SINGAPORE - To help home buyers access flats more quickly, the Housing Board will scrap the existing Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercises.
All unsold Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will first be offered through Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises, and those that remain unselected will be directly offered for open booking, instead of going through another round of balloting.
The move was among various measures that National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Wednesday (March 4) to meet the housing needs of different groups, including single unwed parents and seniors.
Mr Wong noted that more balance flats will be offered for open booking earlier by cutting out ROF exercises.
HDB had rolled out an open booking option last June for unselected flats left over from ROF exercises to allow home seekers to apply for a new flat all year round instead of waiting for semi-annual sales exercises.
"Now that we have some experience with this open booking system, we are ready to extend it further," Mr Wong said.
"This will enable home seekers with urgent needs to access flats more quickly."
More help for unwed parents and seniors
Help is also at hand for vulnerable groups such as unwed parents and seniors.
Single unwed parents aged 21 and above will be allowed to buy new three-room flats in non-mature estates, on top of the existing two-room flexi flats in non-mature estates and resale flats, said Mr Wong.
"For those who have insufficient finances and need a place to stay, we will continue to consider them for public rental if it is in the child's best interests," he told the House.
Single unwed parents who require assistance have to approach the HDB.
The minister also announced improvements to existing schemes that aim to help more seniors monetise their flats to fund their retirement.
The Silver Housing Bonus will be increased to $30,000, up from $20,000.
Introduced in 2013, the Silver Housing Bonus helps elderly households supplement their retirement income when they move into a three-room or smaller flat.
To make the scheme more attractive, seniors will be required only to top up a flat rate of $60,000 to their CPF Retirement Account, with no second top-up needed.
Seniors also no longer have to sell a larger flat and move into a smaller one to qualify for the bonus. They will now be eligible as long as they buy a three-room or smaller flat.
The Lease Buyback Scheme bonus will also be increased by 50 per cent, up to a maximum of $30,000.
Owners can get a maximum cash bonus of $30,000 for three-room and smaller flats, $15,000 for four-room flats and $7,500 for five-room and larger flats.
The scheme allows flat owners aged 65 and above to sell part of their leases back to the HDB, regardless of flat types. They need to have at least 20 years of lease remaining to sell. At the same time, they must keep a minimum of 15 to 30 years of lease, depending on their age.
The improvements to both schemes will take effect from Wednesday.
Mr Wong also said his ministry will share more details in the coming year on a new model for BTO flats in prime locations.
He noted that in some prime locations, the prices of resale HDB flats are beyond the reach of many young couples who are just starting out.
"If this trend continues, it will mean that certain public housing estates become exclusive areas that only a few can afford, and will lead to social stratification. So we have to do something about this," he said.
The basic idea behind the new model is to sell such flats at more affordable prices, but impose tighter condition, he added.
This is a major change that has to be carefully studied as it will also have an impact on the resale market, he said.