SINGAPORE – In 2022, the Housing Board bought back flats from four owners who could not sell their homes due to ethnic quota limits.
Providing this figure on Monday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said HDB received 411 appeals related to the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) last year.
Of these, HDB granted 128 appeals, buying four units under a buyback scheme announced in March 2022, he added in a written parliamentary reply to Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC).
The other 124 were helped through other measures, including waiving the EIP limit and giving owners more time to sell their existing flat if they had bought another one.
Mr Lee said most of the 283 flat owners who unsuccessfully appealed were ineligible for the buyback as they did not meet the requirements of making regular attempts to sell their flat over six months and owning the unit for at least 10 years.
Of the 411 appeals received, 14 per cent were from Chinese owners, 25 per cent were from Malay owners and 61 per cent were owners from the Indian or Others ethnic group, he added.
Introduced in 1989, the EIP sets racial quotas on flat ownership within each HDB block and neighbourhood at the point when a flat is purchased, and subsequently when it is resold.
In recent years, nearly one in three HDB blocks and 16 per cent of HDB neighbourhoods have reached one or more of the EIP limits. As a result, some owners found it difficult to sell their flats, with some having to lower their asking price or taking longer to find a buyer.
The EIP buyback scheme allows owners to ask HDB to buy back their flat if they meet the requirements, such as making regular, genuine attempts to sell the unit at a reasonable asking price on the open market for a continuous period – currently set at six months.
Owners have to keep a monthly record of online or print property listings showing the asking price and listing date as well as records of flat viewings, and submit them to HDB when seeking help.
Mr Lee said owners who face genuine difficulties in selling their flat due to the ethnic quota can tap a range of assistance measures.
These include giving owners more time to sell off their flat if they have bought another one. In exceptional circumstances, HDB will waive the EIP limit to allow them to sell their flat to buyers from another ethnic group.
HDB may consider buying back flats from eligible EIP-constrained flat owners in cases where waiving the EIP limit could lead to further imbalances in the proportion of the various ethnic groups in blocks or neighbourhoods, Mr Lee said.
Correction note: The Ministry of National Development gave the wrong figure for the number of successful appeals. This has been corrected.