SINGAPORE - As property seekers continue to home in on flats in mature estates, the Housing Board (HDB) has rolled out more Build-To-Order (BTO) projects in these prime locations.
It said on Sunday (July 25) that 13 such projects were offered last year, compared with nine in 2017 - an almost 50 per cent rise.
Projects in mature estates formed 44 per cent of the overall BTO launches in 2017 but the proportion climbed to 55 per cent last year, said HDB.
Still, it was not easy to bag a unit in a choice area like Bishan, Toa Payoh or Kallang/Whampoa. The average application rate for a BTO flat in mature estates rose from 2.8 times in 2017 to 6.7 times last year.
The average rates in non-mature estates, which include Bukit Batok and Tengah, were 2.1 times in 2017 and 4.8 times last year.
Overall, there has been buoyant demand for new flats in the past four years, with the number of applicants vying for each BTO unit increasing from 2.3 in 2017 to 5.8 in 2020.
Some projects in particular have drawn sky-high interest. In the May launch, Telok Blangah Beacon in Bukit Merah attracted almost 50 applicants for each of its 70 four-room flats, despite a waiting time of more than five years for the project to be completed and a starting price of $602,000.
National Development Minister Desmond Lee said in a Facebook post on Sunday that almost 25,600 new flats have been launched in mature estates in the last four years.
Mr Lee said that he had received messages from young couples asking for assistance to apply for BTO flats in mature estates.
“They wish to start their own families in a new home, but yet live close enough to their parents who are already living in these mature estates for mutual care and support,” he said.
At the same launch, a four-room unit in the non-mature estate of Woodlands started from $275,000.
The longer waiting time is caused by Covid-19 construction delays. Previously, buyers of a standard BTO flat waited about three to four years to get their keys.
Flats in mature estates were equally hotly contested in recent Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises, which typically happen twice a year. They offer units - not taken up or returned by buyers after selection - from previous BTO exercises in which the projects are completed or in various stages of construction.
The average SBF application rate in mature estates is 5.4 times, compared with 4.8 in non-mature areas.
Some mature towns with fewer BTO projects proved to be more popular with home seekers, such as Clementi with an application rate of 8.3 times and Queenstown with 6.4 times.
On Sunday, HDB said the overall strong demand for public housing can be attributed to marriage and family formation, as well as changing lifestyles and social aspirations.
Data from the latest census showed that the number of married couples rose from 880,800 in 2010 to 977,300 last year, with more marriages registered in the second half of the decade compared with the first.
In the near term, higher demand can be expected from the larger cohorts of people born in the late 1980s to 1990s as they reach marriageable age, said HDB.
It noted that more young couples, singles and their parents prefer to live on their own instead of with extended families, as average household sizes fell from 3.5 persons in 2010 to 3.2 last year.
There is also an increasing preference to live close to family members.
Findings from the HDB Sample Household Survey, which is conducted once every five years, showed that married couples aged 54 and below, who chose to live near their parents, grew from 21 per cent in 2013 to 24.3 per cent in 2018.
The same trend was linked to older residents aged 55 and above, with the proportion of those living near their married children increasing from 21.4 per cent in 2013 to 22.9 per cent in 2018.
More have also taken up the HDB's Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), which gives buyers up to $30,000 to buy a resale flat within 4km of their parents' or child's HDB flat or private property.
From 2017 to last year, resale transactions that tapped the PHG expanded by about 21 per cent, across both mature and non-mature estates.
Still, there are many who prefer BTO homes in established locations - a fact acknowledged by HDB.
"While the majority of past BTO supply has traditionally come from the non-mature estates, there is a continued need to provide for more new flats in mature estates as well, so that the children of HDB residents living in mature estates can also have the opportunity to live close to their parents and parents-in-law for better family support," it said.
Mr Lee has said that HDB plans to build BTO flats in prime areas, and a new housing model will be introduced to keep these flats affordable and inclusive.
While the locations of prime areas have yet to be defined, it is understood that these will be what HDB typically considers as mature estates. They will include the future Greater Southern Waterfront and city centre.
HDB said it will continue to maintain a steady supply of BTO flats and is on track to launch about 17,000 units this year as planned. This will be supplemented by flats offered through SBF exercises and open bookings.
This year's supply is higher than the 14,600 flats launched in 2019 and 16,800 last year.
Next month, HDB will offer about 4,900 BTO flats in Hougang, Jurong East, Kallang/Whampoa, Queenstown and Tampines.
About 3,100 to 3,600 BTO flats will be offered in Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Jurong West, Kallang/Whampoa and Tengah in November.