Unique HDB Houses

With most of the Singapore population living in HDB flats, it will be interesting to know the different types of flats around are not just your usual Build to Orders (BTOs). Additionally, if you are hunting for a roof over your head, these hidden gems could be possible alternatives. Here are 4 unique HDB housing types that exist but often go unnoticed:

1. HDB Terrace Flats

These are not your typical terraces or semi-Ds, we are talking about landed public houses. Unlike landed private houses, these two-story buildings have the familiar HDB block number affixed on them. Apart from this, the main difference between these landed public houses and their private counterparts lie in the rights to the land. Like other public housing types, terrace flats are not freehold properties, they are on 99-year leases. Upon expiration of the lease, land on which such properties lie is reverted to the government.

HDB terrace flats were built when public housing matters were still handled by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), back in the 1960s. They are located in the mature estates of Queenstown and Whampoa and there are only 285 of these around. Since they fall under the public housing category, they are subjected to HDB rules.

These landed units are 81sqm to 120sqm on average and are usually 3 or 4-room. The kitchen and living room are on the first floor while bedrooms are on the second floor. Moreover, each unit has their own backyard!

Modernised front walls of HDB terrace flats in Whampoa. (Photo: Google)

Although these terrace flats only have around 50-60 years left on their lease, the appeal lies in the fact that these flats are significantly cheaper than private landed properties of similar sizes. In July 2020, a terrace flat unit located at Jalan Ma’mor, Whampoa transacted at S$880,000 as it came with an additional 45sqm of floor area!

If you have dreamed of living in a HDB terrace flats, there are some resale HDB terrace flats available for purchase in the market. A word of caution: given the age of such properties, renovation costs may be exorbitant.

2. Executive Maisonettes (EM)

These can be referred as mansions of the non-landed public housing category. EMs are HDB flats that have two stories. The bedrooms are found on the upper level while the dining room, living room and kitchen are located on the lower level. Typical units have floor areas ranging from 138 to 243sqm.

EMs were first introduced in 1984. However, they were soon replaced by the Executive Condominium Housing Scheme in 1995. Some estates where EMs can be found are Bishan, Bedok and Clementi. There is limited supply of EMs as it was announced in 2012 that the Government has no plans to build any more. Nevertheless, there are units available for purchase in the resale market. Depending on factors like location, be prepared to fork out around S$790,000 to S$990,000 for such units.

Loft units of SkyTerrace@Dawson and Treelodge@Punggol are seen as a variation of EMs. HDB loft units (or penthouses) often double as multi-generational homes as the second level is a studio apartment. Similar to EMs, lofts have added privacy since bedrooms are usually on the second storey. If you desire for more room and enhanced privacy, you can consider purchasing these two-storey HDB flats!

SkyTerrace @ Dawson has tetris-stacked blocks, green roof terraces and a loft concept.

3. Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) Flats

With the objective of collaborating with the private sector in the development of public housing, the government launched DBSS Flats in 2005. Developers are required to bid for the open land tender and oversee the entire process of flat design, construction and sale. Upon completion, private developers are held accountable for any building defects for up to one year. Common areas and public carparks on the other hand, come under the town council’s scope of responsibilities. 

Unlike your usual BTO flats, DBSS flats are aesthetically pleasing and give owners a sense of luxury. Additionally, DBSS flats are larger than conventional HDB flats (though comparable to older HDB flats). A 5-room unit at Natura Loft stands at 120sqm while its HDB counterpart is only 110sqm.  There has been 13 DBSS projects since its inception. These projects are The Premiere at Tampines, City View @ Boon Keng, Park Central @ Ang Mo Kio, Natura Loft (Bishan), Parc Lumiere (Simei), The Peak @ Toa Payoh, Adora Green (Yishun), Centrale 8 (Tampines), Belvia (Bedok), Parkland Residences (Hougang), Lake Vista @ Yuan Ching, Trivelis (Clementi) and Pasir Ris One.

Pasir Ris One, the last of the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) projects.

However, DBSS land sales were suspended in 2011 after the public voiced their unhappiness over the outrageous selling prices pegged to units of Centrale 8. While a typical 5-room DBSS flat costs around SGD700,000, a similar sized unit of Centrale 8 costed up to SGD880,000. Additionally, not only was the project badly designed, flats were smaller than HDB’s standards. As a result, the 14th DBSS site in Sengkang, was withdrawn the day after its launch.

Nevertheless, you can still look into the resale market if you are keen on living in a DBSS flat.

4. Jumbo Flats

In an effort to clear the inventory of unsold 3- and 4-room HDB flats in 1989, the government introduced jumbo flats. A jumbo flat is created by demolishing the wall between two adjacent 3-room and 4-room HDB flats. Around 80% of these flats can be found in Woodlands, with the rest in Yishun, Jurong East, Bedok and Tampines.

These flats have since gained popularity especially among large multi-generational families. On average, these flats range from 147sqm to 199sqm in size. Spaciousness comes with a price; jumbo flats command a premium compared to standard flats. A typical 5-room flat averages around 110sqm and costs about SGD450,000. On the other hand, jumbo flats cost approximately SGD650,000 to SGD950,000.

Source: NLB, Photo is from a 1989 Straits Times article

The unique selling point of these flats is that it can accommodate larger families. Moreover, different generations are now able to live together under one roof. If you have a huge family or are thinking of having your parents/in-laws live with you, jumbo flats will do the trick!

Instead of limiting yourself to BTOs and typical resale flats, consider looking into one of these unique gems. Do check them out before you miss your chance!

Colin Lim
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