Housing programmes see HDB's deficit grow to $2.66b, the highest so far

The cumulative government grants provided to HDB since its establishment in 1960 now stands at $36.22 billion.
The cumulative government grants provided to HDB since its establishment in 1960 now stands at $36.22 billion.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - The Housing Board's deficit climbed to $2.66 billion in the financial year ended March 31, from about $1.98 billion the year before.

This is the highest deficit figure so far.

It comes largely on the back of a gross loss on the sale of flats, disbursement of Central Provident Fund (CPF) housing grants and the expected loss for flats that are currently under development.

In its annual report published on Friday (Oct 23), HDB recorded a deficit of about $3.11 billion from its housing programmes, offset by a $446 million surplus from other activities.

In the 2019/2020 financial year, $631 million in CPF housing grants were given to eligible buyers of resale flats and executive condominiums, compared with the $532 million in the previous financial year.

On the upgrading front, the Board saw a decrease in deficit to $440 million, down from $557 million in the previous financial year. The upgrading programmes for housing estates are the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), Neighbourhood Renewal Programme, and Lift Upgrading Programme for housing estates.

The decrease in deficit was due to a lower expenditure for the HIP, as compared to the previous financial year, said HDB.

The board recorded a lower gross loss of $721 million, attributed to the lower number of flats sold. A total of 11,609 units was sold in the 2019/2020 financial year as compared with 16,608 units in the previous year.

Every year, the HDB receives a grant from the Ministry of Finance to finance its deficit. This year, the grant is $2.69 billion, compared with $2.03 billion the previous year.

The cumulative government grants provided to HDB since its establishment in 1960 now stands at $36.22 billion.

Last September, the HDB announced a simplified grant structure Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) and raised income ceilings for eligible buyers.

Under the EHG, eligible buyers of new and resale flats can get a grant of up to $80,000, with no restrictions on their choice of flat type and location.

The Re-Offer of Balance Flats exercises were also scrapped in March this year, a move to help home buyers access flats more quickly.

All unsold Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will first be offered through Sale of Balance Flats exercises, and those that remain unselected will be directly offered for open booking, which allows home seekers to apply for a new flat all year round.

Today, 80 per cent of Singapore's population live in HDB flats, with about nine in 10 owning their homes.

HDB chairman Bobby Chin said 2020 is a milestone year for the board as it marks its 60th anniversary.

He said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has, however, shown us that even the best-laid plans can be disrupted by unforeseen challenges. It has also uncovered opportunities in designing and planning future homes, especially in the areas of health and wellness," he said.

"With our fingers on the pulse of the built environment, HDB will remain resilient and focused on our goal of developing the best possible homes for Singaporeans."