Short answer: you don’t want to know.
Longer answer: A lot. In cost of living research from The Economist released earlier this month, Singapore has been named the most expensive city in the world – for the fifth year in a row. There are many interesting tidbits in this research that I’ll dig into in the future. Today, I’ll focus on housing because it has been exactly one month since I moved into my new place.
Even longer answer: Singapore does not have a minimum wage and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) subsidizes housing. Approximately 80% of Singaporean residents live in HDB flats. These flats are available for sale to Singaporean citizens on a 99 year lease (at below market prices). Owners can rent out their flats after a minimum occupancy period, but there are a variety of restrictions (including a quota system of ethnicities that ensures each block stays roughly comparable to the national average and restrictions and other restrictions on foreign renters).
In reality, most expats end up living in privately owned condominiums. Because these private condos typically cater to expats and wealthier Singaporeans, they often come with many great amenities (and price tags to match!) Our lease even came with an expat-specific “diplomatic clause”, meaning if we were fired or transferred out of the country, we are able to get out of our lease early. While rental markets in Canada and elsewhere have rules and regulations that are friendly to tenants, the rental market in Singapore is very friendly to landlords. Tenants often have to pay a whopping two months’ rent security deposit and are typically responsible for minor repairs and maintenance in their unit (or effectively pay a deductible for items that require the landlord’s involvement).
Even though the rent is high and navigating the rental market has been a new experience, I’m happy to be living here and excited to see what the coming months will bring.