Singles unable to buy new prime HDB flats as numbers are limited, families prioritised for now: Desmond Lee

An artist's impression of the BTO project at Rochor, which will be the first under the PLH model. PHOTO: HDB

SINGAPORE - Singles will not be allowed to buy new Housing Board flats in prime locations for now as the housing model they come under is untested in the market and not many units will be launched for a start, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

"So we're prioritising them, for now, for larger households who may need more space for their families," he said on Friday (Oct 29) in addressing questions on why singles are not allowed to buy prime location flats under the new model, even in the resale market.

He added that the Government is "not taking a step backward" when it comes to public housing policies for singles, who can continue to buy existing resale flats in the meantime, including in prime central areas.

Mr Lee was speaking at the Singapore Economic Policy Forum, two days after the new prime location public housing (PLH) model was announced.

Under existing criteria for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, singles are allowed to buy only new two-room flats in non-mature estates, he noted.

Acknowledging the housing needs of this group, Mr Lee said: "We understand their concerns. Some Singaporeans remain single for a variety of reasons including obligation to family and to parents, or a matter of choice or a matter of life course.

"They may wonder if we care about their housing needs. To these Singaporeans, let me assure you, we do."

This is why the Government has expanded housing options and grants for singles over the years, he said.

Measures under the new model will be assessed, he said, and the Government will make adjustments and improvements, "bearing in mind the evolving demographic of Singapore and the changing aspirations of Singaporeans".

The first BTO project under the PLH model in Rochor will include 40 rental units - a move that has drawn concerns about the subsidies required to make them affordable, if people would get along, and if public rental households could afford city living.

Mr Lee said such questions are not invalid, but stressed that building rental flats in prime areas reflects the Government's commitment to ensure housing estate communities are inclusive and diverse.

Many lower-income Singaporeans will benefit from living in prime areas, where they work in food and beverage, cleaning and security jobs, he added.

Besides subsidised rents, Mr Lee said the Government will ensure there are affordable food, shop and recreation options for rental households in prime areas.

He said that on a whole, the Government has kept its eyes firmly on its social objectives in devising the PLH model, but acknowledged that "no one policy can address every concern".

To that end, Mr Lee said that the model will be reviewed over time - like all housing policies - and is not cast in stone.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.