HDB tweaking policies to help first-time buyers

Published 4 March 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shankari

More BTO flats – 14,000 – to be offered in first half 2011

THE Housing & Development Board (HDB) will tweak several policies to make it easier for first-timers and lower income households to buy a flat, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

HDB tweaking policies to help first-time buyersHDB will roll out more flats in the first half of this year. It will offer 14,000 flats under the build-to-order (BTO) system in the first six months of 2011, up from the 11,000 BTO flats planned previously.

The upcoming projects will have a good geographical spread in estates such as Jurong West, Sengkang, Punggol, Sembawang, Hougang, Tampines and Pasir Ris. For the full year, 22,000 flats are planned if demand is sustained. This is unchanged from the previous estimated supply.

In addition to the increased supply, the BTO application process has also been shortened from nine weeks to four weeks. With this, flat applicants will know if they stand a good chance of selecting a flat in one BTO exercise before the close of the next exercise. HDB will also increase the visibility of upcoming BTO launches, from the current one month to 2-3 months ahead.

Mr Mah announced the changes in Parliament yesterday in response to concerns from Members of Parliament (MPs) that with the run-up in HDB resale prices in 2010, public housing was becoming unaffordable for many.

‘I know that Singaporeans, especially first-timers, are concerned that flat prices have risen too fast, due to the sharp economic recovery. With the measures that I have outlined, first-timers will be able to get on the first rung of the housing ladder,’ he said.

Mr Mah also unveiled new measures to give low- to middle-income households more choices of affordable flats. The monthly household income ceiling for three-room standard flats in non-mature estates has also been raised to $5,000 from $3,000 previously.

HDB has also increased the supply of two-room and three-room flats by 37 per cent to 4,800 units in 2011.

The agency will also give families who earn up to $2,250 a month even more help to buy their first flat.

Currently, first-time homebuyers get a subsidy when they buy a new flat. In addition, households with a monthly income of $5,000 and below also get added help in the form of an Additional CPF Housing Grant.

Yesterday, Mr Mah announced another grant – the Special CPF Housing Grant, or SHG – for households who make up to $2,250 a month. They can now look forward to the new SHG of between $5,000 and $20,000 if they choose to buy a new two- or three-room standard flat in non-mature estates from HDB.

MND also announced that the pace of HDB’s home improvement programme (HIP) will be boosted. The HIP, which offers residents the chance to improve the interiors of HDB flat, was started in 2007.

The number of HIP projects has doubled from 7 to 14 over the last two years. HDB will increase it to 28 projects next year and 35 projects per year by 2014.

The is part of government’s plan to spend $10 billion to upgrade homes and rejuvenate estates over the next 10 years.

Under the various upgrading programmes like the HIP, the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Lift Upgrading Programme, the government will spend up to $55,000 per flat. In 2011 alone, around 50,000 flat owners will benefit from these programmes.

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