More BTO launches in 2020 to meet additional demand

Potential home-buyers looking at a model of flats at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, on Dec 12, 2019.
Potential home-buyers looking at a model of flats at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, on Dec 12, 2019.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Roll-out of up to 17,000 flats to cater to demand after policy changes, up from 14,600 this year

Around 16,000 to 17,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will be launched next year to meet additional demand following key policy changes this year, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced in a blog post yesterday.

New flats will be available in Sembawang and Toa Payoh next February. They will also be launched in Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Pasir Ris and Tampines next May.

The Ministry of National Development had raised the income ceiling in September for eligible first-time home buyers and introduced a new Enhanced Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant.

More young couples can benefit from the increased housing subsidies for their first Housing Board flat, enjoying up to $80,000 in grants when they buy a new flat and up to $160,000 in grants when they buy a resale flat in the open market.

The income ceilings for HDB flats and executive condominiums (ECs) have been raised by $2,000, to $14,000 and $16,000 respectively. "These changes will lead to greater demand for public housing," Mr Wong said.

The projected number of BTO flats for next year is more than this year's supply of 14,600 flats.

Experts said the increase in flat supply will give home seekers more housing options amid increased demand.

PropNex Realty's chief executive Ismail Gafoor said this year's average subscription rate was 3.6 times, higher than that of 2018 and 2017, which was 2.6 and 2.3 respectively.

"Seeing that demand for new flats has been going up and will continue to go up next year, given the new housing grant, I'd say 17,000 new flats is a sweet spot," said Mr Ismail.

However, others were more cautious. Huttons Asia director of research Lee Sze Teck said the expected increase in demand could potentially be met by unsold BTO flats from earlier launches, which he estimates to be in the "low thousands".

Ms Christine Sun, head of research at OrangeTee & Tie, said the projected supply is "slightly higher than expected". She noted that more than 23,000 HDB flats will be reaching their minimum occupation period next year and can be sold on the open market. "The increased competition may have some downward pressure on prices of new resale flats," she added.

Over the last five years, around 150,000 families have booked or collected the keys to their first homes.

Mr Wong noted that many of these first-time buyers have purchased flats in non-mature estates like Punggol, Sengkang or Tengah, which the Government priced at "generous discounts to the market". As a result, the majority of buyers of these flats "spent little or zero cash outlay on their mortgage payments", he said.

Besides ensuring housing affordability, he said the Government is "investing significantly" in the upgrading of HDB estates and has spent about $3 billion on various upgrading programmes over the last five years.


"In the coming years, we will continue to do more to provide better, greener and smarter homes across all HDB precincts," he added.

The Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS), which helps seniors supplement their retirement income and age in place, has nearly doubled in take-up rate to around 1,500 households this year.

The LBS was extended to cover all HDB flat types this year. Previously, it was available to seniors who own only four-room or smaller flat types.

Mr Wong said the Government is working out the implementation details of the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme to redevelop older HDB towns. He acknowledged that there is greater need for the "long-term undertaking" of comprehensive redevelopment and renewal works as HDB estates get older.

"That is why (the Government) started the process early, to plan well ahead in advance, so that the redevelopment of our housing estates can be done in an effective, orderly and sustainable manner," he said.

Mr Wong also addressed two separate housing policy proposals put forth recently by the Workers' Party and a trio of citizens, saying the Government will consider all alternative suggestions and ways to manage the expiring leases of HDB flats.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2019, with the headline 'More BTO launches in 2020 to meet additional demand'. Print Edition | Subscribe