The Haves and the Have-Nots

Just received this email from a clearly pissed-off friend:

I was recently invited to the beautiful home of a good friend for a lovely party. Other mutual friends were also invited.

A friend who had just arrived, let us called this person “A”; upon settling down began to openly and indiscreetly remarked:

“So this is a HDB yeah? Not bad, looks like a condo.”

Some of us were taken aback by the choice of topic. One of the more perceptive among us, in order to alleviate the awkward situation immediately came to the defense of the host and homeowner saying:

“He got a good deal, the price is now double what he paid for…” To which “A” retorted by saying “Yes but to buy HDB the salary must be low, below certain amount right?” Everyone went silent.

Although our gracious hosts were not next to us, I am unsure if they did not hear us. Moreover, this person spoke clearly and audibly.

Really, why are people so lacking in terms of EQ? Who goes to someone’s house and make such insensitive remarks? Perhaps “A” should attend some lessons on EQ.

I am glad that “A” has never been invited to my home and will never be. In fact, I will not even invite “A” to my funeral, who knows what will be said about my coffin?

By the way, I live in a condo and I don’t think there is anything big deal about it.

Obviously “A” forgets that the majority of Singaporeans – 85% in fact – lives in HDB dwellings.

The HDB (Housing & Development Board) is Singapore’s public housing authority and a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development.

However, public housing in Singapore as such is not generally considered as a sign of poverty or lower standards of living.

Although they are generally cheaper than privately-built homes in Singapore, HDB flats are built in a variety of quality and finishes to cater to middle and upper middle income groups. Property prices for the smallest public housing can often be higher than privately owned and privately developed standalone properties (townhouse, apartment unit, etc) in other developed countries after currency conversion.

“A” is not entirely incorrect – for first-time buyers, there is an income ceiling. But anyone can buy “resale” ones.

And they don’t come cheap. In Shunfu, an apartment was sold at S$1.1 million in July 2010. An executive maisonette in Bishan was sold for S$970,000/- in March 2012. In September it was reported that someone paid S$808,080/- for his executive maisonette in Tampines!) Even though the majority of Singaporeans live in public housing, almost none are below the poverty line.

“A” has fallen into the trap of judging people according to the type of houses they live in.

I am also glad that “A” has never been invited to my home and will never be. In fact, I will also not even invite “A” to my funeral, indeed who knows what will be said about my coffin?

January 6th 2013 Update: A young lady was indignant at “A” after reading this blog. She told me “My hubby and I are paying S$173,000/- cash upfront for our HDB. Wonder if ‘A’ has that kind of money lying around.”

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