BTO flats launch in May deferred, subsequent launches likely to be affected amid circuit breaker

This comes after the extension of circuit breaker measures to June 1. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - The sales exercise for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in May will be deferred until further notice, said the Housing Board (HDB).

Some 3,700 BTO flats in Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Pasir Ris and Tampines, and about 160 assisted living flats for seniors in Bukit Batok were supposed to launch next month.

This comes after the extension of circuit breaker measures to June 1 was announced, in order to halt further spread of Covid-19. The HDB said last Friday (April 24) that the deferment was due to the closure of most non-essential workplaces, which include worksites.

Said the HDB in a statement to The Straits Times on Tuesday: "We are postponing the May 2020 sales exercise to a later date and will announce more details when the new date is firmed up."

The HDB typically holds four sales exercises for new flats each year in February, May, August and November.

When asked, the HDB did not specify whether the subsequent sales launches would be similarly affected.

But property experts told ST on Tuesday that it was likely that the August and November sales exercises would be deferred to a later date to accommodate the delay of the May launch.

Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie said: "Logically speaking, if the May launch is deferred to June or July, the HDB may consider deferring the August launch to a later date to avoid a sudden influx of supply in the market."

She added that it was unlikely that HDB would offer a new batch of flats within two month of a launch.

A further 4,100 BTO flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Geylang, Tampines and Woodlands are scheduled to be released in August.

ERA Realty head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said it was likely both August and November sales exercises would be pushed back, but that all four launches this year would go ahead as planned.

Chances for a combined mega launch for May and August flats are relatively low, he said, adding that it would not be favourable to homeseekers, as each applicant can apply for only one unit per exercise. This means a combined launch would reduce their chances of getting a flat.

He said: "The most important thing is to satisfy the housing needs of the majority. HDB will likely see what the application rate is at the next launch before deciding on the next steps."

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced last December that the HDB would offer 16,000 to 17,000 new flats this year, up from last year's 14,600.

Given economic uncertainties due to the coronavirus crisis, Ms Sun said many buyers who were not urgently seeking a flat might take a "wait and see" approach. Those in urgent need of a flat might now have to turn to the resale market, she added.

Marine service engineer Gary Ng, 28, who is married and has a newborn son, had plans to apply for a flat in Tengah.

But Mr Ng, whose income has been affected due to the Covid-19 outbreak, said he was not in a rush to get a flat and would prefer to take a more cautious approach.

"Although there's some uncertainty whether the project will be delayed, I believe that when everything is more settled down, it will be completed in good time," he said on Tuesday.

Previously, the HDB told ST that construction of BTO projects would be expedited after circuit breaker measures are lifted.

The agency said it would "work closely with our contractors to track and monitor any impact on the progress of our projects and expedite works when the suspension is lifted".

Software engineer Song Kwong Wee, 27, said on Tuesday that the postponement of the May launch would not affect his plans greatly if the estimated completion date of the flats remained unchanged.

He and his girlfriend were looking forward to applying for a four-room flat in Pasir Ris, where they both currently live.

He said: "But even if it's delayed, I'm not very worried, as it gives us more time to increase our income. We might be able to look at resale flats instead."

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