The constituency was formed in 1988 by carving out of Punggol and was barely held by the People's Action Party (PAP) for 3 years. During the 1991 General Elections, the ruling PAP lost the seat to the former secretary-general of the opposition WP, Low Thia Khiang. Hougang SMC has been managed by the WP since then.
Hougang SMC is currently the second-longest-held opposition ward in Singapore (1991-). It had been one of just two opposition-held seats in Parliament in the dawn of the 21st century (the other was Potong Pasir SMC, held by the Singapore People's Party's Chiam See Tong) until the 2011 general elections (when the opposition's presence in Parliament was increased to 6 elected seats in total). Mr Low had served in Hougang for 20 years until he left it to fellow party member Yaw Shin Leong in 2011. The former, as well as Chiam, had decided to experiment with leading a team to contest a nearby GRC (in Low's case, the nearby Aljunied GRC). On election night, Yaw managed to retain the Hougang seat (defeating PAP candidate Desmond Choo). That same night, Mr Low managed to keep his seat in Parliament (this time as MP for Bedok Reservoir-Punggol) when he and his team unseated the PAP incumbents in the GRC, the first time an opposition party has ever unseated the PAP in a GRC.
On 15 February 2012, Yaw was expelled from the Workers' Party, leaving a vacant seat in Hougang SMC. A by-election was held, with Nomination Day on 16 May 2012 and Polling on 26 May 2012. The Workers Party chose Png Eng Huat, who managed to retain the seat with 62.1% of the vote.