Young couples to get own homes sooner

SINGAPORE — The first batch of around 1,000 new flats with a shorter waiting time of two-and-a-half years will be launched in non-mature estates next year, and at least 95 per cent of the larger units — four-room or bigger — will be reserved for first-timers, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Tuesday.

Where these flats will be or how much they will cost were not specified. Typically, Build-to-Order flats involve a three- to four-year wait between booking a unit and key collection. Upcoming executive condo launches Hundred Palms EC, include Yio Chu Kang EC, Inz Residence EC, Choa Chu Kang EC, Anchorvale Lane EC,  while existing ones include The Terrace EC, Brownstone EC, The Vales EC, Parc Life EC , Sol Acres EC, The Visionaire, Bellewoods EC, Signature at Yishun, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC.

But Mr Wong previously said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) was looking at building some projects ahead of launch to shave one year off the waiting time, so that young couples would get their own homes sooner.

On Tuesday, Mr Wong also announced other moves aimed at giving young couples faster access to their first love nest.

These include balloting exercises at “regular intervals” for unsold units from Sale of Balance Flats (SBF)
exercises. Currently, SBF exercises are held twice-yearly, and units on offer are popular among first-timers because the flats are nearly complete or already completed.

In the second half of this year, HDB will start offering these unsold flats for balloting in one common pool, instead of separate selection queues for each town and flat type.

Announcing these measures during the debate on the Ministry of National Development’s budget on Tuesday, Mr Wong said home ownership is a challenge in many cities globally, and the Government was committed to keeping the “Singapore dream” alive by helping to help young couples secure their flats more quickly and start their families. From April, the

Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme, a temporary housing option for families awaiting their new flats, will also be made more affordable.

Rents will be cut by S$200 to S$400 each month. This translates to savings of over S$1,000 per month compared to market rental rates, which are double the rents under the PPHS or more.

For instance, a three-room flat in Jurong could fetch S$1,700 in rent in the open market. The rent is currently S$800 under the scheme, and will be cut to S$600 next month. The HDB is also looking to streamline resale transactions through technology, and complete them ahead of the current 16-week timeline. More details will be announced by the end of the year.

Noting that the Government is committed to helping Singaporeans with their housing needs at every life stage, Mr Wong also announced that elderly flat buyers who are moving to smaller homes will only need to foot the full downpayment and balance purchase price for their new flat when collecting their keys. This new Deferred Downpayment Scheme (DDS) will be implemented from May.

They will also enjoy temporary loans when buying new homes under a new Temporary Loan Scheme (TLS), if they had not taken a housing loan.

Mr Wong noted that seniors have a “nest egg” in their HDB flats, but many find the process of monetising it daunting. “We will work at making the entire process of right-sizing much easier,” he said.

To be eligible for the DDS, the homeowner must be aged 55 years old and above, and applying for a two-room Flexi or three-room flat in a sales exercise. For the TLS, the applicant must have booked a new flat and the keys are ready for collection, and have submitted an application to sell the existing flat. They must have enough CPF monies or sale proceeds to fully redeem the loan.

During the debate, several MPs also asked about housing support for single or divorced parents, among them Nominated MP Kuik Shiao-Yin, who suggested forming a support unit within the HDB with a focus on housing services for families transitioning to single-parent households.

Noting that those seeking help are sometimes told to “talk to your MP”, she said: “It cannot be that access to housing comes down to who has the most sympathetic story and the most passionate advocate.”

Mr Wong said that the Government was fully committed to helping them with their housing needs. In the last three years, the HDB has helped nearly 2,000 single parents find a public rental flat — about 27 per cent of all households allocated a public rental flat during the same period.

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