BTO flat supply might go up to cope with higher demand, says Lawrence Wong

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at the Waterway Terraces in Punggol.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at the Waterway Terraces in Punggol.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
BTO flat supply is likely to go up next year, to meet higher demand arising from recent policy changes.
BTO flat supply is likely to go up next year, to meet higher demand arising from recent policy changes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The supply of new Housing Board flats is likely to go up next year, to meet higher demand arising from recent policy changes.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said he has asked the HDB to look into supplying more new flats.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Waterway Terraces projects in Punggol on Friday, he said: "Because of the new measures that were introduced, we expect demand to go up. So I've asked HDB to look at supplying more BTO (Build-To-Order) flats next year in order to accommodate higher demand."

Mr Wong was referring to recent housing policy changes such as an increased household income ceiling for new flats from $10,000 to $12,000, enhanced housing grants and a new two-room flexi scheme which offers elderly buyers flats of shorter leases.

But this does not mean the Government is changing its tapering approach, Mr Wong said.

"We are continuing to taper the housing programme, and we will continue to move in that direction," he said.

"But I think we may need to make some temporary adjustments in order to accommodate this higher demand for housing arising from policy changes."

He added that the HDB will be looking at the response to next month's BTO sales exercise before putting a number on the flat supply for next year. But this number is likely to be under 20,000, he noted.

The HDB had trimmed this year's supply of new flats from 16,900 to 15,000 because of a stabilising resale market.

It had also reduced the BTO supply last year, after ramping up construction for three years from 2011 to 2013.

In addition, Mr Wong said cooling measures in the property market will stay put for now.

"I would say it's still not time yet to unwind the cooling measures. The price adjustments that we've seen so far have been moderate compared to the increase in prices that took place very quickly in the past few years," he said.

"We don't want to risk a premature market rebound. But we know that the situation is fluid and very dynamic...Economic conditions both externally and within Singapore are changing, so we are monitoring the situation very closely and we will adjust as necessary if and when conditions change."

When asked about recent complaints about defects in new flats, Mr Wong said such feedback comes "partly because HDB has been building so many flats".

"Given the bigger base you will have more feedback about defects," he said. "HDB tries its best to build quality flats but there will always be some of these issues arising from construction quality. It happens to all developers, private and public, no matter how best they try."

He added: "HDB's assurance is that if there are issues that are raised, HDB will do everything it can to make sure that the defects are resolved. And they are doing so."

As for flats under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), Mr Wong said: "If and when there are issues, which has happened before, we will continue to try and facilitate that conversation and the need for the private contractor to take action to remedy the defects as we've done in the past."