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Housing differences between Singapore and Hong Kong, here’s what you need to know

Hong Kong and Singapore, two small and open Asian economies, have different degrees of housing ownership.

Hong Kong has ranked first place in the least affordable housing markets among 92 cities since 2010, according to Demographia International Housing Affordability, yet Singapore ranked 40th on the latest list. 

More than 113,000 residents left Hong Kong in 2021, marking a 1.6% population decline, the biggest population drop since the record. 

Ample living space, brighter economic prospects and affordable housing prices were the top three reasons why people left the city, according to the research by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies in 2021.

However, the population of Singapore, which has one of the highest homeownership rates in a market economy,  grew by 3.4% last year.

Here are four aspects you need to know about differences in housing issues between Hong Kong and Singapore.

The average price of properties in Hong Kong has doubled in the last decade, while the figure in Singapore was steady.

What percentage of the population owns a house in each economy?

Hong Kong 

In Hong Kong, 49.8% of the population owned a house in 2021, meaning only about 3.6 million people owned a house in 2021. Currently, there are 2,657,800 domestic households in Hong Kong. The average household size in the territory is two members per household. 


As a country with more than 5.6 million people, Singapore has a higher population density than Hong Kong. Yet, nearly 90% of the population owned property in 2021 in the state, according to the Department of Statistics of Singapore, with three members living in one house on average.  


How many public and private housing units are there in each country?

Hong Kong

Hong Kong had a total of 2,960,000 living quarters last year. About 60% of properties are private permanent quarters, which are housing estates developed by private developers. 

Around 40% of the quarters are public rental housing units and subsidised sale flats, which are built by the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Hong Kong Housing Society. Their rents and prices are significantly lower than those for private housing, according to the Hong Kong property review in 2022. 

However, even though the subsidised sale flats are sponsored by the government, the price can still reach over HK$10,000 per square foot.  



Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore had 1,089,100 public housing units, or what Singapore calls the Housing and Development Board, HDB flats, which account for nearly 80% of all the estates. 

Condominiums and other apartments and landed properties would fall under private housing. There are 297,600 private housing units in Singapore. 

The average price of HDB flats is S$507 (HK$2800) per square foot in the third quarter of this year, according to the official statistics. Private properties are more expensive, reaching S$2,093 (HK$11,500) per square foot. 

Most HDB flats can be bought, which means Singaporeans can have ownership of the property. Yet two-thirds of public housing in Hong Kong is for rent, and the property still belongs to the government.

“This phenomenon (of different proportions on public and private housing) starts from the difference in the underlying logic of the two governments' revenue methods,” said Wan Tuo, a project manager working at New World Development Company Limitied, a Hong Kong property company. 

Wan said that the Hong Kong government relied heavily on auctioning land to make up for the financial burden of low tax rates. In contrast, the Singapore government does not have the same trouble. Therefore, despite having a smaller population than Hong Kong, the percentage of public housing in Singapore is way higher than that in Hong Kong.

A screenshot showcases the different housing types in 2021 from the website of the Department of Statistics.

What are the land sizes of different housing units in each economy?

Nearly half of the public rental house apartments in Hong Kong have an area of 30 to 39.9 square metres, according to Statista.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the most common public rental flat size would be 30 to 39.9 square metres, with over 30% of the flats having a size of under 30 square metres.

“The increasing housing price and stable public average revenue make people have to lower standards for their flat size,” Wan said, predicting that Hong Kong’s flat size would be smaller and smaller in the future due to the reduction in rigid demands.


Singapore has various HDB flats. There are flats containing one to five rooms and executive apartment flats, EA. The EA is an HDB flat with an additional space that can be used as a living room or study room. Some come with a balcony space or a master bathroom with an attached bathroom.

The most commonly owned HDB would be the four-room flat, according to the Department of Statistics Singapore, with 31.6% of the population having an average flat size of 90 square metres.

HDB flats with four houses are the most common type of housing in Singapore.

What are the procedures for owning a public unit in each economy?

Hong Kong 

To apply for a public housing unit, Hong Kongers first have to check their eligibility. Applicants must be 18 years and above and residing in Hong Kong for seven years or more. Married couples must apply together. The applicant's total monthly income, net assets, and family members must not exceed the limits. For example, a two-person household must not exceed the monthly income limit of HK$23,460 and the net asset limit of HK$738,000. 

After completing the application form, it should be sent through post or in-person with all required documents to the Applications Sub-section of the Housing Department. Then the applicants will wait for several years. Once the application is due for detailed vetting, an interview will be set up, and the applicant will be informed of eligibility for a public housing unit within two months. 


Hong Kong is known for having long waiting lists for public housing. The average waiting time for a public housing flat, with numbers reaching an all-time high of 5.9 years, according to the data released by the local government in 2021. It was the highest record of waiting time in the city in 22 years. 



For Singaporeans, the procedures depend if one wants to get a new built-to-order flat (BTO) or a resale flat. To buy a new flat, applicants need to check their eligibility, apply for a grant, and apply online during sales launch or open booking of flats. Results of the balloting will be received after two months maximum. Applicants getting a BTO flat will receive their results four weeks after the balloting results. 

Afterwards, applicants will book a flat based on their queue number, pay the option fee, and provide all necessary documents if they have a housing loan from HDB. It takes people up to six months after booking a flat. Afterwards, make the down payment when signing the agreement for lease, and pay the balance purchase price when collecting the keys to their unit. 

Getting a resale flat would have a slightly different process, finding a seller before submitting an application with the necessary documents. It ends with both seller and buyer attending the completion appointment. 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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