Kim Keat project the top draw in May Build-To-Order launch, which features new measures to help young couples

An artist's impression of Kim Keat Beacon in Toa Payoh. There were almost 2,400 applicants for 542 three- and four-room flats in Kim Keat Beacon as of 5pm on May 28, 2018.
An artist's impression of Kim Keat Beacon in Toa Payoh. There were almost 2,400 applicants for 542 three- and four-room flats in Kim Keat Beacon as of 5pm on May 28, 2018.PHOTO: HDB

SINGAPORE - A Built-To-Order (BTO) project in Toa Payoh drew the most applications in the latest sale of new flats by the Housing Board (HDB), with this month's launch featuring initiatives to help young couples get their first home quicker.

There were almost 2,400 applicants for 542 three- and four-room flats in Kim Keat Beacon as of 5pm on Monday (May 28). Applications are due to close at midnight.

In total, the May sales exercise had 7,603 applicants vying for 3,970 units - an application rate of 1.9 - as at 5pm on Monday.

Mr Eugene Lim, ERA Realty's key executive officer, said application rates were on the lower side compared with previous sales launches due to the less ideal locations this time.

On Kim Keat Beacon's popularity, he said: "This is to be expected, as Toa Payoh has always been a popular location among homeowners, given its central location and comprehensive amenities."

The last time a BTO project was launched in the Kim Keat vicinity was in 2012, and it was a studio apartment project meant for the elderly.

This month's exercise is the first to feature the new measures announced at the debate on the budget for the Ministry of National Development this year.

First, the assessment of income for young couples - used for housing loans and grants - will be deferred to just before they collect the keys to their homes instead of at the time of application.

Second, those applying for a flat under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS) and Senior Priority Scheme may do so if their married child or parents are living within 4km of the flat they are applying for. The radius was previously 2km.

"Without these new policies, we would see a lower number of applicants," said International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong. But he also warned that postponing the income assessment might lead to couples committing early due to "kiasu-ness" instead of a need, leading to higher dropout rates.

ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak said it was difficult to gauge from this round if there had been more applicants because of the new measures kicking in, although he expected the extension in proximity to lead to greater demand.

But he said that the deferment of income assessment may not lead to a spike in applicants. "The students and full-time national servicemen this policy is targetting are maybe about 20, 21 years old. But the (average) marriage age is about 30… so this deferment may not contribute greatly to the demand for BTO flats," he said.

ERA's Mr Lim echoed this view, saying: "First-time applicants tend to have worked for a few years before committing to a house as it is a significant financial burden. Hence, application rates are not expected to be affected heavily."

Ms Guinevere Teong, 24, a public service manager, and her boyfriend, Mr Lester Tan, 27, a bank analyst, applied for a four-room flat in Kim Keat Beacon, their first BTO application.

As at 5pm on Monday, there were 2,159 applicants going for 441 such flats in Kim Keat - about five applicants for each unit.

The couple, who have been together for a year and a half, applied under the MCPS scheme as Ms Teong's parents live in Kim Keat Avenue.

"It is great as it would give us a higher chance of securing a flat near our loved ones," said Ms Teong.

The next BTO launch, which is in August, will offer about 4,300 flats in Punggol and Yishun.