Can Australian Expats Rent a HDB Flat in Singapore

Welcome to your comprehensive guide on navigating the Housing Development Board (HDB) rental market in Singapore as an Australian expat. Whether you're considering the move for work, family, or adventure, understanding the intricacies of Singapore's housing landscape is essential. This guide is designed to arm you with all the necessary information to make an informed decision about renting an HDB apartment in Singapore as an Australian expat.

Introduction to Singapore's Housing Market

Singapore, a bustling metropolis, is known for its blend of modernity, efficiency, and cultural diversity. Housing in Singapore is a reflection of this, with a range of options available from high-rise apartments, often referred to as condominiums, to landed properties. However, the most iconic and prevalent form of housing is the HDB flat. HDB apartments are not just buildings; they are vibrant communities right across the city state of Singapore, and an exceptional model of Government-supported housing.

As an Australian expat, you might wonder how you fit into this picture. The good news is that Singapore's housing policy, while prioritising its citizens, also accommodates foreigners, including Australian nationals, under certain conditions.

Understanding HDB Apartments

Before diving into the eligibility and processes, let's unpack what HDB apartments are. The Housing Development Board (HDB) is Singapore’s public housing authority and a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development. HDB flats are government-built residences that are home to over 80% of Singapore's resident population, providing affordable, quality housing in a cosmopolitan city.

HDB apartments come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from one-room flats to executive apartments. They are clustered in estates, which are self-contained with amenities like supermarkets, clinics, schools, and recreational facilities. I’m certainly a believer personally that Australia could learn a great deal in examining how Singapore manages its public housing system.

History and Purpose of HDB Housing in Singapore

The inception of HDB in the early 1960s marked a pivotal moment in Singapore’s history, addressing the acute shortage of proper housing and improving living conditions. Over the decades, HDB flats have evolved from basic accommodation to well-designed, comfortable homes, reflecting Singapore's growth and development.

HDB’s mission extends beyond just providing a roof over people’s heads. It aims to foster community spirit and a sense of belonging among residents, embodying the 'kampung spirit' — a term that signifies community togetherness.

Eligibility Criteria for Renting HDB Apartments

Now, let's delve into the specifics that matter to you as an Australian expat. To rent an HDB apartment in Singapore, certain eligibility criteria must be met. While Singaporean citizens have the broadest access, the eligibility for non-citizens, including expats, is more nuanced.

As an expat, you are eligible to rent an HDB flat or bedroom if you hold a valid pass like an Employment Pass, S Pass, Work Permit, Student Pass, Dependant Pass, or Long-Term Social Visit Pass. Importantly, Tourist Pass holders are not eligible to rent HDB flats.

Quotas and Conditions

Understanding the quota system is crucial. The HDB implements an Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) and SPR quota to ensure a balanced mix of ethnicities and permanent residents within HDB estates. This quota system can affect your ability to rent in certain locations if the quota for your demographic is already met.

Here are some key points on renting out HDB flats in Singapore:

  • Non-citizens (including expats on valid work or study passes) are allowed to rent an HDB flat or bedroom, but they must adhere to the Non-Citizen Quota. This quota is in place to prevent the formation of foreigner enclaves and ensure integration within the community.
  • The Non-Citizen Quota limits the proportion of flats in a neighbourhood that can be rented to non-citizens to 8% at the neighbourhood level and 11% at the block level. These quotas could change over time.
  • Once the quota is reached, only Singaporean citizens and Malaysian non-citizens are allowed to rent in that area, reflecting Singapore’s close ties with Malaysia.
  • These regulations highlight Singapore’s commitment to maintaining a multicultural and integrated society, and they play a significant role in the HDB rental market dynamics.

Types of HDB Apartments Available

HDB flats range from 1-room to 5-room units, with their classification based on the number of bedrooms and living space. The 4-room and 5-room flats for example, offer more spacious living areas, with additional bedrooms and often a separate dining area, catering to larger families or those desiring more room.

For single expats or couples, a 1-room or 2-room flat might suffice, offering a cosy and manageable space. It's important to consider not only the size but also the location of the flat, as this can significantly affect your daily commute, lifestyle, and overall satisfaction with your living environment.

When selecting an HDB apartment, consider the proximity to public transport, schools (if you have children), workplaces, and amenities like markets, food centres, and recreational facilities. Each HDB estate in Singapore has its own character and community vibe, from the bustling heartlands of Tampines and Jurong to the serene and leafy enclaves of Bishan and Ang Mo Kio.

Step-by-Step Guide to Renting HDB Apartments for Expats

Renting an HDB flat as an Australian expat involves several steps. Firstly, you need to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria. Once that’s established, the process typically follows these steps:

  • Finding a Suitable HDB Flat: Utilise online property portals, real estate agents, or community boards to find available listings. Consider your budget, preferred location, and size of the flat.
  • Viewing and Shortlisting Properties: Arrange viewings to inspect the flats and neighbourhoods, keeping in mind your daily commute and lifestyle needs.
  • Negotiating the Lease: Once you've selected a property, negotiate the terms of the lease, including rental amount, lease duration, and any other conditions with the landlord or the agent.
  • Signing the Tenancy Agreement: Upon agreeing to the terms, a Tenancy Agreement will be drafted. It's crucial to understand all the terms before signing. You might want to consult a legal advisor to ensure your interests are protected.
  • Paying the Deposit and Rent: Typically, you will need to pay a security deposit (usually one month's rent for every year of lease) and the first month's rent in advance.
  • Completing the Formalities: The landlord must register the tenancy with the HDB within seven days after the commencement of the tenancy. Ensure this is done, as it's a legal requirement for renting HDB flats.

Cost Considerations for Renting HDB Apartments

The cost of renting an HDB apartment in Singapore can vary widely based on factors such as location, size, and condition of the property. Central and popular areas like those near the Central Business District (CBD) or Orchard Road tend to command higher rents compared to suburban areas.

On average, we have found that a similar size and number of bedrooms in comparative areas for HDBS will be priced at 50 – 60% the price of a private condominium. This could be a significant saving for many Australian expats who may be looking for more space or to be closer to the city or their office without paying the premium condo price.


As an Australian expat looking to rent an HDB apartment in Singapore, it’s vital to understand the eligibility criteria, quota system, and the rental process. Being informed will help you navigate the housing market more effectively and find a home that suits your needs and preferences.


To Your Financial Success!

Jarrad Brown is an Australian-trained and qualified Fee-Based Financial Planner Global Financial Consultants Pte Ltd providing specialist financial advice and portfolio management services to Australian professionals in Singapore. Jarrad Brown is an Authorised Representative of Global Financial Consultants Pte Ltd - No: 200305462G | MAS License No: FA100035-3

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General Information Only: The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take into account your individual financial situation, objectives or needs. You should consider your own financial position and requirements before making a decision.

*Please note that Jarrad Brown is not a tax agent or accountant and none of the content outlined here should be taken as personal advice. You should consult your tax agent and financial adviser to review your current personal finances and financial goals to consider whether this strategy is appropriate for you.

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