Monday, 4 January 2016

Singles' demand for HDB flats down since 2013: HDB

Singles' rush for new two-room flats eases
7.5 singles applied for each BTO unit last November, down from 57.5 in July 2013
By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 3 Jan 2016

Two-and-a-half years after singles were allowed to buy new Housing Board (HDB) flats, the flood of demand that resulted seems to have receded. In July 2013, when they could buy new two-room flats in non-mature estates, 57.5 singles competed for each available unit.

This has fallen to 7.5 singles per unit in the latest Build-To-Order (BTO) launch in November.

The HDB said that it has "made steady progress in meeting the home ownership aspirations of singles". It told The Sunday Times that it "will continue to monitor this group of homebuyers and calibrate its supply of two-room flats to better meet their housing needs".

Since July 2013, about 11,600 singles have been invited to book new flats. By the end of November last year, 7,700 had done so.

About 700 singles have collected the keys to their new homes, as some new units offered were remaining flats from earlier BTO exercises and were completed sooner.

The lower demand is significant as it ensued despite a fall in supply.

The supply of two-room flats rose from 2,600 units in 2013 to about 5,000 in 2014, all in non-mature estates.

Last year, it fell to 4,000 units.

These included 192 units in Bidadari estate, part of the mature town of Toa Payoh, for which singles are not eligible. It also included units under the new Two-Room Flexi Scheme, which merged the previous two-room and studio apartment schemes.

With less competition, singles have also grown more discerning.

In November's BTO launch, singles' application rates varied from 4.3 to 4.5 singles per unit in Sengkang and Bukit Batok respectively, to 10 per unit in Punggol and up to 34 in Choa Chu Kang.

This is in contrast to the BTO exercise in September 2013, where even traditionally less popular areas such as Jurong and Sembawang had 14.7 and 10.4 single applicants per two- room flat respectively.

R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng said the singles' application rate is unlikely to fall much lower than four or five per unit.

The current trend should be seen as a sign that demand is stabilising, he added.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan, in his last blog post as National Development Minister, named two-room flats for singles as one aspect of unfinished business, saying: "There are still a few thousand singles waiting for their new flats."

The HDB is set to supply 18,000 new flats this year, up from 15,000 last year, but it remains to be seen whether this increase will translate to more two-room flexi flats.


2,600Units in 2013 in non-mature estates

5,000Units in 2014 in non-mature estates

4,000Units last year, including 192 units in Bidadari estate, part of the mature town of Toa Payoh

A flat of her own at last
By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 3 Jan 2016

When singles were allowed to buy new public flats in 2013, it was the end to more than a decade of waiting for Madam Serene Tay.

The 53-year-old, who is in the fashion wholesale business, is one of about 700 singles who have collected the keys to their new Housing Board flats.

After spending some years abroad for business, Madam Tay returned to Singapore 11 years ago. She considered buying a resale three-room flat, but could not find one that she liked.

"When I saw the units, I was so scared!" she recalled. "The places were dirty and the neighbours didn't seem friendly." She wanted a brand new unit, and decided to wait.

In the meantime, she lived with her sister's family in their five-room flat in Choa Chu Kang, and continued to hope that she would one day be able to buy a new flat.

When singles were finally allowed to do so, in the July 2013 Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, she applied, even though the units were in "faraway" Sengkang and Yishun. She was not successful.

The HDB's next sales exercise had a wider selection, with additional two-room flats from previous BTOs being released to singles, including 47 units in Choa Chu Kang.

Madam Tay managed to get one of them. She received her keys in October and recently finished making renovations. She said: "I want my house to be like a private apartment."

Though her furniture arrived on Wednesday, she is not in a rush to move in; as long as she does so in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations in next month. "I'm taking the time to do it slowly, to decide where to put this piece of furniture, where to put that piece," she said. "Now that I finally have a flat, I want to do this properly."

BTO flat supply to rise to 18,000 in 2016
HDB to launch 3,000 more flats than it did this year to meet higher demand: Lawrence Wong
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2015

The number of new Housing Board Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will be ramped up to 18,000 next year (2016) to provide for a rise in demand. This is about 3,000 flats more than the 15,100 units launched this year, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong revealed yesterday.

He explained that the increase is a response to how recent policy changes, including enhanced housing grants and higher income ceilings, have led to more people being eligible for new flats.

Highlighting the warm response to last month's mega-launch of over 12,000 flats, which included the new Bidadari estate, Mr Wong said: "In response to this increased demand which we had been expecting, we are going to supply about 18,000 units next year."

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tampines Greenlace, a new BTO project, he added: "That's our first focus for the coming year - to ensure that the housing market remains in balance, remains stable, and we provide sufficient homes for Singaporeans."

About 26,000 new HDB flats were completed this year.

In 2015, we continued to make good progress in housing our nation. I just visited a new BTO project in Tampines and was...
Posted by Lawrence Wong on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

And while noting that resale flat prices seem to be stabilising, he maintained that it is "too early" to unwind property cooling measures.

Mr Wong said next year's building programme, which will be spread over different flat types and "a good variety of locations", might be adjusted if needed. But even if this happens, he said he expects next year's supply to be larger than this year's.

From 2011 to 2013, BTO flat construction was ramped up to meet pent-up demand. More than 25,000 units were launched annually.

But as demand was met, last year's flat supply was shaved from an initial 24,300 to 22,455. The HDB further cut this year's supply from a planned 16,900 to 15,100 because of the stabilising resale market.

Property analysts said first-time applicants stand to benefit most from next year's higher supply, as the bulk of new units is set aside for them. Mr Wong yesterday also said that many first-timers have been successful in their flat applications.

"The BTO application rate for first-timer families (applying for three-room and bigger flats in non- mature estates) has stabilised to about 1.6 times," he wrote in a blog post. "This means that most of these families would have been able to book their flats in their first attempt."

The minister visited two families who have moved into their first new flat at Tampines Greenlace yesterday, including that of Mr Muhammad Hilmi Abdul Hamid, who lives with his wife and one-year-old son.

The couple bought a five-roomer under the Married Child Priority Scheme, which sets aside a portion of new flats for parents and their married children who apply to live near or with one another.

Mr Hilmi, a 24-year-old civil servant, said: "Our parents live in Pasir Ris and Tampines, so this is very convenient for us."

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