MND unveils three new moves to help HDB buyers

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong also reaffirmed his ministry's commitment to providing affordable housing options for different types of flat buyers.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong also reaffirmed his ministry's commitment to providing affordable housing options for different types of flat buyers. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Earlier notice on BTO; shorter wait after balloting | Use of CPF for older flats to be relaxed | More help for low-income families to own homes

New Housing Board projects will be made public six months before they go on sale instead of three, while ballot times will be halved to three weeks in a series of moves meant to improve the home-buying process.

Both changes will apply from the May sales exercise onwards.

Announcing the measures yesterday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said these moves are part of a long-term plan to keep housing affordable and accessible to Singaporeans.

Mr Wong also reaffirmed his ministry's commitment to providing affordable housing options for different types of flat buyers.

To this end, he spelt out a range of measures, such as broadening the scope of a grant to help lower-income families buy bigger homes, and introducing more flexibility to use Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies to buy older flats so that elderly owners in such homes can right-size more easily.

The relaxed CPF rules will kick in in May. Current restrictions on the use of CPF mean owners of older flats find it hard to sell them.

Meanwhile, the expanded Build-To-Order (BTO) announcement schedule means interested home buyers can see where the upcoming projects are and how many flats will be released, and plan accordingly.

"We have been careful about revealing too much information on future sales, not because we want to withhold the information, but because there will always be unexpected changes to building plans," he said. "But I understand why buyers would like more information to plan ahead... I hope this change will help flat buyers make more informed choices on their application."

This means that at the May exercise, buyers would know which projects will be launched in August and November.

The shortened balloting time follows through on Mr Wong's wish expressed last year to minimise the waiting time for buyers to get their flats. With the change, unsuccessful applicants do not have to wait more than a month to make new plans.

It accompanies other measures over the last year or so to quicken the time families get their flats. These include a revamped portal that can halve the resale flat transaction time to eight weeks, and the launching of BTO projects with shorter waiting times of two to three years, instead of the usual three to four.

 
 
 
 

Mr Wong emphasised that HDB flats remain affordable. "From time to time, we hear comments where people say that we should not compare to other cities, and the price of our HDB flats today compared with that in the 1970s or 1980s is much more expensive.

"But remember, incomes have also risen considerably over this period. We really have to look at a broader range of affordability indicators, not just the headline price."

He noted that the first-time buyers in non-mature flats pay less than 25 per cent of their income on their mortgage - a far cry from almost 50 per cent in the 1970s, and lower than the international standard of 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

"We are keeping well below that," he said, adding that many first-timers service their loans entirely with CPF monies, or zero cash.

Separately, Mr Wong said the National Development Ministry (MND), along with the Health Ministry, was looking into assisted living options for the elderly, and will launch a pilot in Bukit Batok next year.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling also shared a number of moves to uplift vulnerable families. One change is that divorcees no longer have to wait for their final judgment to apply for a Housing Board flat; they need to have it only by the time they collect their keys.

"We hope this will give divorcing parties some peace of mind as they go through an emotionally difficult period," she said.

Besides these measures, Mr Wong also recapped MND's vision to constantly reinvent Singapore as a modern, liveable city. One way to do this is by tackling climate change and preparing the nation for possible sea level rises as the world warms up, he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'MND unveils three new moves to help HDB buyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe