Land betterment charge raised in buoyant property market

Rate hikes in certain segments, with the sharpest increase for non-landed residential use

Land betterment charge (LBC) rates have been raised for residential, commercial and industrial use for the next six months from Friday, with the rates for non-landed residential use seeing the biggest increase due to a robust property market, as well as healthy bids for state-owned land and collective sale sites.

Developers pay a LBC - which replaced the development charge (DC) - for the right to enhance the use of some sites or to build bigger projects on them.

LBC rates have been raised by an average of 12.9 per cent for non-landed residential use and 10.2 per cent for landed residential use. For commercial use, the increase is 5.4 per cent on average, while for industrial use, the increase is 2.3 per cent on average.

Cushman & Wakefield head of research Wong Xian Yang noted that the sharp increase in LBC rates for certain segments reflected the higher prices in the private residential, commercial and industrial markets in the past six months. "This suggests strong investor interest in Singapore property amid global economic uncertainty, and rising rents in the commercial, residential and industrial markets," he said.

For non-landed residential use, LBC rates have been raised by an average of 12.9 per cent, up from a 0.3 per cent rise in the previous revision in March.

Analysts cited "enthusiastic land bids" at selected Government Land Sales (GLS) sites, following strong take-up at major launches despite higher unit prices and the latest cooling measures.

Ms Tay Huey Ying, JLL Singapore's head of research and consultancy, said the 12.9 per cent increase - the sharpest since a 22.8 per cent spike in March 2018 - "came as a surprise as developers' bids have been measured, in the face of soaring interest rates and slowing economic growth".

LBC rates for non-landed residential use were raised in 116 geographical sectors by between 6 and 20 per cent, with two remaining sectors seeing no change.

The biggest increase of 20 per cent applies to Sector 113, which includes Jurong West Avenue 2, Choa Chu Kang Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road, as well as Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang.

CBRE head of research for South-east Asia Tricia Song cited the collective sales of Lakeside Apartments at $273.89 million and Park View Mansions at $260 million, "as developers amassed sites ahead of the upcoming Jurong Lake District".

In addition, an executive condominium (EC)GLS site in Bukit Batok West Avenue 8 fetched a top bid of $661.67 per sq ft per plot ratio, setting a new record price for EC land, she added.

For landed residential use, the increase of 10.2 per cent on average is the steepest in 11 years, and is likely underpinned by the "relentless rise" in landed home prices, Ms Tay noted.

The landed property price index rose 7.3 per cent in the first half of 2022, compared with a 6.6 per cent jump in the second half 2021.

Meanwhile, Singapore's return-to-office arrangements and the reopening of borders since April helped boost investor confidence in the commercial sector. As a result, LBC rates for commercial use have increased by 5.4 per cent on average, up from a 0.7 per cent rise in the last revision.

Ms Song noted that the sectors within the Central Business District (CBD) and Orchard areas saw some of the highest rate increases, of above 7 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively.

Analysts cited major transactions in the CBD, such as the $1.26 billion deal involving 79 Robinson Road and the $1 billion Income at Raffles deal.

The increase in industrial LBC rates was more modest, up an average of 2.3 per cent from a 2.2 per cent rise in the previous revision.

Ms Tay noted that the "pandemic-resilient industrial property sector and uptrend in industrial rents bolstered investors' interest, leading to $1.46 billion worth of industrial investment deals transacted during the review period, up from $853.98 million of deals done in the six months prior".

LBC rates remain unchanged for the other use groups that cover hotel/hospital, place of worship/ civic and community institution, open space/nature reserve, agriculture, and drains/roads/railways.

The rates are based on the chief valuer's (CV) assessment of land values and take into consideration recent land sales. They are stated according to use groups across 118 geographical sectors in Singapore. The LBC rates will be revised twice a year in consultation with the CV.

The Land Betterment Charge Act entered into force on Aug 1, 2022, and allows for the consolidation of charges for the enhancement of land value under Singapore Land Authority. The new LBC regime replaced the DC, Temporary Development Levy and Differential Premium regimes.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Land betterment charge raised in buoyant property market. Subscribe