Applications surge after housing grant is extended

Applications for a housing grant originally meant for low-income earners have surged after it was extended to middle-income households last August. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Applications for a housing grant originally meant for low-income earners have surged after it was extended to middle-income households last August. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Applications for a housing grant originally meant for low-income earners have surged after it was extended to middle-income households last August.

Almost twice as many flat buyers took up the Special CPF Housing Grant in the first three months of this year than in all of last year, the Housing Board (HDB) said.

The grant was given to 2,320 households from January till March, compared to 1,245 in 2013.

And another 1,800 applications are being processed.

As at end-March, $61.82 million had been disbursed under this grant scheme, which was introduced in 2011.

It was initially meant for low-income households earning up to $2,250 a month. Based on their income, they could get up to $20,000 if they were buying new two- or three-room standard flats in non-mature estates.

But last August, the grant was made available to those with a household income of up to $6,500.

With a much wider pool of eligible buyers, the strong response is unsurprising, said experts.

Furthermore, the grant was also extended to cover four-room flats, and premium flats of that size or smaller. This would have widened the pool further, as the majority of Build-to-Order (BTO) applicants are after four-roomers, said Chris International director Chris Koh.

And then there are the single buyers, who have been allowed to purchase new flats from the HDB since last July's BTO. They are also able to apply for this grant. The income cap for this group is $3,250 as they are buying the flat on their own, and they can get up to $10,000, half the usual amount.

Widening its reach made sense, said Century21 chief executive officer Ku Swee Yong.

"To begin with, the original cap at $2,250 was a bit low."

Lukewarm response might have been why the grant was made available to more people and more flat types, he added.

From March 2011 till the end of 2012, just 1,010 households received the grant.

Added Mr Ku: "It is also one way to attract buyers to purchase new flats in non-mature estates."

janiceh@sph.com.sg