Singapore most expensive Asia-Pacific city to own or rent private home, says study
Singapore's median private home price was US$1.2 million in 2022, compared with Hong Kong's US$1.16 million.
SINGAPORE: The median price of a private home in Singapore was US$1.2 million (S$1.6 million) in 2022, the highest among cities in the Asia Pacific, according to a report published on Tuesday (May 30).
In the latest Home Attainability Index by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Asia Pacific Centre for Housing, Singapore also ranked as the region's most expensive place to rent a private home.
The ULI Asia Pacific Centre for Housing bills itself as a think tank that aims to advance best practices in residential development and address housing issues relevant to the region.
In terms of affordability, the median private home price in Singapore was 13.7 times the median household income; the figure for median public Housing Board flats stood at 4.7. On the latter measure, Singapore ranks as the second-most affordable city in the Asia Pacific, after Brisbane, with a ratio of 4.5.
The report gives a snapshot of the extent to which housing is attainable in 45 cities in nine countries in the Asia Pacific: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
In the past year, Singapore’s median private-sector home price increased more than 8 per cent, while Hong Kong’s median home price fell 8.7 per cent, the report said.
It cited a few factors that led to the price increases in Singapore, including a large influx of immigrants and a growing trend of young professionals moving out of family homes for more space and freedom.
There was also a reduced new supply of housing in the past few years due to a COVID-induced disruption to the supply chain of building materials and labour.
The Singapore government has tried to address the issue of rising prices with a series of property cooling measures. The latest set, introduced in April, included measures such as the doubling of buyer's tax for foreigners to 60 per cent.
HONG KONG HOME PRICES
In contrast, home prices in Hong Kong fell substantially, returning to 2017 prices. This was mainly caused by a drop in population and a rising mortgage interest rate, the report said.
The current median home price in Hong Kong is US$1.16 million, an 8.7 per cent fall from the preceding year.
However, Hong Kong led the way on a per square metre basis. The median home price per sq m in Hong Kong was US$19,768, almost twice that of Singapore's US$10,715. By this measure, Singapore ranks third, after Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
Private homes also make up only about 20 per cent of Singapore's housing stock, with the majority of homes being HDB flats.
In terms of home ownership, Singapore continues to have the highest rate of nearly 90 per cent across public and private housing. This is due to the government’s "consistent commitment to enable its citizens to own homes at reasonable prices from the early years of the country’s independence in the 1960s", said the report.
The median HDB price went up from US$379,000 to US$409,000, an increase of 7.9 per cent, and the ratio of median HDB price to median annual income increased from 4.5 to 4.7, the second-lowest in the list.
For private homes in Singapore, the ratio jumped to 13.7.
Topping the list was Shenzhen (35.0), followed by Ho Chi Minh City (32.5). Hong Kong's ratio was 26.5, a sharp drop from the previous year's 30.5.
The report said that, in general, home ownership is considered unaffordable when the ratio of the median home price to median annual household income exceeds five. By this standard, only Singapore’s HDB flats and apartment units in Melbourne and Brisbane were considered affordable.
"Home attainability is severely challenged in Tier 1 and leading Tier 2 cities in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang with median home prices at approximately 20 to 35 times median household income," ULI said in a press release on the report.
At US$2,596 - an almost 30 per cent jump from the previous year - the median monthly rent for Singapore private properties was far and away the highest among the cities surveyed.
The report cited "a sudden surge in the number of migrants, a slowdown in building completion and relatively limited stock of rental properties either institutionally or individually owned" as factors in the surge in rent.
Second on the list was Sydney, where the median rent for houses was US$1,958. Hong Kong's average (the median figure was not provided) monthly rent was US$1,686, a slight drop from the previous year.
In terms of affordability, the median rent for private homes in Singapore was 35 per cent of household income.
"However, as most renters of private-sector homes have higher than median income, the monthly rent amount should be a significantly smaller percentage of the renters’ monthly income," the report noted.
It also pointed out that median monthly rents in Tokyo Ku (as opposed to the city's suburban areas) and Seoul, at US$602 and US$689 respectively, were a quarter that of Singapore's and around 35 per cent that of Hong Kong's.
Singapore's Ministry of National Development said that rents in Singapore are comparable to major cities, and that the strong rent increases in 2022 reflected an exceptional supply tightness, arising from severe COVID-19 disruptions to the construction industry, as well as strong demand from expats and locals.
During the pandemic, rental demand increased from locals renting while awaiting their property completions. With the easing of border restrictions last year, foreigner rental demand also quickly recovered, adding further pressure to the rental market.
"These imbalances caused by COVID-19 have started to ease and will continue to do so progressively as supply-side pressures ameliorate," said MND, adding that it expects rental pressures to ease in the coming quarters, with a large supply of housing units completing this year and over the next few years.