Higher income ceilings benefit over 2,000 BTO applicants

Hougang Capeview, a Build-To-Order (BTO) public housing project.
Hougang Capeview, a Build-To-Order (BTO) public housing project. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

At least 2,100 families and 220 singles who applied for new flats this month were newly eligible due to higher income ceilings.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong gave these figures on his blog yesterday, to show how changes have benefited buyers.

The figures, from 11am yesterday, were for the Build-To-Order (BTO) and Sale of Balance Flats exercises which closed at midnight.

It was the first launch with new income ceilings of $12,000 for families and $6,000 for singles.

The planned September and November launches had been merged to give time for policy changes to kick in.

Income ceilings were also raised to $8,500 for the Special Central Provident Fund Housing Grant (SHG), making a total of 6,500 applicants eligible as of 11am.

In the BTO launch, projects in the new estate of Bidadari were the most popular.

STRONG DEMAND

Despite the huge supply of over 12,000 flats in this month's launch, the overall application rate of three times suggests that there is still strong demand.

MR MOHAMED ISMAIL GAFOOR, PropNex Realty chief executive officer

  • More can buy new flats, get grants

  • Recent policy changes have made more people eligible for housing grants and to buy new flats. Here's a look at the changes and who stood to benefit from them in this month's sales exercise as of yesterday morning.

    HIGHER INCOME CEILINGS

    The income ceilings were raised from $10,000 to $12,000 for families and $5,000 to $6,000 for singles.

    Who benefited: An additional 2,100 families and 220 singles applied

    ENHANCED SPECIAL CPF HOUSING GRANT (SHG)

    The grant, which aims to help lower- and middle-income families afford their first home, was extended to families earning up to $8,500. The previous income ceiling for the grant was $6,500.

    The maximum grant was also doubled to $40,000.

    Who benefited: About 6,500 families were eligible for the grant

    NEW TWO-ROOM FLEXI SCHEME

    The scheme offers flats with shorter leases to those aged 55 and above, setting aside 40 per cent of these units for them. It merges and replaces the studio apartment and two-room flat schemes.

    Who benefited: About 1,400 seniors applied for the 966 Build-To-Order two-room flexi units offered

As of 5pm yesterday, there were 3,283 applicants for 151 five-roomers there, almost 22 applicants per unit.

Four-roomers had more than five applicants per unit.

"To meet the strong demand, we will be launching more flats in Bidadari next year," said Mr Wong.

Also in the BTO launch were flats in the non-mature estates of Punggol, Bukit Batok, Hougang and Sengkang, which saw application rates of 0.9 to 4.3 for various flat types.

For the new two-room flexi scheme, more demand came from singles rather than the elderly.

But Mr Wong called the response of elderly buyers "encouraging", with more than 1,400 applicants for the 966 units set aside for them.

The overall BTO application rates as of 5pm yesterday were 2.6 for two-room flexi flats and 3.3 for three-room and bigger flats.

"Despite the huge supply of over 12,000 flats in this month's launch, the overall application rate of three times suggests that there is still strong demand," said PropNex Realty chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail Gafoor.

But R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said demand for Bidadari flats, especially from first-time applicants, was "lower than expected" possibly due to higher prices. For instance, four-room flats start at $433,000 before grants.

This did not stop first-timer Bryan Goh, 25, from applying for a Bidadari four-room flat with his girlfriend.

Said the assistant film producer: "It may be expensive but our parents live in Bishan and Toa Payoh, so it's very convenient for us."

Sought-after balance flats included a Pinnacle@Duxton four-room flat with 63 applicants and a Queenstown five-room unit with 73.

"With application rates stabilising, we are still keeping a close eye on buyer demand and will adjust the BTO supply accordingly," Mr Wong said in his blog post.

February's BTO launch will offer 1,580 flats in Bidadari, 1,650 in Bukit Batok and 920 in Sengkang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Higher income ceilings benefit over 2,000 BTO applicants'. Print Edition | Subscribe