Collecting the keys to your first home is one of the most significant milestones for Singaporeans, and since its establishment in 1960, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) has been helping the population to achieve their dream homes by creating a holistic living environment where more can enjoy affordable quality public housing.
With over one million HDB flats built across 23 towns and three estates, HDB does not rest on its laurels but continues to shape the public housing landscape through crafting effective housing policies and leveraging innovation to make a positive difference to the residents.
We speak to Executive Estate Manager from HDB’s Policy & Property Department, Teo Hui Qing, on how her overseas undergraduate scholarship has provided her with a global perspective on the public housing landscape and how her passion fuels her at work.
A Passion To Serve
For many Singaporeans, home in the HDB heartlands paints a picture of life and memories. This is the driving force behind HDB’s commitment to put residents and the community at the heart of their work, building endearing homes, sustainable towns, and vibrant communities. It was this, along with Hui Qing’s passion to serve society, that led her on her journey with HDB.
“I knew quite early on that I was interested in a career in the public sector as I wanted to get involved in work that adds value to people’s lives,” she recalls. “Of the various socio-economic issues that interest me, housing has a special appeal because it is an issue that affects everyone, and housing policies also have a profound impact on the well-being of the needy. Furthermore, the provision of housing, when calibrated carefully through mixed land use and provision of shared spaces and facilities, can be an important social leveller.”
Hui Qing’s stint on the frontline managing customer relations in HDB’s sales department allowed her to interact first-hand with the people she sought to help and provided her with an opportunity to engage them and make their house-buying process more streamlined.
Teo Hui Qing
HDB Undergraduate Scholar
Executive Estate Manager, Policy and Property Department
Bachelor of Science in Economics / Master of Science in Real Estate Economics & Finance
– London School of Economics and Political Science
“Buying a flat can sometimes be a confusing process for anyone as this requires working out their finances and navigating policies and processes,” she explains. “Wherever possible, I sought to make their flat buying journey less onerous, be it through forking out time to work out their housing budget and talking through their options with them, liaising with social workers, or assisting those with exceptional circumstances to secure a roof over their heads.”
Development Opportunities Under One Roof
As an organisation dedicated to finding sustainable solutions that safeguard our future, HDB has to remain competent and forward-looking. Through job rotation, staff like Hui Qing are able to gain invaluable experience in different domains, thus equipping them with a more holistic set of skills to meet the public’s ever-evolving needs.
“The rotation opportunities helped me acquire a breadth of knowledge on the end-to-end process of delivering flats to our people, how housing policies are operationalised, and the challenges that our people face at different stages of their flat buying journey,” says Hui Qing.
“During my stint in the sales department, I was part of the team that was tasked to conduct studies on how we can enhance our service delivery to create a more seamless flat buying experience for our customers. We adopted an evidence-based approach to review processes such as booking of flats, signing of Agreement for Lease, and key collection. Through projects like this and my frontline experience, I was sensitised to the ground sentiments on the broad spectrum of housing issues. These serve as contextual knowledge in my current role as I review and formulate housing policies. I am also more mindful of the operational feasibility of a policy and the possible downstream impact a policy might have.”
On top of that, the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship has provided Hui Qing with the opportunity to gain useful insights to the global public housing landscape through her studies in the London School of Economics and Political Science and her summer school programme at the University of Cape Town. “With the scholarship, I was more focused in selecting my courses of interest and participating in activities that would value-add to my future career with HDB as well as fulfil my career aspiration to serve the needy.” The overseas exposure gave her an in-depth understanding of the public housing systems in other countries and has helped her put into perspective the uniqueness of Singapore’s public housing landscape.
In addition to her main work areas, Hui Qing has also taken on projects and assignments in diverse portfolios, which enabled her to hone various skillsets and develop more holistically. “In the past two years, I have had the opportunity to organise my department’s annual work plan exercise, emceed at corporate events, and delivered briefings on Singapore’s public housing landscape to foreign delegates, amongst others,” she reveals.
As the interview drew to a close, Hui Qing offers some words of advice for future HDB scholars. “Firstly, read up on HDB’s vision, mission, and values, and assess whether these are aligned with your personal goals. Secondly, do your research and read up on news on housing issues – this will give you a clue on what you may be working on if you do join HDB; and last but not least, understand that with public policy, especially housing policies, one has to consider the wider political, social, and economic context, and hence decision-making is never as straightforward as it seems.
If you want to contribute to the meaningful cause of housing a nation, HDB is the place to be for a dynamic and intellectually-stimulating career.”