Home Ownership:  Cornerstone of Public Housing
This key handover ceremony marks a significant milestone in the public housing history of Singapore.
                        This was the site where HDB built the first rental blocks in this area in 1963.  Today, here stands HDB’s latest generation of public housing, The Pinnacle@Duxton.  It marks the continuous advancement in design and quality of houses for our nation of home owners.
                        The transformation of Singapore’s landscape has been breath-taking. In the 1960s, more Singaporeans were living in over-crowded shop houses or squatter huts. People were poor and life was hard.  No running water, no modern toilets, no expectation of a better future.  Our population was growing rapidly at 4½% yearly. The immediate task of the Government was to tackle this housing crisis, and build homes in the shortest time possible.  Simple rental of one and two-room flats was the solution to get a roof over the heads of people.
                        From the very start, I wanted to build a home-owning society.  I wanted every citizen to have a stake in the country.  When I got HDB to launch the homeownership scheme in 1964, there were many skeptics.  We had little reserves then. Singapore was still in Malaysia. Our future looked bleak.  The post-war baby boom and the high unemployment added to our pressures.  Our construction industry was low in skills and lacking in building management.  Few believed a home-owning Singapore was possible.
                        Against the odds, through grit and determination, we housed the nation progressively and systematically.  The HDB, set up in 1960, built 55,000 flats within its first 5 years.  This was more than double what its predecessor, the Singapore Improvement Trust or SIT, built in its entire 32-year history.
                        We have made home ownership the cornerstone of Singapore’s public housing policy – the vast majority of the population own, not rent, their homes.  Ownership is critical because we were an immigrant community with no common history.  Our peoples came from many different parts of Asia.  Home ownership helped to quickly forge a sense of rootedness in Singapore.  It is the foundation upon which nationhood was forged.
                        The pride people have in their homes prevents our estates from turning into slums, which is the fate for public housing in other countries.  More important, Singaporeans know that the HDB flat gives them a tangible and valuable stake.  If Singapore prospers, their flat values will appreciate and they will share in the growth.  Home ownership motivates Singaporeans to work hard and upgrade to better flats for a better quality of living.  The HDB story reflects the social mobility in Singapore.
                        By the end of the 1960s, 35% of the population was living in HDB flats.  By the 1980s, HDB had housed 85% of the population.  Few nations have managed to house its population in such a short span of time.
                        As we became more affluent, we invested in various upgrading programmes to improve the living environment, such as Main Upgrading Programme and Interim Upgrading Programme.  Recently, they were replaced by new programmes, such as the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).  The HDB received the Public Service Award from the United Nations last year. The home ownership programme is the success story of Singapore, shared by all Singaporeans. 
                        If all the 900,000 HDB flats built over the past 50 years were rental flats, Singapore would be a very different society today.  We would not have the stability, progress and prosperity that the stake in home ownership of a growing asset has made possible.
HDB flat as an Asset
                        We moved to a system where each HDB flat is priced differently to reflect its real value.  We cannot price a new flat in Punggol or Tanjong Pagar the same, because when they are resold, we know there will be a tremendous difference in price.  From the 1980s, we moved towards a market-based system.  By liberalizing the resale market and allowing HDB prices to move in tandem with the economy, we unlocked the value of HDB flats to allow citizens to share in the fruits of the nation’s growth.  Home ownership of a HDB flat is a store of value that can be monetized when needs be.
Significance of The Pinnacle@Duxton
                        Today, The Pinnacle@Duxton stands in place of the basic 10-storey rental housing blocks built in March 1963 and completed at the end of the same year.  The first 50-storey HDB block, the tallest HDB block in our history, is a significant milestone on our way forward.  It is the first public housing designed through an award winning international competition.  A distinctive feature is its twelve sky bridges that link all 7 blocks forming one of the longest continuous sky gardens in the world.
                        The flats are in the city centre. They are much in demand.  The Pinnacle@Duxton was first launched in May 2004.  Some of the balance units were re-launched in Sep 2008.  Even though prices of the flats at the second launch in 2008 were higher, the demand for the flats was still very strong.  The higher prices reflect the demand for the flats, they reflect the market demand.
                        The Pinnacle@Duxton is therefore an example that if the nation continues to do well, we can build more flats of this standard.  But we should not make a quick profit from a resale of HDB flats.  The rules on minimum occupation and requirement for family nucleus are to discourage speculative purchases.  We expect flats will continue to appreciate, as long as we develop and grow our economy.
                        Young couples will receive sufficient help from the Government to own their first flats.  HDB will continue to build affordable homes of good quality, so that each generation of Singaporeans will continue to have a stake in the nation.
                        Finally, I congratulate the new residents of The Pinnacle@Duxton on their new home.  You are privileged to be the first batch of home owners to receive the keys to your new flat here.  Among you are two special families who will savour this moment most. They were staying in rental flats at Duxton, at this same site.  Today, they are returning as proud owners of a brand new flat.  I am very happy to be part of this special occasion for you.
                        The Pinnacle@Duxton is a strong testament to our tenacity and capabilities as a people, to get to where we are today.  We have yet to reach the pinnacle of Singapore’s growth.  The future of Asia has never looked better.  The growth potential for Singapore is tremendous if we stay united and work intelligently and hard.