More BTO flats likely in 2016 to meet demand

But figure expected to be under 20,000 - well below the numbers from 2011 to 2013

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, who took over the portfolio just this month, said yesterday that he has asked the HDB to look into building more new flats.

But this figure is likely to be under 20,000, he noted - higher than this year's number but well below the levels seen from 2011 to 2013.

During a visit to the Waterway Terraces I project in Punggol, Mr Wong 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."

Policy tweaks have widened the pool of eligible buyers. These include raising the household income ceiling for new flats from $10,000 to $12,000, enhanced housing grants and a new two-room flexi scheme that offers elderly buyers units for shorter leases.

But the Government is not changing its tapering approach, Mr Wong stressed. "We are continuing to taper the housing programme, and we will continue to move in that direction," he said, describing the supply boost as "temporary adjustments".

He said the HDB will be looking at the response to next month's BTO sales exercise before putting a number on next year's flat supply.

From 2011 to 2013, then National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan ramped up construction to meet "pent-up demand". More than 25,000 BTO flats were launched each year then. As demand was met, last year's flat supply was tapered down from 24,300 initially to 22,455.

The HDB further trimmed this year's supply from 16,900 to 15,000.

Another increase in supply will be good news for prospective buyers like art director Alan Choong, 26, who is looking for a unit with his girlfriend. He said: "We always want to hear that there are more flats - our chances are better and there are more choices."

ERA Realty's Mr Eugene Lim said the step-up in supply will have a "minimal" impact on the resale market, as many BTO flats are in non-mature estates like Punggol. "For resale flats, buyers still want homes in mature estates," he said.

He added that the new Proximity Housing Grant of $20,000 will also serve as an incentive for many families to opt for resale flats near their parents or married children.

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 hard they try.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."

Mr Wong also visited some families at Waterway Terraces I. Close to 10,000 BTO flats along the Punggol Waterway have been launched since 2010. About 6,000 of them will be completed by the year end.

He also said property cooling measures are set to stay put, at least for now, but added that the situation is "fluid" and "very dynamic".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline 'More BTO flats likely in 2016 to meet demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe