The Straits Times says

More cheer for first-time HDB buyers

Now, first-time buyers will receive higher grants and enjoy more flexibility in choosing the size of their flat and where it is located. The income ceiling, too, for Housing Board flats has been raised for the first time since 2015, thus widening the pool of eligible buyers. Crucially, a new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG), which streamlines two older grants, gives couples more flexibility in affording a flat that suits their needs. This policy fine-tuning attests to the need to support couples to have more children, because housing issues feature prominently on the personal agenda of young Singaporeans who need to match their familial choices with their financial preparedness. Whatever makes a home more affordable for them provides a fillip to the pro-family policies that an ageing Singapore needs to pursue to arrest demographic decline.

The latest announcement seeks to achieve these objectives while factoring in a primary national reality, the scarcity of land. It points out a way for the authorities to meet the growing demand for homes without building new flats, which is limited by a lack of land, especially in mature estates. The solution lies in changing the incentive structure to make it attractive to buy resale flats. Incentives in the past encouraged first-timers to choose new flats, but now, there should be a better balance between these and resale flats so long as, under the EHG scheme, the flat's lease covers buyers until they are aged 95. This condition is consonant with the need for homes that can last occupants for life. However, those who do not meet this condition will get a pro-rated grant amount depending on the lease.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'More cheer for first-time HDB buyers'. Subscribe