Looking forward to 2017: Housing

Business as usual, with 17,000 new BTO flats

Transactions of more than $1 million for well-located flats in or around the city - such as units at premium project Pinnacle @ Duxton (right) - will continue, says International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong.
Transactions of more than $1 million for well-located flats in or around the city - such as units at premium project Pinnacle @ Duxton (above) - will continue, says International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

HDB will start laying the groundwork to cut waiting times for young couples by 2018

2017 looks set to become the year when policy changes in housing are being quietly set in motion behind the scenes. On the stage, however, few fireworks are expected.

In October, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, in an interview, highlighted some changes to come.

One of the most significant is the launch of new flats for young couples with shorter waiting times, as part of a national strategy to help Singaporeans settle down and have children. Mr Wong said he wanted to cut the wait to two to three years, down from the current three to four years. They will likely be introduced in 2018.

Thus, the coming year will be when the preparatory work is laid out: The HDB will "plan and prepare the land for several new sites" for these Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, wrote Mr Wong this month.

"These units will not be ready next year, but I hope we can begin to offer them by 2018," he added.

Another impending change is in what more can be done to help elderly home owners, "especially when it comes to right-sizing (their flats)", said Mr Wong. He gave no further details, adding only that it would be delivered within his term.

  • 2016: Notable events


    Since October last year, a spate of lift accidents has caused inconvenience, injury and even death.

    This year, the authorities tightened maintenance rules and prescribed safety features. A $450 million Lift Enhancement Programme was introduced to help town councils improve ageing lifts. Town councils must also set aside money for a new lift replacement fund.


    Singapore's first new Housing Board town in two decades will be bordered by greenery, include a 5km forest corridor and feature a car-free centre in a park, with traffic running underneath.

    Plans for the 700ha town of Tengah, which will eventually have 42,000 homes, were revealed this year. However, the first flats will be launched only in 2018.


    HDB blocks themselves became a cause of high-rise "littering", with three incidents of falling facade elements in as many months - though no one was injured.

    A sunshade in Tampines was partially dislodged in September, a piece of facade fell from a block in Circuit Road in October, and a slab of plaster fell from the top of an Hougang block last month.


    After public consultation last year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said in May that it needed more time to review whether short-term rental rules should change.

    It is illegal to rent out homes for less than six months, but that has not stopped Singaporeans from doing so on sites like Airbnb.

    In October, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told The Straits Times that he understands concerns about home- sharing, but Singapore is "not saying no forever". Mindsets may change, which is why businesses like Airbnb are not banned.

    Janice Heng

While these changes are percolating, there is likely to be little action on the market.

Barring any surprises, the biggest events of next year might simply be business as usual: the quarterly BTO launches, with a total of 17,000 new flats up for sale. The first of them, in February, will see about 4,100 flats offered in Clementi, Punggol, Tampines and Woodlands.

As for the resale market, Chris International director Chris Koh summed up experts' consensus on the year ahead: "I don't think we will see much change. We've already seen prices consolidate."

The resale market has been largely flat for the past two years.

This year, HDB resale prices fell a marginal 0.1 per cent in the first quarter and stayed completely flat for the following two quarters, according to official figures.

If longstanding cooling measures are not relaxed, experts expect this stability to continue into 2017 as global uncertainty and economic weakness keep resale demand weak. International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong said: "Young families will be more careful about making a commitment."

SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak said things could be different if economic growth and job prospects improve, as this could bring about a modest price rise of 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent in the second half. "In the absence of such a recovery, I think we may see prices remaining very range-bound around 0 per cent," he added.

The exception will be well-located flats in or around the city, said Mr Ku, who thinks that transactions of more than $1 million - for units at premium project Pinnacle @ Duxton, for instance - will continue.

Resale deals are expected to increase as sellers adjust to the lower price norm. For beleaguered property agents, more transactions would be good news. Apart from the slow market, agents face competition from do-it-yourself online portals that let buyers and sellers bypass middlemen.

"Going into 2017, the real estate agency industry will need to transform itself to remain relevant," said Council for Estate Agencies executive director Lee Kwong Weng.

Some agencies have created mobile apps for their agents, and even online consumer ratings of agents to build trust, he noted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2016, with the headline 'Business as usual, with 17,000 new BTO flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe