askST: Why do singles buying a HDB flat have to pay a premium of $15,000?

Reader Stanley Ong asked why singles have to pay a $15,000 premium over married couples when applying for a two-room Housing Board flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme.

Housing reporter Ng Jun Sen answered.

When anyone buys a new Housing Board flat, they already enjoy subsidies that have already been factored into the flat's price.

But, this subsidy is meant to benefit a couple, or at least two occupants, said the HDB.

Without the $15,000 premium, some might ask why singles who live alone should enjoy the same subsidies as two or more occupants.

So, when single Singaporeans book a flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme, the price difference accounts for the fact that they are the sole beneficiaries of the subsidies.

HDB flats around Bukit Panjang as seen from Senja Road. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Said a HDB spokesman: "All new HDB flats are sold at a subsidised price with the subsidies intended to benefit a couple."

The spokesman also explained that singles who subsequently marry another citizen or a Singapore permanent resident can apply for the CPF Housing Top-Up Grant after marriage and enjoy the same subsidy as a family.

This means that single homebuyers who get married later will be able to get back the $15,000, which will be credited back to their CPF Ordinary Accounts.

The rationale also applies to the difference in housing grants between singles and couples, such as the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG).

Said the spokesman: "When buying a flat from HDB, eligible first-timer singles can enjoy an AHG and SHG of up to $40,000, half of the quantum for eligible first-timer families."

The scheme to allow eligible singles aged 35 and above to buy new HDB flats only kicked in from July 2013. They may only buy new 2-room Flexi flats in non-mature estates on a full 99-year lease.

Before then, singles could only buy from the resale market with grants that were also half that for couples.