Policy shifts could siphon off demand for private homes

Published 2 June 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shankari

HDB moves will lead to more balanced housing supply-demand, says CS

Two recent policy shifts by the Housing & Development Board (HDB) – the move away from the build-to-order system and the plan to raise income ceilings for buying new HDB flats – may cannibalise the market for mass-market private homes, Credit Suisse said in a new report yesterday.

Policy shifts could siphon off demand for private homesHDB announced the changes last week. The government agency is trying to make its public flats more attractive to couples hunting for their first homes. It will also ramp up the supply of new flats in 2011 and 2012.

The changes will lead to a ‘more balanced’ housing supply-demand situation, Credit Suisse analysts said.

‘Affordable housing for Singapore citizens, following the recent years’ surge in residential property prices, has been one of the most hotly-debated issues of the general elections. In our view, this space is likely to see the most meaningful longer-term policy changes, especially with the appointment of a new Minister of National Development, Khaw Boon Wan,’ said the report.

On top of this, the bank expects the government to try to strike a better balance between GDP growth and the quality of living for Singaporeans.

Hence, over the medium term, Credit Suisse economist Kun Lung Wu expects population growth to slow to 1-2 per cent and real GDP growth to slow to about 4 per cent – although the bank said GDP growth will still hit 6.5 per cent in 2011 and 5 per cent in 2012.

All these factors combined should lead to a more balanced demand and supply situation over the next three to five years and result in more moderate price appreciation in the residential sector, the report said.

‘We expect price moderation with more government supply, but prices are unlikely to slump in near term on strong economic fundamentals, strong balance sheets and low interest rates,’ the bank’s analysts said.

The bank also did a sensitivity analysis, which showed that the expected completions of an average of 14,500 private homes a year from 2011 to 2014 could be absorbed by the market – provided immigration growth remains at or above 70,000 a year (below the 150,000 average from 2005 to 2009), with a household size of five persons.

For equity plays, Credit Suisse also said it prefers hospitality, retail and prime office plays as it expects the mass market residential sector to face the most headwinds.

The bank issued fresh ‘outperform’ calls on Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) and City Developments for their hospitality and prime office exposure.

Credit Suisse also gave ‘outperform’ ratings to three trusts – CapitaMall Trust, CDL Hospitality Trusts and Mapletree Commercial Trust.


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77 Robinson Road expected to be up for sale soon

Published 2 June 2011
The Business Times
By Kalpana Rashiwala

Owner German fund manager SEB could be looking for $678m to $737m for the office tower

77 Robinson Road, formerly known as SIA Building, is expected to go on the market soon.

Sample of major office deals since 2010Its owner, German fund manager SEB, could be looking for a price of about $2,300-2,500 per square foot (psf) on net lettable area, which would work out to around $678 million to $737 million for the office tower, some property market watchers reckon.

A request for proposals was held for property consultants recently, and SEB is said to have picked Colliers International to market the building. Colliers is expected to conduct an expression of interest exercise to find a buyer.

The 35-storey office tower is on a site with a remaining lease of about 82 years. It has a total net lettable area of about 295,000 sq ft and 180 car parking lots.

Singapore Airlines sold the office block in June 2006 for $343.88 million or about $1,165 psf to a CLSA Capital Partners-linked fund, which in turn flipped it 10 months later for $526 million or $1,783 psf to SEB.

77 Robinson Road’s maximum development potential has been tapped; under Master Plan 2008, the site is zoned for commercial use with an 11.2+ plot ratio (ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to site area).

The property was completed in 1997. This was a $175 million redevelopment of the original 17-storey SIA Building which was completed in 1968, according to earlier media reports.

The lease on the site was topped up to 99 years in February 1994, which means that the lease will now expire in February 2093. Interestingly, the lease for 71 Robinson Road next door and, some sources now say, also that for Afro Asia Building nearby have been topped up to expire at about the same time.

Analysts say that the idea would be to have all sites on that stretch revert to the state simultaneously to allow for comprehensive planning and redevelopment of the area.

For this reason, most property consultants reckon that the authorities may not approve a further lease upgrade on the 77 Robinson Road site – which could create uncertainty among some investors and remove the option for redeveloping the site to residential use.

However, other analysts reckon that property funds and other investors confident about prospects for the Singapore office market would still be keen on the property based on its existing use and balance site lease.

Savills Singapore’s research head Alan Cheong noted that over $6 billion of large CBD office blocks changed hands last year; the momentum has continued this year with nearly $2 billion transacted so far.

‘Several major deals are in the pipeline. Prices of Grade A office space has risen about 50 per cent since the beginning of last year,’ he added.

Craig Ward, the company’s director of regional capital markets, says: ‘There are a number of investors – both domestic and international – looking actively into Singapore’s CBD office market. The investor profile is wide-ranging, from opportunistic to core and core-plus funds, Reits and local property companies. Savills is currently working closely with two global investors with an active requirement to purchase their first commercial property assets in Singapore’s CBD.’

Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of Asia-Pacific capital markets Stuart Crow says: ‘There’s less foreign equity chasing office deals here this time around compared with the last office investment boom which peaked in first-half 2008. Many of the private equity and European funds which were active in 2006/2007 are not in the market at the moment, and buyers are predominantly local.’

The highest price achieved for a CBD office building was $3,125 psf that Commerz Real paid for 71 Robinson Road in April 2008. So far in the current office upcycle, the highest price achieved is around $2,500-plus psf.

Among the office buildings in the market is TripleOne Somerset – formerly known as the Singapore Power Building – with a price tag of about $1.2 billion or about $2,132 psf. It is being marketed by an expression of interest exercise conducted by CB Richard Ellis and Jones Lang LaSalle. Bids close on June 14.

The property is understood to have garnered interest mostly from groups looking to reposition the asset as medical suites and increase the amount of retail space to take advantage of higher rentals than traditional office space.

Besides 77 Robinson Road, SEB owns a 55 per cent stake in 79 Anson Road; 12 floors of Springleaf Tower; a 60 per cent stake in the consortium that owns Chinatown Point mall; and Starhub Green, an industrial building at Ubi Avenue 1.


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Not all estates can take BTO projects

Published 2 June 2011
The Business Times
By Emilyn Yap

Most mature towns have limited land for public housing, minister says in blog

Not every mature estate will be able to accommodate build-to-order (BTO) projects, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on his blog yesterday.

Not all estates can take BTO projectsTanjong Pagar is ‘fully built-up’, but others such as Tampines and Kallang/ Whampoa could have room for new flats, he said.

Mr Khaw was following up on a post that he made on Monday, where he said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) could launch more new flats in mature estates next year to help young couples live near their parents.

That piece of news has been well-received, he said in yesterday’s blog entry. But he also highlighted that not many mature estates will see the introduction of BTO projects – ‘certainly not in the short term’ – because most are substantially built-up and there is limited land for public housing.

Mr Khaw pointed to a report in The Straits Times in which a young couple living in Tanjong Pagar said that they were looking forward to a BTO launch in that area.

‘Tanjong Pagar is fully built up and a BTO there is unlikely. I hope the young couple would seriously consider other options, especially those in the non-mature estates,’ he said.

‘HDB is still studying the details, but preliminarily, they told me that a couple of mature estates such as Kallang/Whampoa and Tampines could benefit from BTO launches next year.’

Flats in mature estates such as Tampines tend to be more popular because of well-developed transport networks and facilities in these towns.

But newer estates such as Sengkang and Punggol have gotten a larger share of BTO projects. The most recent BTO launch for a mature estate took place last week, when HDB rolled out two projects in Tampines. In December 2009, two BTO projects were introduced in Queenstown.


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Singapore tops the chart again when it comes to millionaires

Published 2 June 2011
The Business Times
By Michelle Quah

15.5% of households have at least US$1m in assets under management: report

Think you know which country has the highest proportion of millionaires in the world? You might want to guess again.

Singapore tops the chart again when it comes to millionairesAccording to The Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) latest global wealth report, it is not the United States, not Switzerland and not even Saudi Arabia.

Instead, the honour belongs yet again (yes, again) to Singapore – with one in six, or 15.5 per cent, of all households having at least US$1 million in assets under management (AuM) in 2010.

Translated into absolute numbers, that’s about 170,000 households here with more than US$1 million in AuM (including cash deposits, money market funds, listed securities, onshore and offshore assets). The number represents an almost one-third growth from the year before, which makes Singapore also the country with the fastest-growing number of millionaire households.

Switzerland is next in line with the second highest concentration of millionaire households – and also the highest in Europe – with 9.9 per cent, and about 330,000 households in total.

Cutting the numbers another way, the US had the largest number of what BCG terms the ‘ultra high net worth’ (UHNW) households – those with more than US$100 million in AuM – at almost 2,700 households; Saudi Arabia had the highest concentration of UHNW households at 18 per 100,000 households, followed by Switzerland, Hong Kong, Kuwait and Austria.

The global management consulting firm unveiled the numbers in its eleventh annual Global Wealth report titled Shaping a New Tomorrow: How to Capitalize on the Momentum of Change, a copy of which was sent to The Business Times.

In that report, BCG said global wealth climbed by 8.0 per cent in 2010 to US$121.8 trillion, or about US$20 trillion above where it stood during the depths of the financial crisis.

North America had the largest absolute gain of any regional wealth market in AuM, at US$3.6 trillion, and the second-highest growth rate, at 10.2 per cent. Its US$38.2 trillion in AuM made it the world’s richest region, with nearly one-third of global wealth.

In Europe, wealth grew at a below-average rate of 4.8 per cent, but the region still had a gain of US$1.7 trillion in AuM.

And wealth grew fastest in the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), at a 17.1 per cent rate. In Japan, wealth declined by 0.2 per cent to US$16.8 trillion – a marked change from hallowed days before when, even as recently as 2008, the country accounted for more than half of all the wealth in the Asia-Pacific. In 2010, Japan accounted for about 44 per cent.

In terms of individual countries, the nations showing the largest absolute gains in wealth were the US, China, the United Kingdom and India.

As for millionaire households, the total number of them represented just 0.9 per cent of the world’s households – but they owned 39 per cent of global wealth, up from 37 per cent in 2009. The number of millionaire households increased by 12.2 per cent in 2010 to about 12.5 million.

The US had by far the most millionaire households with 5.2 million, followed by Japan, China, the UK and Germany.

Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the six densest millionaire populations were in the Middle East – in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

And, in line with the rate of growth of wealth, the proportion of wealth owned by millionaire households increased the most in Asia-Pacific – at 2.9 percentage points – followed by North America, at 1.3 percentage points.

Tjun Tang, a BCG partner who worked on the report, said the firm expects global wealth to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.9 per cent from year-end 2010 through 2015 – to about US$162 trillion – driven by the performance of the capital markets and the growth of GDP in countries around the world.

Wealth is expected to grow fastest in emerging markets; in India and China, for example, it is expected to increase at a compound annual rate of 18 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. As a result, the Asia-Pacific region’s share of global wealth (ex-Japan) is projected to rise from 18 per cent in 2010 to 23 per cent in 2015.


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Eunosville HUDC estate is now privatised

Published 2 June 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shakari

The Eunosville Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) estate has been privatised with effect from yesterday, HDB said.

Eunosville HUDC estate is now privatisedPrivatisation of HUDC estates was announced in 1995 as part of the government’s effort to meet the increasing aspirations of Singaporeans to own private housing.

It also enables the lessees to have better control over the management of their estate, HDB said. Privatisation will proceed if lessees of at least 75 per cent of the flats support it.

Eunosville estate, which was privatised yesterday, comprises 330 flats in Blocks 822, 824, 826, 828, 830, 832, 834, 836, 838 and 840 along Sims Avenue. With the privatisation, the individual owners in the estate now own their respective strata units, as well as the common property such as the car parks and open landscaped areas, as tenants-in-common.

The Marine Parade Town Council will therefore cease its responsibility in the management and maintenance of the common properties of the estate with effect from yesterday. The Management Corporation Strata Plan No 3642 has been constituted to manage and maintain the common property of the estate.


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Viridian in Balestier previews at $1,550 psf on average

Published 1 June 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shankari

INDUSTRIAL developer Global Orion Properties has ventured into the residential arena with its 108-unit The Viridian in the Balestier area.

The Viridian: Prices start from $785,000 for the project, comprising mostly one- and two-bedroom units

Units at the freehold project are priced at an average of $1,550 per square foot (psf), with overall prices starting from $785,000 for a one-bedroom unit. The 23-storey The Viridian comprises mostly one- and two-bedroom units. Previews start today.

The development is Global Orion Properties’ debut residential project, and comes after it established a portfolio of contemporary industrial projects such as i-Lofts @ Changi, Northstar@AMK, The Crescent @ Kallang and Meissa in Pasir Panjang in the last few years.

Satia Narjadin, director of Global Orion Properties, said that his firm has been exploring breaking into the residential market in Singapore for some time now.

‘We actually have a lot of residential development experience, just not in Singapore,’ he said.

A sister company of Global Orion Properties has built and sold homes in Australia and Indonesia.

But the expectations from homebuyers in Singapore is a lot higher, Mr Narjadin said. So the developer spent some time hunting for choice sites and studying the market.

The firm is building The Viridian on an industrial building at Jalan Ampas (off Balestier Road), which it bought in a collective sale in February 2010.

It also has another residential site in its portfolio. The site in Hougang, which was also acquired in a collective sale, will be launched towards the end of this year, said Mr Narjadin. But unlike The Viridian, the Hougang project will comprise of mostly larger units as the property will be targeted at HDB upgraders.

The Viridian is designed by Singapore-based architectural firm Ong & Ong Architects. True to the Latin origin of its name – which means ‘green’ – the property will come with lush landscaping throughout to bring nature closer to residents.

Separately, Wing Tai Holdings said in an update that it has sold over 140 apartments in its latest residential project, the 496-unit Foresque Residences at Upper Bukit Timah.


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Mixed-use, hotel, EC sites added to reserve list

Published 1 June 2011
The Business Times
By Uma Shankari

Paya Lebar Central mixed-use plot seen drawing bids of $860-$940 psf ppr

THREE new 99-year leasehold state land parcels were released for sale yesterday: a 2.07 hectare mixed-use site at Paya Lebar Central; a 0.38 ha hotel site at Little India; and an executive condominium (EC) housing parcel at Upper Serangoon View.

Mixed-use, hotel, EC sites added to reserve listAll three sites are being offered under the reserve list. This means that each site will be put up for public tender only if the government receives an application from a developer who commits to make a bid at or above a minimum price set by the authorities.

Analysts were most excited about the land parcel at Paya Lebar Central, which can generate about 935,600 square feet of gross floor area (GFA). It is the second such site at Paya Lebar Central put up for sale by the government.

The site provides an opportunity for those who missed out on the first plot, said Credo Real Estate executive director Ong Teck Hui.

The first site drew 10 bids at the close of the state tender in April.

‘This Paya Lebar site comes hot on the heels of the tender closing of the Boon Lay white site (on May 25) and the first Paya Lebar commercial site (on April 21),’ said Mr Ong. ‘The two sites attracted keen interest and drew bids above expectations, reflecting strong demand for suburban commercial space.’

Added Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International: ‘There are not many new and good quality commercial buildings in this area, so the developer of this commercial space on this site will have a first mover advantage in this area.’

The site could sell for $860- $940 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), he said.

The top bid for the first Paya Lebar Central site was $872 psf ppr.

At least 40 per cent and 15 per cent of the maximum permissible GFA of the project on the site will have to be set aside for office and hotel use respectively, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The remaining GFA can be for additional office, hotel, retail, entertainment or food & beverage uses.

A section of Geylang River flows through the site and provides an opportunity for the successful developer to integrate the water body into the future property and ‘bring life to the riverbanks’, URA added.

The hotel site, at the junction of Race Course Road and Perumal Road, has a maximum GFA of about 145,000 sq ft.

Analysts expect decent interest from developers for the plot, and said it could attract bids ranging from $72 million to $87 million, or $500-$600 psf ppr.

The site is likely to be triggered for sale soon due to its location, said Cushman & Wakefield’s senior manager of Asia-Pacific research, Ong Kah Seng.

‘Participants are likely to be average sized hoteliers or companies looking to develop the site into a mid-tier hotel project for those budget travellers who are still willing to pay for essential hotel accommodation,’ he said.

Added Mr Mak: ‘There is a good chance that it (the site) could be triggered for tender in the next one year or so.’

The third site – an EC plot at Upper Serangoon View – has a maximum GFA of 466,900 sq ft. It can accommodate around 420 flats.

But analysts said the possibility of this EC site being triggered is quite low in the short term as there is an ample supply of EC projects in the North-east region. But it could sell for anywhere between $250 and $390 psf ppr if triggered, they said.


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As supply of new flats is ramped up …

Published 1 June 2011
TODAYonline
By Teo Xuanwei

Analysts expect COVs and private home prices to fall gradually

The flurry of housing announcements in recent days has increased optimism among home-seekers, especially those who have been unsuccessful in their house-hunting efforts.

As supply of new flats is ramped up ...Property analysts who spoke to Today noted, however, that the additional supply and a review of the income ceiling for buyers of new Build-to-Order (BTO) flats will be “no big shake-up”. The impact – including on prices – will instead be gradual, kicking in only when the first of the 25,000 new units pledged by the Government come onstream in two years.

For a start, the gap in prices between new and resale units will likely narrow, said SLP International executive director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

While the market value of resale flats is likely to remain stable over the next few years, experts expect cash-over-valuation (COV) prices to shrink – as the combined effect of the new measures temper demand for these flats – leading to a 15-per-cent drop in resale prices.

Cushman & Wakefield vice-chairman Donald Han believes the COV could even become a thing of the past: “With an increased supply and the adjustment to the income ceiling, it will become a buyer’s market and the COVs may no longer be a component of negotiations.”

At the same time, the prices of new BTO flats would likely be unaffected despite the influx. Under the HDB’s current pricing model, the prices of BTO flats are pegged to market prices less Government subsidies.

Young couples looking to buy new flats, therefore have no need to hold out on their purchases, said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

“It doesn’t mean that if you wait, the prices will come down or the flats will be in better locations. So you should go ahead with your purchase if everything works for you,” he said.

Wild cards: Construction costs and interest rate

Analysts estimate prices in the private residential market to fall by about 10 per cent in about three years.

Said SLP International’s Mr Mak: “A review of the income ceiling will take off a chunk of demand from mass market private properties – those that cost below S$1 million.”

If more public housing in the form of executive condominiums and flats under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme are rolled out, demand for mass market private homes may also be affected, said ERA’s Mr Lim.

As the prices of resale flats fall, there may also be fewer HDB-dwellers looking to cash in on their homes and upgrade to private properties, analysts noted.

The Republic’s economic performance is also a factor as the private market is largely “liquidity-driven”, they added.

Chesterton Suntec International’s director and head of research and consultancy Colin Tan said: “Many private property buyers are investors; as we have seen, even the harshest cooling measures imposed by the Government have seen prices continue to climb.”

There are two wild cards in the equation though: The higher tempo and sheer number of new flats the Government is seeking to build could create a bottleneck within the construction sector – a point National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan noted when he revealed a ramp-up in the number of rental flats last Sunday.

Shortage of raw materials, for example, could drive up construction costs.

The other is the movement of interest rates.

Singapore’s record-low interest rates now has allowed some home buyers to pay less than one per cent in the first year of their loans, but that could well change depending on external factors.

At a recent real estate conference organised by the National University of Singapore, DTZ head of South-east Asia research Chua Chor Hoon warned of a worst-case scenario: A potential “perfect storm” unfolding in two to three years’ time, should interest rates spike while demand plunges in an abundant market – over 32,000 units will be completed over 2013 and 2014, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Mr Tan noted that it is “not impossible that interest rates remain low” as the United States continue to struggle economically. If that happens, it could also create “ghost towns” – in the event where supply outstrips demand – where people hold on to vacant units because the cost of doing so is low. Additional reporting Tan Weizhen


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Should I buy my primary property now?

I brought my clients to see a rental property in Lion Towers two weekends ago. This couple became my clients one year ago when I helped them to source for a rental property. With their one year lease coming up, they were looking at other alternative rental properties they could consider. They were originally planning to buy something before their current lease expired but with half the time spent travelling, this busy couple did not find the time to look at properties for sale.

Should I buy my first property now?At the end of the viewing, the husband asked, “Jack, do you think we should buy something (condo for own stay) now at this point of the market cycle?”

I sat them down and shared with them what I felt was applicable for them.

Buyers buy properties essentially for two main reasons. The first is for their own stay as a primary residence while the second is as an investment, meant to be rented out. There are different criterias used for selecting a property that is suitable for one’s own stay and one that is meant to be an investment property. Many buyers and investors often confuse and mix up the criterias they use when deciding what to buy. I will not be covering the differences in this post.

What are you looking for?
The first point to consider is understanding the kind of properties that you will be interested to buy for your own stay. What is the supply like for this type of properties? Are such properties readily available? At any one time, there will always be properties in the market for sale. However, when it comes to something that you are happy to call your home, such a property may not always be on the market. It would be different if you are buying an investment property – you have a lot more options as long as you are not insistent on buying only units in that one or two projects or locations.

Property Market Cycle
There is no guarantee that in a market downturn, the type of properties that you like will definitely be on sale. And even if it is on sale, it does not necessarily mean you will be able to get it cheap. One project I took this couple to see was Parc Stevens. Let’s take a look at the figures in the following table:

Parc Stevens TransactionsAs the table shows, the transaction volume for Parc Stevens dried up during the global financial crisis in 2008 & 2009. Yet, prices remained pretty stable during that period.

Happy Owners
There are a lot of owners who are very happy with their primary residence. They have no intention to move and are often oblivious to how much their homes can fetch or how much their neighbours just sold their homes for. It does not bother or matter to them which part of the property market cycle they are in. Neither does it bother them if the price of their residence has not gone up since the time they bought.

Are you someone who is on the lookout to buy a primary residence and will very happily stay in that place for many years to come?

My Recommendation
If you are someone who will happily stay put once you find something suitable and you have specific requirements for a home, I would encourage you to ignore the market cycle and go ahead to buy if you see something suitable and this property is within what you are willing to put in. The added advantage to this is the opportunity to lock in the current low interest rate for the next couple of years and to clear the 4 years seller’s stamp duty earlier.

So what did my clients decide to do? They have extended the lease at their current place by one more year. The new rent that they will be paying is about 16% higher than what they paid last year. By the time the new one year lease expires, they would have paid about $120,000 in rent over the two-year period. The increase in price of the type of properties they are looking at  is easily above this level.

Over the next few months I will be meeting up with them whenever their schedule allows them to and will help them to identify suitable properties to buy. The target is to get something before the new lease expires. This is a high priority for them now and they have started the ball rolling by applying for an approval in principle (for mortgage loans) from the banks.

To buyers who are looking for properties to buy at the moment, do your homework, enjoy the process and I hope you find something really suitable for your needs.


Jack also assists investors to identify suitable properties to invest in.

If you have any needs or questions related to real estate,
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More BTO flats in mature towns: Khaw

Published 31 May 2011
The Business Times
By Emilyn Yap

Govt hopes to help young couples wanting to live near their parents

THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) could be launching more new flats in mature estates next year to help young couples live near their parents, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.

More BTO flats in mature towns: KhawHe revealed this in a post on his Housing Matters blog, noting that application rates for bigger flats in build-to-order (BTO) projects in Tampines – launched just four days ago – have been high.

Flats in mature estates such as Tampines tend to be more popular because of well-developed transport networks and amenities in these towns.

Last Friday, HDB rolled out close to 4,000 new BTO flats across four estates, including Tampines and Pasir Ris. ‘So far, nearly 8,000 have applied,’ Mr Khaw said. ‘The projects in Tampines are the most popular with high application rates for the four and five-room flats.’

New flats in mature estates are more attractive as many couples would like to live near their parents, he said. This is also the first time in recent years that BTO flats have been launched in Tampines.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) ‘has been rather reluctant to launch BTO in mature estates as it worries that such popular launches would attract high subscription rates, further alarming the market’, Mr Khaw said.

He acknowledged that this is a valid concern, but Singaporeans understand that mature estates are popular, he said. ‘We should not be daunted by such a prospect, but should instead try to meet the aspirations of many young couples wanting to set up nests near their parents.’

A large number of BTO flats have been launched in newer towns such as Sengkang and Punggol. Queenstown, a mature estate, saw the introduction of two BTO projects in December 2009.

‘I have asked HDB to look into more mature estates as possibilities. It is too late to prepare suitable sites for this year, but we should be able to put up some for next year’s BTO,’ Mr Khaw said. As some of the new sites would be near existing flats, ‘I hope residents will bear with the construction’.

While more flats in mature estates are on the way, competition for them will be high and young couples will have a better chance of securing units in new towns, he added.

MND has been actively addressing housing concerns. Last Friday, Mr Khaw said that HDB will release more BTO units this year and start building in anticipation of demand.

PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail welcomed the moves, but added that it would be good for MND to give a full picture of flat availability in both new and mature estates. This will help home seekers decide if they should apply for flats now or later, he said.


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