plans, and most floor plans are NOT town-specific.
Some people suggested sorting floor plan collection by town / address. This is not possible due of above reason.
Other articles about history of public housing in Singapore
If you are student or love architecture, I invite you to check the apartments designed by myself, some of them being inspired from HDB and improved or alternatives to HDB layouts.
More from my site