The Straits Times says

Cutting red tape in housing sales

The Housing Board has stepped up to the plate of digital change by refining its resale procedures. The key benefit: Resale transaction time will be halved to eight weeks from next year. This will be achieved via an upgraded resale portal - to make it easier to file applications and conduct eligibility checks. Consequently, only one appointment with the HDB (to sign the legal documents) will be required, instead of the current two. With all financial statements being uploaded and verified online, it will not be necessary to have an appointment to work out the sellers' sales proceeds and assess buyers' financial plans. Sellers and buyers will welcome the change.

That is not to say that everyone will be equally adept in making the technological transition. Older Singaporeans accustomed to the trusted familiarity of paperwork might be disoriented by the need to upload financial documents. The provision of a dedicated helpline and help desk at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh to guide those who require assistance should ease fears .

No less important is the change that buyers will soon get the HDB to confirm the value of a potential flat directly, instead of awaiting reports done by valuers. Transactions will be expedited by harnessing technology and data to establish the reasonableness of the price, thus removing the need for a valuation in some cases. However, valuations will be carried out if necessary. This safeguard is needed to preserve the integrity of the resale protocol.

The HDB cannot afford to forget that public housing, unlike its private counterpart, is an essential part of the national compact between citizens and the State. Unlike private property transactions, in which the market is king, the HDB plays an irreplaceable role in the life of Singapore. Every move that it makes will have an immediate - and in some cases, a lasting - impact on the quality of life for the majority.

The broader real estate sector must also keep in step with HDB and tap technology to improve services, as Singapore has already started the journey towards becoming a Smart Nation. From everyday financial transactions to seamless transport to now public housing resale, technology is envisaged as the enabler of Singapore's next leap into the future. There's more to this effort, of course, than just digitising information and clicking buttons. Ministries and other organs of the Government must rationalise processes, cut red tape, and lead the technological charge in order to stay abreast of rising public aspirations. Saving time and cutting down on manpower use, where necessary, are necessities everywhere. They are crucial to the evolution of a labour-scarce nation. Singapore's technological evolution will determine not only its place in a globalising world but also the quality of life for its citizens within.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Cutting red tape in housing sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe