Slight dip in new BTO flats on offer next year

The supply of Build-To-Order units will thin slightly to 17,000 - down from the 18,000 launched this year.
The supply of Build-To-Order units will thin slightly to 17,000 - down from the 18,000 launched this year. PHOTO: ST FILE

17,000 new units to be launched, down 1,000 from this year; shorter waiting times from 2018

There will be fewer new flats for home seekers in the coming year, with the supply of Build-To-Order (BTO) units thinning slightly to 17,000.

This is down from the 18,000 launched this year, and in line with expectations as the economy slows and fewer new families are formed.

But young couples buying for the first time still have reason to cheer: They will get their homes faster.

A new effort to shorten the building time is being kick-started for them, and the flats may be launched by 2018. They could be built as early as 2020.

Currently, BTO flats take three to four years to be built. In October, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong had said this period will be cut to two to three years.

In a blog post yesterday, Mr Wong said he had asked the Housing Board to plan and prepare the land for several new sites which can subsequently be put out as BTO units with shorter waiting time.

''These units will not be ready next year, but I hope we can begin to offer themby 2018.''

Faster access to public housing was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally as one key measure to encourage millennials to form families.

On the BTO supply next year, Mr Wong said his ministry is ''gradually tapering supply but still ensuring a healthy pipeline to meet demand''.

Like this year, next year's BTO flats will see a similar spread across mature and non-mature estates, giving buyers a range of choices.

The dip in supply is part of a generally downward trajectory over the past five years-and analysts expect the pattern to continue, especially if the economy remains soft.

Between 2011 and 2013, a peak of 25,000 BTO flats were launched annually, to alleviate a housing shortage that flared as a political issue during the 2011 election.

The numbers went down to 22,500 and 15,000 in subsequent years, before going back up to 18,000 this year. ''This kept prices stable and offered many choices to home buyers,'' said Mr Wong.

Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, said the authorities should continue to reduce the BTO numbers.

Some non-mature estates such as Sembawang and Yishun saw low application rates by first-time buyers this year, he said. Balance flat sale figures have also remained relatively high at around 10,000.

This suggests that previous BTO offerings were too high, according to experts. Chris International director Chris Koh said: ''There are fewer BTO orders this year (so)... there should be fewer new flats. It is called BTO for a reason.''

Mr Wong said yesterday that his ministry will continue to monitor the market, make adjustments and review its schemes to meet Singaporeans' housing needs.

Prospective BTO buyers such as financial adviser Chng Joe Wei welcomed the news about shorter wait times. The 29-year-old said: ''When you are ready for BTO... you are ready to receive the flat already. Shorter waiting times mean more flats for us, and it means more kids since most would want to have their home first.''

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Slight dip in new BTO flats on offer next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe