Coronavirus: 7,800 BTO flats to be launched in August; some projects may be delayed up to 6 months

Flat buyers will be informed of the revised probable completion dates through their My HDBPage account. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Home buyers who could not apply for a Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flat in May because of the circuit breaker will be able to do so in three months' time, as the flats originally scheduled for launch this month will be combined with the August BTO exercise.

This is even as HDB said on Friday (May 29) that some BTO projects are expected to be delayed by up to six months due to the coronavirus outbreak.

HDB will offer about 7,800 BTO flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang, Pasir Ris, Tampines, Tengah and Woodlands in August.

Another 5,700 flats in Bishan, Sembawang, Tampines, Tengah and Toa Payoh will be offered in November.

Of these, the flats in Choa Chu Kang and Tampines North from the August launch, and those in Tengah from the November launch, will have shorter waiting times, HDB said.

The update comes after HDB said in April that the May BTO exercise would be postponed until further notice. In May, 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 be launched.

In line with the continued suspension of senior-centric activities, the launch of the assisted living flats for seniors in Bukit Batok will be deferred until a later date, "when we are better able to reach out to seniors to share the details of the flat offerings with them", HDB said.

One applicant who will be applying for a BTO flat in Geylang come August is Mr Aiden Chia. The 25-year-old who works in finance had applied unsuccessfully for a flat in Tampines in November 2019.

Mr Chia said: "I was a little disappointed when the May BTO exercise was delayed but, of course, it's understandable given the Covid-19 situation. It was worrying when HDB said the exercise was delayed until further notice.

"Young couples like myself who are keen to get on the ballot are already looking at a pretty long runway before we can actually move in to our flats, so I'm relieved that HDB has been quick to inform the public that the exercise will be held in August."

Property experts believe that the larger number of flats in August could mean a higher chance for applicants to secure a flat.

Huttons Asia director of research Mr Lee Sze Teck said: "Buyers have a wide pool of flats to choose from and this may dilute the subscription rate."

Chief executive of Propnex Realty Mr Ismail Gafoor also expects that BTO flat prices will not change much despite the combined BTO exercise. This is because BTO prices are based on current market prices and the public housing market has been relatively stable, with no growth in the first quarter, he said.

However, some BTO projects are expected to be delayed by up to six months because of the suspension of construction activities amid the circuit breaker period.

HDB said it is working closely with building contractors and the Building and Construction Authority on resuming construction works at the various sites in a phased manner.

Flat buyers will be informed of the revised probable completion dates through their My HDBPage account.

Aside from the suspension of construction activities during the circuit breaker period, HDB explained that the completion of some BTO projects is also expected to be delayed because of "strict safe management measures that need to be put in place at worksites to prevent major Covid-19 outbreaks".

Mr Ismail said the delay is understandable, with delays also expected across the board throughout the construction industry.

He suggested buyers consider HDB resale flats as an option if they cannot wait.

"Based on today's resale market, it might be a more viable option for people who are looking for HDB flats. They would be able to get one at a reasonable price, without any delays and can occupy it immediately," he said.

HDB also said upgrading works will not resume and it is working with BCA and its contractors to assess how and when works can resume in a safe manner.

The board added that some critical services will be resumed come June 2 by appointments scheduled by the board.

No walk-ins will be allowed at the HDB Hub and HDB branches. HDB officers will contact customers directly to schedule their appointments, and customers will not be able to book their own appointments.

Services that will resume include the booking of flats, key collection for new flats and rental flats, signing of agreements for lease, completion of resale flat transactions and transfer of flat ownership, and financial counselling on assistance measures.

Housing inspections for ongoing resale transactions as well as critical maintenance works will also resume for those with scheduled appointments.

Those who are visiting the HDB Hub and HDB branches must observe safe distancing and safe management measures.

From June 8, HDB said it will schedule appointments for other services progressively, including the signing of tenancy documents and issuance of keys for commercial properties.

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