Forum: Complexity of HDB pricing arises from buyers' diverse intentions

I am heartened that Singaporeans have expressed many views on the topic of pricing public housing in prime locations.

This is a positive sign that we are on the right track to an inclusive society where feedback from the population is taken on board.

However, given the diversity of the views that have been expressed, I believe we need to agree to disagree.

This also reminds us that there is no one perfect policy that can satisfy every segment of the population.

There are bound to be groups who reap the full benefits of a policy, while others are disadvantaged by - and possibly unhappy with - it.

Buyers of Housing Board flats in prime locations who intend to call their flat their home would be indifferent to a capital gains tax.

They would probably be living there for the long term, and selling the property would not be at the top of their minds.

However, for buyers who already have plans to sell the flat in the near future, they would be very concerned about having to pay a resale levy or returning the subsidies given to them.

On Straits Times editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang's point in his article, "Why Government should stick to hands-off policy on HDB sellers' profits" (July 25), that the Government has no business in preventing windfall gains from the sale of property, I feel that the Government certainly should have a role to play if we are talking about public housing.

After all, one of the HDB's main priorities is to keep public housing affordable.

If the authorities do not intervene and impose some form of deterrence from speculation, market forces would almost certainly price ordinary Singaporeans out of the market in prime locations, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

When that happens, there would surely be displeasure, and people would lament the high prices of public housing in Singapore.

One of the reasons why there is such complexity in coming up with a solution to keep public housing affordable in prime areas is that we do not know the true intentions of home buyers.

We are unable to differentiate buyers with a genuine intention to live in the prime location for the long term, from those who are buying a flat just so they can reap a windfall from its subsequent sale.

It is not a straightforward topic, and will definitely need further discussion before we can come up with the "perfect" policy.

Samuel Choo