85% of BTO projects face delays of 6 to 9 months

Covid-19 has led to manpower and supply disruptions, causing longer waits for flats

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.

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

Yesterday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the global Covid-19 situation makes it difficult for construction companies 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 on the safety and well-being of local and foreign workers, and quality.

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

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 last year, when China went into lockdown, said Mr Lee. In March last year, when Malaysia's movement curbs kicked in, supply chains were further disrupted.

It was only in August last year 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.

"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 Plantation Acres in Tengah.

She and her husband had expected to receive keys to their unit at the end of next year, so they held their solemnisation ceremony last October to spread out their wedding and home improvement expenses.

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

"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 home improvement," 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 in April 2019.

Their flats 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 not to think about it. Before you know it, it's key collection time," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2021, with the headline '85% of BTO projects face delays of 6 to 9 months'. Subscribe