PARLIAMENT

'No compromise' in quality of BTO flats

Some complaints have surfaced at the BTO project Green Leaf in Tampines. Mr Desmond Lee said about a third of all new BTO flats’ residents ask for help after collecting their keys – and about three-quarters of these are about defects, with “the vast major
Some complaints have surfaced at the BTO project Green Leaf in Tampines. Mr Desmond Lee said about a third of all new BTO flats’ residents ask for help after collecting their keys – and about three-quarters of these are about defects, with “the vast majority” involving surface imperfections. ST FILE PHOTO
Some complaints have surfaced at the BTO project Green Leaf in Tampines. Mr Desmond Lee said about a third of all new BTO flats' residents ask for help after collecting their keys - and about three-quarters of these are about defects, with "the vast
Complaints about DBSS projects in recent months include (above) narrow corridors at Pasir Ris One, shower screens that shattered in a few flats at Trivelis in Clementi, and a water pipe that burst in a bathroom, causing water to seep into the wall and flooring of a bedroom at Centrale 8 in Tampines. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Some complaints have surfaced at the BTO project Green Leaf in Tampines. Mr Desmond Lee said about a third of all new BTO flats' residents ask for help after collecting their keys - and about three-quarters of these are about defects, with "the vast
Complaints about DBSS projects in recent months include narrow corridors at Pasir Ris One, (above) shower screens that shattered in a few flats at Trivelis in Clementi, and a water pipe that burst in a bathroom, causing water to seep into the wall and flooring of a bedroom at Centrale 8 in Tampines. PHOTO: TRIVELIS CLOSED GROUP/FACEBOOK
Some complaints have surfaced at the BTO project Green Leaf in Tampines. Mr Desmond Lee said about a third of all new BTO flats' residents ask for help after collecting their keys - and about three-quarters of these are about defects, with "the vast
Complaints about DBSS projects in recent months include narrow corridors at Pasir Ris One, shower screens that shattered in a few flats at Trivelis in Clementi, and (above) a water pipe that burst in a bathroom, causing water to seep into the wall and flooring of a bedroom at Centrale 8 in Tampines. PHOTO: MICHELLE LIM

Desmond Lee: More BTO flats, but no big change in number of defects reported

The ramping up of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats' supply over the last four years has not compromised their quality, said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee.

Responding to six MPs who raised questions about public housing defects, he also said that complaints about the premium Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) do not mean the scheme has failed.

For BTO flats sold by the Housing Board, about a third of all new residents approach the Building Services Centre for help after collecting their keys, said Mr Lee.

About three-quarters of these requests are about defects, with "the vast majority" involving surface imperfections - which do not affect the building's structural integrity.

The number of defects reported involving BTO flats has not changed significantly over the years, said Mr Lee.

  • DBSS and BTO woes

  • Six MPs had questions for Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, on defects in DBSS and BTO projects that made the headlines recently.

    CENTRALE 8

    Home owners found defects such as rusty door handles and uneven tiles when they began collecting their keys to this Tampines DBSS project in June last year. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, an MP for the area, is overseeing a new task force set up to deal with their concerns.

    TRIVELIS

    Home owners began collecting their keys to this Clementi DBSS project in January, and found defects such as rusty dish racks and poor floor finishings. In May, developer EL Development offered them a goodwill package, including a new dish rack and a much longer warranty for their laminate flooring.

    PASIR RIS ONE

    Narrow corridors - which met the absolute minimum width required under regulations - were the main gripe at this Pasir Ris DBSS project, with residents finding them too cramped.

    WATERWAY BANK

    Hairline cracks on walls at this Punggol BTO worried some home owners. HDB said the cracks were in the plaster and not the walls, and did not affect the building's structural integrity.

And according to the Building and Construction Authority's independent assessment of building quality - known as the Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) - the quality of BTO flats has actually risen from a score of 79 in 2003 to 89 last year.

" It continues to rise and is comparable to that in private developments," he said.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) noted that in Australia, payment to the main contractors is held back until defects are fixed. He asked if HDB could similarly postpone the start of payment for BTO home owners if repairs are delayed.

But Mr Lee replied that developers are already required to address defects within a month. If they do not, the buyer can give notice, get it fixed and then make a claim for reimbursement.

"So in a way we shouldn't have delays in rectification," he said.

MPs also had questions on DBSS flats , which are designed, built and sold by private developers.

Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong of the Workers' Party (WP) said the official intent of the DBSS scheme was "to meet the housing aspirations of higher income flat buyers for better design and finishes".

"So do all these complaints signify that DBSS has actually failed in the intent?" he asked.

Responding, Mr Lee said there have been 13 DBSS projects since 2005 . "Not to trivialise the defects and the concern that first-time home buyers in particular feel when they see scratches or paint marks on their units or more serious defects, but I think you shouldn't... use these current few points that have been in the public eye to condemn the entire scheme as a failure," he told Mr Yee.

Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC) and Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) asked about HDB's role in overseeing DBSS projects, while Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) asked if HDB takes responsibility to ensure DBSS defects are rectified.

Mr Lee said private developers take responsibility, as the sale and purchase agreement is between residents and the developer.

For DBSS projects, the HDB only sets buyer eligibility rules and provides broad planning parameters such as the mix of flat sizes and the range of facilities.

But that is not to say that the HDB does nothing at all, he said. With the Trivelis DBSS project in Clementi, for instance, HDB "worked behind the scenes" with the developer to seek a resolution.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline ''No compromise' in quality of BTO flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe