Home buyers sad, disappointed over longer BTO delays due to Covid-19

Ms Nisa Noorkhalam and her husband, Mr Yunos Jamil, with their son Noah Yunos at the construction site of their flat in Yishun. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - It's been five long years of waiting for administrative assistant Karen Lim, but she is finally in sight of getting the keys to her build-to-order (BTO) flat in Punggol.

She had hoped to move in early this year but construction hold-ups due to the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the schedule by six more frustrating months to this August.

Getting her hands on the keys will be a long-held dream come true for 49-year-old Ms Lim, who has lived with her parents all her life.

"When I have my own home, I can have more freedom, although I will make sure to visit them often," said Ms Lim, who applied for her two-room flat in Waterfront I @ Northshore under the HDB scheme for singles.

"But the delay makes me sad, especially when I see neighbours from nearby projects sharing photos of them collecting their keys."

She is crossing her fingers that there will be no further delays even as the Housing Board said the completion dates of some projects may be pushed back even further as a result of the tighter border measures affecting the construction sector.

Many BTO projects are expected to be behind schedule by a year or more, up from the original delay timeline of six to nine months announced by the HDB before the latest entry restrictions on South Asian workers took effect.

The HDB said last month that about 85 per cent of the 89 ongoing BTO projects were behind schedule, although the agency is taking steps to expedite construction. That means about 43,000 households will get the keys to their flats late.

The possibility of a longer waiting time weighs heavily on process technician Nisa Noorkhalam, 31, who recently had a baby boy.

Ms Nisa and husband Yunos Jamil, 33, who works as a customer engineer, were looking forward to moving into their four-room BTO flat in Casa Spring @ Yishun early next year.

But they will now have to wait until at least the third quarter of next year, with the threat of an even longer waiting time looming over them.

"The waiting time seems to be getting longer and longer. If we could let go of the BTO flat without penalty and get an HDB resale flat, we will definitely consider doing that," she said.

The couple was unable to extend the rental for their condo unit, so they have moved into the five-room HDB flat of Ms Nisa's parents in Woodlands and will stay there until they get their keys.

But there is a positive note, she said, as her parents can now take care of their baby when she returns to work next month.

Mr Jerry Loo and wife Corrine Ho, both 30 and working as bank executives, were looking forward to embracing married life in a new home after their January wedding but will now have to wait six more months.

Their four-room Bidadari BTO flat in the Woodleigh Hillside project will be ready only around the third quarter of next year, forcing the couple to stay separately with their families.

Mr Loo said renting is not an option as the money could be put to better use in the future, adding: "The small excitements of getting our own flat, renovating it and enjoying the newlywed life and planning for kids are now pushed back, so that's the disappointing part."

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