15,700 singles bought HDB flats in non-mature estates since rule change in 2013

Artist impressions of HBD's new BTO flats at Garden Vines @ Tengah. More two-room build-to-order (BTO) flats will be offered in the non-mature towns of Choa Chu Kang, Tengah and Woodlands. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More two-room build-to-order (BTO) flats will be offered in the non-mature towns of Choa Chu Kang, Tengah and Woodlands.

This comes as 15,700 singles secured homes following a 2013 rule change which allowed singles aged 35 and above to buy new flats as first-time applicants. Of the lot, about 7,700 have collected the keys to their new homes.

Among the buyers were elderly citizens, aged 55 and above, who qualify to buy a flat under the Housing Boards's two-room Flexi Scheme. The scheme in general caters to families, singles and the elderly. Purchase and ownership conditions vary.

For instance, seniors can pick the length of lease for the flats.

Before 2013, singles could buy a flat only from the resale market.

Demand was high in the early years of the rule change, said the HDB on Sunday (Feb 23). There were 37.6 applicants on average vying for a single flat in 2013, but this number has since tapered to 2.4 in 2019.

The HDB said this is because the flat supply for 2-room Flexi BTO flats in non-mature estates has remained steady at an average of about 4,000 units per year since 2014.

It added that more such flats will be offered in Choa Chu Kang, Tengah and Woodlands for upcoming BTO exercises in May and August this year.

HDB said it will continue to monitor the demand and calibrate its supply of two-room flats to better meet the housing needs of this group so that more singles will be able to realise their dream of owning a home.

Among its efforts to support affordable flat ownership among singles, HDB said that those who bought a new flat before Sept 11 last year received up to $40,000 in housing grants comprising the Additional Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant (up to $20,000) and the Special CPF Housing Grant (up to $20,000).

From July 2013 to last December, about $251 million in such grants was disbursed to about 11,400 singles buying BTO flats.

The two grants were replaced by the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) last September.

The new grant gives eligible first-timer singles aged at least 35 and earning not more than $4,500 a month up to $40,000.

They can receive this grant whether they buy a new or resale flat, and with no restriction on flat type and location.

The monthly income ceiling criterion was also raised last September, from $6,000 to $7,000 for eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above to buy a flat from HDB; buy a resale flat on the open market with the CPF Housing Grant; and get an HDB housing loan for the purchase of a new or resale flat.

Driving instructor Chua Wee Lam, who applied for a 2-room Flexi flat in Sengkang in a February 2016 BTO exercise, moved into his home last Christmas.

The 45-year-old had previously been living with his parents in Bukit Panjang. Mr Chua received about $20,000 worth of grants for his $113,000 flat.

With the grant, he was able to pay up in full for his new home through his CPF.

He said: "I was influenced by my single friends who bought a flat of their own upon reaching 35. Owning my own place is like a dream come true.

"I never thought of a condominium unit as an option since citizens get a significant number of benefits in the form of grants if they want a flat. A flat is more affordable."

With the number of singles growing in tandem with the rest of the population, it is important that housing policies ensure that this group continues to be catered to, said property experts.

Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie, noted: "In 2008, the number of singles was 918,700. Since then it has surged past the 1 million mark to 1,057, 200 in 2018 - an increase of about 15 per cent. There is a need to build more flats to address this growing number of singles.

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