Pandemic forcing relook into how S'pore is built

Indranee calls for more sustainability, coordination in built environment sector


Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah urged developers to remain prudent in their land bidding and not overextend themselves financially.

On their part, home buyers should be mindful of their ability to service mortgage obligations given the uncertain economic conditions, before making long-term financial commitments, she said.

Said Ms Indranee: "We all have a part to play by continuing to be professional, responsible and prudent, and not stoke exuberant sentiments in the property market."

Her comments at the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) Spring Festival yesterday came amid speculation about a new round of property cooling measures, after several ministers noted that the Government is monitoring the property market very closely.

Amid still-low interest rates and unprecedented relief measures by the Government, residential property values have remained resilient in the coronavirus-induced recession, with prices of non-landed condominiums and private apartments rising 2.5 per cent last year, while Housing Board resale prices jumped 5 per cent - the steepest growth since 2012.

But recovery in the global economy is expected to be uneven, uncertain and drawn out, noted Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance.

Ms Indranee called for the transformation of Singapore's built environment sector to be accelerated to boost productivity and address challenges such as climate change.

"To enhance coordination, we can use more digital tools to bring together the entire building life cycle and its various parties, covering design, construction and facilities management, from end to end," she said. "This will allow us to build and maintain our city more sustainably."

Developers play an important role in the overall transformation process, said Ms Indranee, while encouraging them to collaborate with other stakeholders.

The pandemic is also forcing a relook into how Singapore is planned and built, she noted.

"With more people working from home, we can expect changes to their commuting, retail consumption and lifestyle patterns... Some of these changes are short term, while others may be permanent structural shifts, and we will have to be responsive," she said.

Redas president Chia Ngiang Hong said that many big local developers are "firm believers of the green agenda and have integrated sustainability into their business operations when they design, build and manage buildings".

"Many Redas members are also guided by corporate environmental sustainability principles," he said.

He added that "the Government's continued assistance to the built environment sector... and consideration to adjust policies if necessary, to maintain a stable property market in the long term, is crucial."

In a recent engagement session with various ministers, Mr Chia said that Redas was encouraged by the ministers' understanding of "the immediate issues surrounding the construction industry" and its "high business costs and tight timeline".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline Pandemic forcing relook into how S'pore is built. Subscribe