BTO flat waiting times between 4 and 5 years, even with Covid-19 delays: Desmond Lee

Projects including Queen's Arc in Queenstown, launched in August, are expected to take 5.5 years to complete. PHOTO: HDB

SINGAPORE - The average waiting time for ongoing Build-to-Order (BTO) flats is between four and five years, even after taking into account delays brought about by the pandemic, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

"Some have said that waiting times have risen to six to seven years. This is not the case," he told Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 5). "By and large, barring further unexpected developments, most flat buyers can expect to move into their flats within four to five years after booking their flats."

The minister was responding to Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC), who had asked if estimated completion dates are expected to be pushed back, given the impact that Covid-19 has had on the construction sector.

For BTO projects launched this year and last year, estimated waiting times range between three and 5½ years.

The Hougang Citrine development, launched in August, is expected to be completed in three years, and the waiting time for Alkaff Breeze in Bidadari, launched in February, is just over three years. Garden Court @ Tengah, launched last November, has a waiting time of about 3½ years.

But several projects - including Queen's Arc in Queenstown, launched in August - are expected to take longer at about 5½ years.

Mr Lee said this is due to difficult construction conditions and taller buildings, which lengthen the construction time and may have contributed to the impression that overall wait times are longer.

The Housing Board (HDB) has swiftly brought new contractors on board to minimise delays to projects affected by construction firm Greatearth's insolvency, and has also put in place measures to reduce the impact that Covid-19 has had on the construction sector.

Steps have also been taken to support affected home buyers, Mr Lee added.

Ms Chan then asked how the Ministry of National Development (MND) will ensure flat prices remain "healthy", given that more BTO flats will be pushed out next year in what is currently "a very vibrant resale market".

MND keeps a close eye on the property sector in general, Mr Lee replied. He outlined several reasons for high housing demand, including pandemic pressures which have led to people wanting more space, or considering buying flats on the resale market given BTO delays.

This was why HDB launched 14,600 BTO flats in 2019, 16,800 in 2020, and is on track to launch 17,000 flats this year.

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Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) then rose to ask for the maximum number of BTO flats that HDB can supply next year, given that it has pledged to launch more than the 17,000 flats planned for this year.

"I am quite sure that I am not alone in this House, where many of us... receive many requests from residents appealing that they just can't get a flat early enough," he said. "What is the maximum that we could go up to, to meet the pent-up demand - because demand clearly outstrips supply?" he asked.

Mr Lee said next year's flat supply will be balanced against the supply in the resale market.

"We have to keep an eye on the overall ecosystem of housing - both public and private, BTO and resale - to ensure that the housing ecosystem remains stable while meeting the aspirations of Singaporeans," he said.

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