Higher grants, more choice for first-time HDB flat buyers

Several policy changes to help young home buyers get their first homes have been rolled out in recent years. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - From Wednesday (Sept 11), more first-time buyers will get higher grants and more flexibility to choose the size of their flat and where it is located.

The income ceiling for eligible buyers has also been raised for the first time since 2015.

Announcing these changes on Tuesday, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said they simplify the grant structure and increase affordability for first-time buyers.

The changes come on the back of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech last month, when he said his younger colleagues have "a few more ideas to support couples to have more kids, and to keep HDB flats affordable".

Currently, there are three types of grants: the CPF Housing Grant of $50,000, the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to $40,000 and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to $40,000.

Those buying Build-to-Order flats may be eligible for the AHG and SHG, while those buying resale homes could get the CPF Housing Grant and the AHG.

But from Wednesday, the AHG and SHG will be combined into a new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) of up to $80,000, available to eligible buyers, regardless of whether they get a new or resale flat.

There are also no restrictions on their choice of flat type and location. Previously, the SHG was limited to those buying four-room or smaller flats in non-mature estates.

The income ceiling for the EHG is $9,000, higher than the AHG's cap of $5,000 or the SHG's $8,500.

The caveat for the EHG is that the flat's lease must cover buyers until they are aged 95, in line with the authorities' push to get people to buy homes that can last them for life. Those who do not meet this condition will get a pro-rated amount depending on the lease.

With this change, an eligible first-timer family earning $4,800 a month and buying a new four-room flat in a mature estate from the HDB can get $45,000 in grants, compared to $5,000 under the old system.

As for resale flat buyers, they may get up to $160,000 in grants - a third more than before.

Mr Wong said the new conditions give buyers more flexibility and support their home choices - for example, some couples might want to buy new flats in mature estates to live near to their parents, while others may want larger flats because they intend to have more children in the future, or accommodate their family members.

Also, adjusting the grant structure would help to achieve a better balance between the number of people who buy new flats and resale flats. He noted that last year, three in four or 75 per cent of first-timer families purchased new flats, while 25 per cent of them bought resale flats. A decade ago, this was closer to 55 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

Mr Wong also announced another change: The income ceiling for Singaporean households to buy new flats and ECs will be raised by $2,000 - to $14,000 and $16,000 respectively.

Since the last income ceiling rise four years ago, incomes have risen, said Mr Wong, adding that more Singaporeans should be allowed to qualify.

He said the HDB will likely increase the BTO supply in 2020 to meet the anticipated additional demand for public housing arising from these changes. The board is on track to launching 15,000 flats this year.

Its third BTO launch of the year, initially scheduled for August, has also been pushed to later this month to allow more home buyers to take advantage of changes.

Several policy changes to help young home buyers get their first homes have been rolled out in recent years. From 2017, the authorities have been giving out up to $50,000 in housing grants for resale flats, an increase from up to $30,000 previously.

Last year, HDB said it would let young couples - including undergraduates and national servicemen aged at least 21 - apply for grants to buy a flat earlier, instead of pushing back their plans because of a lack of income history.

HDB also rolled out flats with shorter waiting times of about 2½ years, compared with the usual three to four years.

Correction note: The article has been updated for accuracy.

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