How It Feels Like to Live in a Public Rental Flat in Singapore

In my previous life (before we got PPHS), I’ve always wondered how it feels like to live in a Public Rental Flat in Singapore. What I saw on news was that rental flats are usually very crammed and I couldn’t help but stereotyped it as a sad, defeated place.

Now that I’ve been staying in public rental flat for over 4 months now, I want to share my own honest personal anecdotes on rental flat living, including the ugly, the bad, and the good.

PS: In case you’re new to this topic, public rental flats are usually govt-owned flats that are rented out to people with low income. For my case, I rent under PPHS scheme, in which flats are rented out to people who are waiting for the completion of their public housing (BTO).

You Spent a Lot in the Beginning for Furniture

Because public rental flats come in bare condition, we needed to spend quite a lot to furnish the flat.

The big items that we purchased were: fridge, washing machine, storage racks, portable wardrobes, and portable aircons. We already had a double bed, a sofa, dining table and chairs, so we could save on those.

Aircon is a Luxury

One downside of public rental flat that I really hate is the lack of pre-installed aircon. In my previous life where I rented apartments from open market, all of the flats come with aircon. We never knew how much aircon is a luxury until we don’t have one.

We have 2 options: either go through the lengthy process of installing aircon or just use portable aircons.

For aircon installation, you’d need to find a contractor then apply to HDB for approval to install aircon. The process is quite costly and lengthy. Since we’re only staying in this rental flat for 3 years max, I felt that it isn’t worth the hassles.

We decided to go with portable aircons. But, it isn’t an easy route too. First, we needed to re-design our room layout such that the portable aircon can be placed near the window (cos the exhaust needs to go out from the window).

We also needed to ensure that the aircon can blow towards where we spend most of our time (the cool wind blows like fan, not like real aircon, so there are some corners that won’t get the wind).

Then, we had to deal with the headache of installing exhaust. Whether your window is a glass louvre type or big panel type, you need to find the perfect way to open a hole for the exhaust. And the hole should be airtight and waterproof, so that air doesn’t go out, and rain doesn’t come in. It took my spouse months to figure out the best solution.

Flat Defects

Because ours is an old flat, there are quite a number of defects that we discover over the months, such as choked drain outlet, loose electrical socket, and water pipe burst.

The good news is that HDB will help fix the issue because they are the landlord. But the bad news is the waiting takes quite long. It can take up to 2 months from the day we reported the defect, to the day the defects get fixed.

Rental Flats aren’t Always Crammed

I realised that whether a flat is crammed or not depends on 2 factors: how many people stay in the flat vs the size of the flat, and how well you organize your belongings.

Thank God we got a 3-room flat and there were only two of us. Hence, we didn’t have issue of overcrowding.

Our challenge, however, lies in organizing stuffs! We’ve lived in tiny spaces (i.e. common rooms, studio, 1-bedder) for more than half of our lives now, that we had a hard time managing all the space that we have now (definitely a first-world problem, haha!).

Our solution was to purchase lots of storage spaces, be it portable wardrobes, portable cabinets, and containers.

The Number of Smokers is Just Insane

One thing that surprises me the most is the number of smokers. It is just insane!

Our next door neighbours are smokers. Our block configuration is the one with corridors. So, when they smoke at the corridor outside their house, the smoke gets into our house and we had to close all windows, hide in our room and turn on the air purifier.

At Level 1, the back of our block is like an “unofficial smoking corner” where people head to when they need a smoke break. When someone smokes there, the smoke comes up and enters our flat via the windows at the kitchen. So, when it happens, we have to close the kitchen windows and hide inside our room.

A shop at Level 1 of our block sells cigarettes and it is also a “gathering place” for smokers. Everyday, there are a handful of smokers hanging out around the shop while smoking.

When I go out to dabao food or run some errands in the neighbourhood, 80% of the time I will encounter people who smoke while walking on footpaths (covered linkways) or while crossing the road. Sorry for my rant about smokers, but it’s just quite suffocating to live near them, especially when I was pregnant.

Weird Neighbours

I know this can happen anywhere, but for me, after staying in various places over the last 2 decades, this is the first time I counter weird neighbours.

Some neighbours are downright inconsiderate, throwing rubbish on the floor in front of refuse chute. What’s so difficult about opening the chute?

Some are hoarders and clutter the corridor with their stuffs, and even encroach into the corridor in front of other people’s unit.

Some are not happy that you stay next to them. They try to show their unhappiness by sweeping rubbish towards the space in front of your flat.

Friendly Neighbours

Despite the weird neighbours, there are also friendly neighbours as well.

One would greet us every time we walk past his house.

One asked my spouse where I’d been when she hadn’t seen me for quite some time.

One would come to our place and chit chat.

To be honest, we wish we had chosen Commonwealth flats instead of our current one. Our block is mostly for Public Rental Scheme, while Commonwealth is mostly for PPHS scheme. We feel that the community in Commonwealth would be more friendly, because everyone has a common situation.

Volunteers Come Knocking Every Once in a While

Once in a while, there would be volunteers from various organisations (eg: non-profit orgs, church, mosque, CC) visiting the residents in our block and giving out grocery items, such as rice, oil, biscuits, etc.

It’s nice to see kind-hearted people still exist in Singapore, helping people on the ground.

Sooo… that wraps up my feeling about living in rental flat after 4 months! Do you live in rental flat and have anything to share? Let me know in the comments!

If you find this post helpful, feel free to buy me a coffee :)

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