SINGAPORE - Some young couples looking to buy flats next year can look forward to getting their keys quicker.
About 1,000 Build-to-Order (BTO) flats launched next year will come with shorter waiting times - 2.5 years, against the current waiting time of three to four years.
The flats will be located in non-mature estates.
These flats can be made available more readily, because construction will start about a year before their launch.
First-time homebuyers will get priority. Of these flats, at least 95 per cent of the 4-room and larger flat types will be set aside for first-timers. This is up from the current quota of at least 85 per cent in non-mature estates. Quotas for smaller flat types remain unchanged.
More details will be announced later.
The initiative is part of the Government's bid to help young couples own a flat and settle down quicker, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong in the debate on his ministry's budget on Tuesday.
"I know there are many young couples who hope to move into their own home even more quickly, to embark on this marriage and parenthood journey together," he said.
"We have looked into their requests seriously."
In response to queries from The Straits Times, the HDB said it takes into account various factors, such as a flat's individual attributions and prevailing market conditions, when pricing flats for sale.
"Any difference due to waiting time is not likely to be significant. More importantly, all flats sold by HDB are priced considerably lower than comparable resale flats, and buyers enjoy a generous market subsidy," a spokesman said.
There will also be a new sales exercise for balance flats that remain unsold after the typical Sales of Balance Flats exercise, currently held twice a year.
Mr Wong said the HDB will offer these unsold flats in one common pool, instead of having separate selection queues for each town and flat type.
They will be sold at regular intervals, with priority given to first-timer households.
"Those with urgent housing needs and who are less particular about location can apply and need not wait for the SBF exercise," he said, adding that the first such exercise will be launched in the second half of this year (2017).
Mr Wong also said the HDB is looking into shortening the resale transaction, which takes about 16 weeks to complete, and requires two appointments with the board.
"We can leverage technology; and make the process faster and more streamlined," he said, adding that more details will be announced at the end of the year.
The suite of changes come on the back of an enhanced subsidy to make resale flats more affordable to young couples, announced during the Budget last month.
The CPF Housing Grant, previously capped at $30,000, was raised to $50,000 for four-room or smaller resale flats, and to $40,000 for five-room or larger flats.