Growing up in a typical Asian family, I was the homebody whose life revolved around obediently following the family schedule and routines. “Family is the most important,” my father, the ultimate patriarch, dictated.

Working from home as a freelancer blurred the division between work and personal time. I was frequently interrupted, from having to take my younger siblings to and from primary school and later playing with them, to assisting my parents with all matters of affairs. Spending too much time with friends outside was frowned upon, as with any deviation from the typical routine.

Fraught by family tensions during the Covid-19 lockdowns, with a longing for personal space, and on the cusp of turning 30, I decided to move out to a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat in Bugis last January with a friend. The process was surprisingly quick. We found the space via a Facebook group listing, spoke to the existing tenant and landlord and signed the two-year lease within a matter of days.

Unsurprisingly, my family didn’t take it too well at first. They read it as a reflection of their parenting failure, that I was throwing money down the drain and refused to speak to me for a while.

In recent years, a growing number of young, single Singaporeans are breaking away from the norm to rent for a variety of reasons, desiring a greater sense of freedom and independence in a climate marked by skyrocketing property prices. This trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, as millennials seek more conducive work-from-home environments. According to the Department of Statistics, the number of citizens and permanent residents under the age of 35 who were either living alone or away from their parents rose from 33,400 in 1990 to 51,300 in 2020. This number jumped by almost 10,000 between 2019 and 2020.

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