This got the wife and I really curious. So we decided to find out for ourselves how big (or small) the HDB 1- and 2-room flats actually are.
Scouring the HDB website, we discovered that a typical early 1-room HDB flat was between 23 to 33sqm (= 247 - 355sqft), while the early 2-room HDB flat ranged from 37 to 45sqm (= 398 - 484sqft).
So there appears to be some logic in saying that such 1- and 2-room HDB flats are similiar to private "shoebox" apartments, at least size-wise. But if one looks beyond the superficiality, he/she will appreciate the following stark differences:
· The HDB flats do not come with disproportionately large air-con ledges, planter boxes, balconies etc etc that are regular features in most shoeboxes. So the 300sqft, 1-room HDB flat actually comes up top in terms of "livable space" compared to a shoebox of similiar size.
· The price that people pay for such HDB flats are many times lower than your typical shoeboxes, whether in terms of quantum or psf price. However, one can argue that the quality of living (i.e. facilities, privacy etc) is different, which we don't disagree.
· Most importantly, people and families do not typically choose to live in such small 1- and 2-room flats. These are mainly occupied by low-income households, who cannot "downgrade" any further in terms of the types of homes they can afford to buy. But for shoebox purchases, this is usually a deliberate informed decision.
For those who are interested, you can read more about the different types and sizes of flats offered by HDB by clicking on the link below: