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What Is HDB Ethnic Integration Policy? Why You Should Understand Its Importance

The Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) was introduced by the Singapore government in 1989, to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups in applying for and living in HDB estates.

This is especially important as the majority of the population live in HDB flats.

Introducing the policy on 16 February 1989, the then Minister for National Development, Mr S. Dhanabalan, first highlighted the emergence of ethnic enclaves in HDB estates.

He noted that in some neighbourhoods in the HDB estates of Bedok and Tampines, more than 30% of the estate population were from the Malay ethnic group. Whereas in the HDB estate of Hougang, more than 90% of the households living there are from the Chinese ethnic group.

Therefore, the EIP is implemented to prevent the formation of racial enclaves and it seeks to promote racial integration by allowing residents of different ethnicities to live and interact together.

What is EIP?

The EIP is an important criterion when one is buying an HDB flat, be it BTO or resale.

It limits the total number of families belonging to certain ethnicity occupying an HDB block or neighbourhood and is implemented for all ethnic groups.

It is put in place to preserve Singapore’s multi-cultural identity and promote racial integration and harmony.

The EIP limits are set at block/neighbourhood levels based on the ethnic make-up of Singapore to ensure that there is a balanced mix of the various ethnic communities in HDB towns.

For households with members of different ethnic groups, they can choose to classify their household ethnicity under the ethnic group of any owner, co-owner or spouse, according to the race shown on the NRIC of the chosen member.

Once an ethnicity is chosen for the household, it will remain the same when the flat owners subsequently sell their flat on the open market.

How does it work

Under the EIP, there are limits on the total percentage of a block or neighbourhood that may be occupied by a certain ethnicity.

When these limits are reached, there can be no further sale of flats to the affected group, unless both sellers and buyers are from the same ethnic group.

You are considered as having fulfilled the EIP proportion or SPR quota when you are within the block/ neighbourhood’s limits in terms of your ethnic group and if both the seller and buyer are of the same ethnic group and household citizenship type.

Benefits of the EIP

The EIP has helped to maintain racial and social harmony in Singapore by providing opportunities for social mixing among Singaporeans of different races.

It plays an important role in combating racism and building racial harmony as it ensures inclusive and diverse neighbourhoods.

By learning to live with each other through integrated housing estates, it is likely that Singapore can become a racially integrated country through the EIP.

According to Mr Desmond Lee, the National Development Minister, nearly one in three Housing Board blocks and 14 per cent of neighbourhoods today have reached ethnic quota limits.

This shows the importance of having the EIP in place to ensure social mixing.

Potential pitfalls

However, there some who feel that there are certain concerns with the EIP.

For example, in a neighbourhood or block that has reached the EIP limits, current owners may face difficulty in finding buyers of the same ethnic group. Or they may have to reject willing buyers just because they are of a different ethnic group.

To address this issue, the Government has implemented measures to help EIP-affected flat sellers on a case-by-case basis.

Current flat owners who have bought another HDB flat but are facing difficulty in finding a buyer from the same ethnic group may be given additional time.

According to the HDB, successful EIP-related appeals rose from 14% in 2018 to 21% in 2020.

To check on the EIP quotas for a particular block or neighbourhood, potential flat buyers should use the HDB e-Service portal. (The ethnic quota is updated on the 1st of every month and will apply to all completed resale applications received during that month.)

The EIP effect is also present in the HDB BTO flat selection process where many units remain available simply because certain ethnic quotas are unfulfilled but are unavailable for selection by other ethnic groups.

Another concern is the increasing number of mixed-race marriages.

According to the HDB website on EIP, “Buyers or sellers with double-barrelled race should use the first race component to check their eligibility.” For example, if the buyers or sellers are "Malay-Chinese", they should use the race "Malay".

Mixed race households can choose their household ethnic classification based on either the applicant's race or their spouse's race.

For example, a "Chinese-Malay" couple can choose to purchase under Chinese or Malay.

The ethnic classification will remain the same when you subsequently sell the flat on the open market.

In view of the numerous race-related incidents happening in our country recently, it is clear that the EIP is still relevant and indeed, very important to preserve Singapore’s multi-cultural identity.

Have a question? Feel free to comment below.

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