85% of BTO projects face delays of 6 to 9 months; 43,000 households affected

Less noisy construction activities at BTO sites may be allowed to be carried out on Sundays and public holidays to speed things up.
Less noisy construction activities at BTO sites may be allowed to be carried out on Sundays and public holidays to speed things up.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - About 43,000 households will get the keys to their Build-To-Order (BTO) flats late owing to construction delays that are due to manpower shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Of the 89 ongoing BTO projects, about 85 per cent are around six to nine months behind schedule, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a written parliamentary reply on Monday (April 5).

Of the 43,000 affected households as at the end of February, the Housing Board has assisted around 240 households with interim rental housing flats.

On Wednesday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the global Covid-19 situation makes it difficult for construction firms to bring in manpower, but the HDB is taking steps to expedite construction works.

To speed things up, less noisy construction activities at BTO sites may be allowed to be carried out on Sundays and public holidays where possible, said Mr Lee.

While the HDB has taken additional measures to reduce the length of delays, Mr Lee said it is vital to ensure that there is no compromise to the safety and well-being of local and foreign workers, and quality.

On Monday, MPs Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) had asked for an update on the backlog of BTO projects facing construction delays.

Beside BTO projects, construction timelines for private residential, commercial and industrial projects have been affected too, said Mr Lee.

All building works were halted during the two-month circuit breaker period, which started on April 7 last year.

But prior to that, the construction sector had been affected since January 2020, when China went into lockdown, said Mr Lee. In March, when Malaysia's movement curbs kicked in, supply chains were further disrupted.

It was only in August that most building works in Singapore could resume.

"Even then, Covid-19 safety measures impacted productivity and the speed of construction, and there were frequent start-stops as Covid-19 infections continued to pop up," said Mr Lee.

He added: "Even now, as Covid infections worldwide continue to be high, it has also been difficult for firms to bring in enough workers and the sector is facing manpower shortages."

Home buyers with housing difficulties and no alternatives may approach HDB for assistance.

Environmental sustainable design engineer Natalyn Guam, 26, is among those facing a nine-month delay for her four-room BTO flat in Tengah, in a project called Plantation Acres.

She and her husband had expected to receive keys to their unit at the end of 2022, so they held their solemnisation ceremony in October 2020 in order to spread out their wedding and home renovation expenses.

But until their flat is ready - delayed to the third quarter of 2023 - the couple will continue their current arrangement that sees them shuttling between their parents' homes, staying in Pasir Ris on weekdays and Jurong West on weekends.

"The travelling takes a toll on us, but on the bright side, this delay has allowed us to spend more time with our parents and we can also save more money for the renovation," said Ms Guam.

Others who are not affected by the construction delays count themselves lucky.

Assistant executive Angelina Han, 30, and her fiance, together with her future in-laws, had applied for two units in Garden Vale @ Tengah under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme.

Their four-room and three-room flats, which they applied for in April 2019, are estimated to be completed in the third quarter of 2023. Ms Han said she has not been informed of any delays.

"I think our waiting time of four years is not as bad - at least it's not five or six years. I just try to not think about it. Before you know it, it's key collection time," she said.