Tweak balcony area bonus scheme for more living space

The new guidelines by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on the maximum number of units allowed in private flats and condominiums will effectively reduce the number of units in a development.

However, this may not rein in the proliferation of shoebox units (URA cuts number of units allowed to be built in condos, private flats; Oct 18).

Smart developers know how to design the maximum number of shoebox units allowed and sell them at higher prices to compensate for the shrinking total.

The rule to reduce the bonus gross floor area for outdoor spaces from 10 per cent to 7 per cent fails to stop developers from exploiting the current scheme because having a smaller gross floor area would boost selling prices.

Restricting the total balcony area for each unit at 15 per cent of the net internal area with a minimum width of 1.5m also does not help buyers as they will still have to pay full price for the area of the balcony, which costs only a fraction to build.

It would be more congruous to tweak the 10 per cent additional gross floor area scheme instead of reducing the total number of flats, with the following suggestions.

For example, if the whole development has no balconies, the 10 per cent additional gross floor area bonus should stay.

If balconies are included, the 7 per cent rule will apply, with a caveat that balcony areas should be sold at a fraction of the listing price.

It may be more useful for the URA to look into ramifications of the revised guidelines to protect the interests of both developers and property buyers, and increase the living area rather than the non-living balcony area.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2018, with the headline 'Tweak balcony area bonus scheme for more living space'. Print Edition | Subscribe