HDB priority scheme still drawing young families

MARRIED couples with children below 16 continue to capitalise on the Housing Board's recent initiative to help them own a home.

At the latest sales launch in March, first-timer households under the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS) applied to take up 32 per cent of the Build-To-Order (BTO) flats on offer, said an HDB spokesman yesterday.

The exercise, which offered 3,898 flats in non-mature estates Sengkang, Punggol and Bukit Batok, attracted more than 12,000 applicants in all. The likelihood is that almost all of the PPS applicants will get a chance to select a flat.

In the previous exercise in January, when flats in non-mature estates were offered, PPS applicants also registered for 30 per cent of the available flats.

In the next sales launch slated for later this month, when the HDB plans to offer some 4,850 BTO flats in Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong West, Sembawang and Woodlands, and around 3,000 balance units, the response from PPS applicants is expected to be even hotter.

Analysts point to two key reasons.

First, the scheme will be extended to married couples who are expecting a child. The other reason is that balance flats, which are considered more attractive as they are either built or closer to the completion date, will also be offered.

Under the scheme, 50 per cent of balance flats will be reserved for PPS applicants. In the case of BTO flats, the quota is 30 per cent.

"PPS applicants likely comprise couples in their late 20s or older and who are currently living with their parents or renting a place," said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail. "Having a guarantee in getting a flat enables them to venture into home ownership."

The PPS, which gives priority to couples with young children and who are buying a flat for the first time, was launched at the start of the year.

It is part of the Government's push to encourage marriage and parenthood amid Singapore's declining birthrate.

This priority, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in March, was needed as couples who have yet to marry had, under the fiancee scheme, been making more than half of the first-timer applications.

This was making it harder for couples who already had children to get flats.

Among first-timers in the March exercise, 58 per cent of applicants were unmarried.

Married first-timer Eugene Kam, a 25-year-old sales assistant, would prefer to secure a flat before having children.

"But if it's that tough to get one in an acceptable location, I wouldn't mind having kids first."

darylc@sph.com.sg