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More HDB households but average size shrank, with fewer multi-generational families living together

More HDB households but average size shrank, with fewer multi-generational families living together

Chong Pang City HDB block. (Photo: Crispina Robert)

SINGAPORE: The number of Housing & Development Board (HDB) households has risen steadily over the years, with more than 1 million occupied flats in 2018.

The average household size, however, shrank from 3.4 people in 2008 to 3.1 in 2018, as the proportion of households with two or more generations living together fell.

These findings were released on Wednesday (Feb 10) in HDB’s Sample Household Survey, which is conducted once every five years to gather feedback about public housing and identify changing needs and expectations of residents.

The latest survey, in 2018, was conducted among nearly 8,000 households across all HDB estates.

READ: HDB to launch 17,000 BTO flats in 2021, similar to this year

The survey found that although the number of households increased, the overall number of Singaporeans and permanent residents living in HDB flats fell from 3.06 million in 2013 to 3.04 million in 2018, as more people moved to private housing, the Housing Board said.

There was also an overall decline in family-based households – defined as nuclear, extended or multi-nuclear families – from 90.9 per cent of all households in 2008, to 86.6 per cent in 2018.

Survey findings on the proportion of family-based households over the years. (Photo: HDB)

Meanwhile, the proportion of one-person households rose from 8 per cent to 11.9 per cent in the same period.

This was largely due to Singapore’s ageing population and the relaxation of HDB’s housing policy which enables singles to buy new two-room flats, said the agency.


Even as fewer extended families lived in the same flat, households continued to signal the importance of family ties, according to the survey.

The percentage of younger married couples living in close proximity to, or in an estate near their parents increased from 42.8 per cent in 2013, to 44.9 per cent in 2018.

The proportion of older residents living near their married children also rose from 37.9 per cent to 43.5 per cent in the same period.

Younger married residents are defined as those aged 54 and below. They make up 22.2 per cent of all HDB households.

READ: HDB launches more than 3,700 BTO flats, including first Community Care Apartments for the elderly

HDB added that the frequency of visits between parents and married children remained “consistently high”, with those who lived nearby visiting more frequently.

About 81.2 per cent of younger married residents living in close proximity to their parents visited one another at least once a week, compared to 63 per cent if they were living elsewhere in Singapore.

“The SHS (Sample Household Survey) findings showed that proximity facilitated family interaction, caregiving and provision of support,” said HDB, adding that it will continue to provide a range of housing schemes to support extended families who want to live with or near one another.

The Government will be launching a series of conversations to find out more about residents’ thoughts and priorities in relation to marriage and parenthood, and whether these have changed following COVID-19.

This would enable the Government to better support families in the future, HDB said.


Besides proximity, the survey also looked at the strength of family ties.

A total of 99.4 per cent of younger married residents were satisfied with their familial relations in 2018, an increase from the 96.8 per cent in 2008.

It was a similar story for older residents with married children – 98.5 per cent were satisfied with these ties in 2018, compared to 92.4 per cent in 2008.

HDB added: “The extent of trust and reciprocity among family members was high, reflecting the presence of strong family ties and mutual support.”

For older residents with married children, the survey found that these children were their primary source of support.

READ: Commentary: It is high time for a Ministry on Ageing Issues

About nine in 10 said they could rely on their children for emotional support, and seven in 10 for physical support, which includes helping with household chores – roughly similar to figures from 2013. 

More than seven in 10 also received financial support from their children every month, with another one in 10 receiving some form of support in kind from their children.

Among the 14.8 per cent who did not receive regular financial support, the majority of them were in the labour force.


The survey also found that housing aspirations differed across age groups.

About 73 per cent of residents aged below 35 years aspired for better housing.

HDB noted that this could be because these young residents have more working years ahead of them and higher income-earning potential.

In contrast, only about 14 per cent of elderly residents had these aspirations.

Survey findings on the housing aspirations of HDB residents, sorted by age group. (Photo: HDB)

When sorted according to flat type, it was observed that the housing aspirations of households in four-room flats or smaller had risen over the past decade.

The starkest increase was seen among those living in one- and two-room flats.

The proportion of those in such units who wanted better housing rose from 37.3 per cent in 2008, to 51.9 per cent in 2018.

On the other hand, there was a higher proportion of households in five-room and executive flats who were content with their present flats compared to a decade ago.

“These larger flats were able to serve residents throughout their life cycles with ample space for the family,” HDB said.

Survey findings on the housing aspirations of HDB residents, sorted by flat type and year. (Photo: HDB)


The proportion of HDB households that had moved at least once since marriage rose from 72.6 per cent in 2013 to 80 per cent in 2018.

HDB said common reasons for moving were changes in life cycles. On top of that, more households bought Built-to-Order (BTO) flats between 2013 and 2018, when HDB ramped up the flat supply, it said.

The Housing Board also noted that generally, families with children tended to move more than those without children, due to the changes in household size.

“About eight in 10 families with children had moved at least once, compared with only half of those without children,” it said.

Although the majority had no intention to move, the proportion of those who intended to do so in the next five years went up slightly, from 12.4 per cent in 2013 to 13.3 per cent in 2018.

Specifically, younger households and those in smaller flat types were more inclined to move.

“Comparatively, older residents were less inclined to move, likely due to their sense of attachment to their homes and a stronger desire to age in place,” HDB said.


The findings from the survey serve as important feedback for policy reviews, helping identify areas for improvement, the Housing Board said.

“They will enable HDB to better understand and keep pace with the evolving needs and lifestyle patterns of residents across different demographic profiles,” it added.

For instance, Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore, who is also chairperson of the HDB Research Advisory Panel, said the findings on strong family ties and familial support are important in the face of a rapidly ageing population.

“The results also showed that young home owners aspire to move up the housing ladder, which is a sign of upward social mobility.

“To this end, the findings provide useful feedback for HDB to chart the future directions of public housing, not only in formulating relevant housing policies, but also in refining its designs to meet residents’ needs,” he added.

HDB reiterated that it would continue to tailor policies to ensure public housing remains affordable and accessible to Singaporeans across their life stages.

Source: CNA/cl


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