GOVERNMENT'S BABY BOOSTERS

7,000 new flats for parents with young kids

Housing Board sets aside that many BTO units for them this year

MARRIED couples with young children can take their pick of new Housing Board flats from a stock of at least 7,000 units reserved for them this year.

This will be the allocation from the 23,000 Build-to-Order (BTO) flats being planned for this year in mature as well as non-mature towns, said a Ministry of National Development (MND) spokesman.

She was elaborating on the new selection process for parents under the revised Marriage and Parenthood package announced yesterday and which takes effect immediately.

Now, 30 per cent of flats in new BTO projects will be kept for parents who have not received a housing subsidy and whose child is younger than 16.

But this is just part of the total stock. The other part will be made up of unsold flats in soon-to-finish BTO projects. As many as 50 per cent of these units will be set aside for them. The MND is unable to provide immediate figures.

Before the new Parenthood Priority Scheme, the HDB selection process distinguished only between first-time and second- time buyers, with at last 85 per cent of new flats reserved for the first-timers.

Explaining the new move, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said young parents can be given priority because there are enough new flats for each and every first-time buyer.

Another reason he gave is the growing number of engaged but yet-to-marry couples getting a flat during balloting when they can wait, while some married couples with young children are not as lucky although they want a home immediately.

"There's enough flats for all first-timers now, let us recalibrate and let those who are married with children go ahead," he said.

Mr Khaw is confident the change will allow young parents to ballot "almost certainly within this year" for a flat, as they form fewer than half of all first-time buyers applying for HDB flats.

Besides priority in buying, the new Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme will make it easier - and cheaper - for young parents to rent. HDB will offer 1,150 three- and five-room flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Jurong West and Queenstown for rent.

These are primarily HDB flats emptied for the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers), where old blocks of flats are redeveloped to optimise land use.

The rents of these unfurnished flats range from $800 to $1,900 a month, depending on location and size. This is up to 40 per cent below market rent.

Young parents like assistant project manager Mohammad Shahrul, 28, cheered the changes, saying they were timely.

He, his homemaker wife and their two sons, aged six and four, live with her parents, who own a four-room flat in Jurong West.

In the past four years, he balloted three times but failed to get a flat in the same estate as his parents-in-law.

"I want to be near them so that I can look out for them and they can take care of my children," he said. "I hope things would go my way this year."

Analysts interviewed foresee the changes will encourage couples to have children earlier.

Realtor Eugene Lim said the changes could draw demand away from the HDB resale and rental market. "This will set the stage for a long overdue price correction in the resale market."

darylc@sph.com.sg