SINGAPORE – More than half of the 30,000 public housing units in Tengah have been launched so far, as Singapore’s newest town takes shape four years after the first flats there were offered in 2018.
Billed as a “forest town”, the 700ha area in the west – roughly the same size as Bishan – is the 24th Housing Board town and the first to be developed since Punggol two decades ago.
HDB has launched a total of 18,555 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats across 18 projects in Tengah, as at the recently concluded sales exercise in February.
OrangeTee & Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun said interest in homes in Tengah has held steady throughout the last four years, as reflected in BTO application rates.
HDB data showed there was an average of 5,464 applicants per exercise in the four most recent BTO exercises from November 2021 to February 2023, compared with an average of 3,138 applicants per exercise in the previous four exercises.
“The trend indicates that people are becoming more receptive to living in Tengah, although it is the newest town and many amenities are still under construction,” said Ms Sun.
When Tengah is completed, it is estimated that it will provide 42,000 new homes – 30,000 HDB flats and 12,000 private housing units.
The largely forested area is located between the existing towns of Jurong East, Choa Chu Kang and Bukit Batok, with the upcoming Jurong Lake District to its south and Tengah Air Base in the north, past the Kranji Expressway.
Tengah is now a buzzing hive of building activity, with semi-constructed HDB blocks set against swathes of greenery in the distance.
It will be a few more months before the first batch of residents move into their new homes.
HDB launched Plantation Grove, the first BTO project in the estate, in November 2018. The 1,620 two-room flexi, three-room, four-room, five-room and three-generation flats drew some 5,000 applicants.
While initially slated to be ready in 2023, the completion of the project has been pushed back to 2024 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Buyers who went for the estate’s second BTO project – Plantation Acres – which launched in May 2019 with a shorter waiting time, are expected to get their keys in the second half of 2023.
Ms Sun said the current housing supply crunch and rising HDB resale flat prices could have prompted some young couples to apply for a new flat in Tengah, where prices are more affordable and competition is not as intense.
Overall application rates in Tengah range from 1.4 to 4.3, which translates to about one to four applicants for each available flat.
In comparison, some BTO projects in Bidadari – a new estate that is part of the mature town of Toa Payoh – attracted up to six applicants for each available flat. Application rates in other more established, non-mature estates like Lakeside were just as high.
Across the 18 BTO projects in Tengah, median prices of four-room flats range from $322,500 to $354,500, while those of five-room flats range from $438,500 to $482,000.
Ms Sun said application rates in Tengah largely depend on the location of each project, with those near MRT stations the most popular, and projects farther away from main transport nodes and amenities drawing less demand.
BTO projects have been launched in four of the estate’s five housing districts – Plantation, Garden, Park and Brickland. Only the Forest Hill district has yet to have any projects announced.
On the private housing front, the Copen Grand executive condominium (EC) sold out all its 639 units a month after its launch.
Apartments there had an average selling price of $1,300 per sq ft, with prices ranging from $1.09 million for a two-bedroom plus study to $2.17 million for a five-bedroom premium unit.
Two adjacent EC sites have been identified in Plantation Close, at the junction of the Pan-Island Expressway and Bukit Batok Road. One of them is open for tender under the Government Land Sales confirmed list, while the other is on the reserve list and will be launched for tender in June.
About 20 per cent of the land in Tengah is set aside for green spaces that will be woven through the town, from a large central park to “community farmways” that run through housing estates with gardens and play areas.
Provost’s Chair Professor Sing Tien Foo of the Department of Real Estate at the National University of Singapore Business School said that Tengah, as a greenfield site, provides the Government with a unique opportunity to try out various eco and sustainability features as it could plan the town from scratch.
A key feature in Tengah is a car-free town centre, where roads run underground to free up the ground level for retail and recreational use, and provide a bicycle-friendly environment.
Residents in some BTO projects can opt for a centralised cooling system, which is more energy-efficient than conventional air-conditioning systems.
Advanced construction methods that allow for a beamless flat design are also being trialled in two BTO projects.
As with any new housing town, Prof Sing said, teething problems relating to limited amenities such as schools, malls, shops and markets are expected at the beginning.
It will take another eight to 10 years for the town to take shape before reaching “critical mass” in terms of population size, he added.
A key milestone will be the progressive opening of the Jurong Region Line from 2027 as the line has four MRT stations serving the area, he said.
The second milestone will be the relocation of Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) (Primary) in 2030, which will be the “catalyst” for the development of the town, he added.
“It takes time to build up the infrastructure and transport system. Amenities will come after more residents move into the town, otherwise it will be difficult in terms of economies of scale,” said Prof Sing.
Project engineer Eric Zhuo, 27, who booked a four-room flat in the Parc Woods @ Tengah BTO project with his fiance in 2021, said that what started as an “impulse BTO application” turned out to be positive for them.
“The new ACS Primary is just one street across (from Parc Woods @ Tengah), and it seems we’ll also have a bus interchange next to my estate. I’m hoping we’ll have more key amenities like a sports centre and malls to make Tengah a popular town,” said Mr Zhuo, who is expecting to collect the keys to his new home in 2025.
“We decided to try for Tengah after seeing how Punggol, once an underdeveloped area, is now expanding very well.”