Young couples to get flats sooner: HDB

Putting down roots and building a love nest used to take young couples typically between three to four years.

Not anymore. They can get their new homes sooner – about 2.5 years from the time they apply to purchase the flats.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) announced on Wednesdaythat it will offer some Build-To-Order (BTO) flats with shorter waiting time, and introduce the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF), a new sales mode, in August.

HDB said in a press release that it will start building selected BTO projects ahead of their sales launch, slashing the waiting time for young couples buying their first homes.

Tender for the construction of the first batch of 1,000 flats will be called this month and works are expected to start in the fourth quarter.

The flats in the non-mature estates of Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun will be launched for sale in the second half of next year and the flats are expected to be completed between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 – about 2.5 years from the time young couples apply for the purchase of the flats.

First-timer families will enjoy higher priority when applying for these flats, with at least 95 per cent of the four-room and larger flats set aside for them. This is a 10 per cent-point increase from the current quota of at least 85 per cent in the non-mature estates.

Under the new ROF exercise, HDB will pool together all flats that remain unsold at the conclusion of the previous Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise. This will help those with more urgent housing needs and/or are less particular about location and attributes to have quicker access to a flat.

The first ROF exercise will be held in August, in conjunction with the BTO sales launch. HDB will be offering 1,394 units of unsold balance flats from the November 2016 SBF exercise, setting aside at least 95 per cent of the flat supply for first-timer families and up to 5 per cent for second-timer families.

For a start, ROF exercises will be held twice-yearly, in February and August, alongside BTO exercises. Together with the two SBF exercises held together with the other two BTO exercises in May and November, home-seekers will now have four chances to apply for a balance flat in a year.

The two measures were announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong during the Budget this year.

In his blog on Wednesday, Mr Wong said the government will “do a review and consider whether there is a need to adjust the frequency” after the initial few rounds.

“I hope the wider range of options and more regular offer of flats will help homebuyers find a home that best suits their needs,” he added.

Key executive officer of ERA Realty Network Eugene Lim said while the two schemes, together with the enhanced grants for first timers buying resale flats announced earlier in March, is a concerted effort by HDB to ensure that first timers can choose from a wide range of choices for their first home, it is “unlikely to supercede resale flats, as the waiting time of purchasing a resale flat (a few months) is still much shorter than the 2.5 years”.

Mr Lim pointed out: “With the very much stabilised resale HDB market, we have been seeing increasingly more first-timers as they are able to leverage on, where applicable, the increased CPF Housing Grants of S$40,000 to S$50,000; Proximity Housing Grant of S$20,000 and Additional Housing Grants of up to S$40,000; to further subsidise the already low resale HDB prices.”

Mr Lim added that the location of the first round of flats under this scheme – the non-mature estates of Yishun, Sembawang and Sengkang – is what he termed as “slightly less popular”, which could be why HDB is offering them with a shorter waiting time and a higher priority for first timers.

“Nonetheless, these flats are expected to be popular among first timers, given their combination of affordability, shorter waiting time and higher probability of success,” he noted.

Adapted from: The Business Times, 20 July 2017

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