Monday, 12 December 2016

Proximity Housing Grant a boon for over 5,200 households

$82.6m given out in scheme launched last year to help families live closer together
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Sunday Times, 11 Dec 2016

When housewife Jennyfer Aw Young and her husband, Mr Wang Dewei, both 34, bought their first home in 2008, they chose a four-room, Build-To-Order flat in Punggol as it was readily available.

But the couple soon longed to return to Jurong, where they had grown up and where their parents still live. They finally bought an executive flat in Jurong West Street 65 off the resale market and moved in this October.

After receiving a Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) of $20,000, the 125 sq m unit cost them $525,000.

"It's like a homecoming for us," said Madam Aw Young, a mother of three. "It's so much easier to visit our parents now. We don't need to wait for the weekend to have dinner together.

"The grant definitely helped us financially because we can save the money for our kids' education."

The couple and their family are among the 5,217 Singaporean households - 4,860 families and 357 singles - that have applied for the PHG within a year of its introduction, said the Housing Board.

Some $82.6 million in grants has been disbursed to 4,315 households. Another $18.2 million will be doled out to the rest when they complete their resale transactions.

The scheme, which was rolled out in August last year, helps families live closer together when they buy resale HDB flats.

Families who buy a resale flat to live with or near their parents or married child receive a PHG of $20,000. Eligible singles get $10,000 if they buy a resale flat with their parents.

All Singaporeans are eligible for the grant once, regardless of their income level and whether they have received housing subsidies before.

This includes private property owners who have to sell their property within six months of buying the resale flat.

According to the HDB, those who applied for the PHG made up about a quarter of all the resale applications registered between Aug 24 last year - when the scheme kicked in - and Aug 31 this year.

Just over half, or 56 per cent of the applicants, would not have qualified for any housing grant before PHG was introduced.

Mature and non-mature estates were almost equally popular among applicants.

The bulk of the applicants - 95 per cent of them - were children, while the rest were parents.

Most of them - 83 per cent - opted for flats within the same town or within a 2km radius of their parents' or married child's home. The others chose to live in the same flat or same block.

These numbers echo feedback received in 2014, when the National Development Ministry organised a series of Housing Conversations to engage Singaporeans.

While many young participants said they wanted to live near their parents after they marry, most still preferred to live apart from their parents, citing independence and privacy as chief reasons.

Mr Mohammad Azrul Ab Aziz, 28, is happy to live near his parents. The marine company supervisor and his 26-year-old wife recently bought a four-room resale flat in Woodlands Street 13 for $345,000. Of this sum, $60,000 was covered by grants, including a $20,000 PHG.

"It's convenient because my mother can help us collect any delivered items when we are not at home," said Mr Azrul, whose parents live a few blocks away on the same street. "When we have kids, I can also take them over, so they'll be closer to their grandparents."

In a Facebook post yesterday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the majority of beneficiaries are families and children buying flats to live close to or with their parents.

"Many would not have been eligible for any housing grant if not for the PHG," he wrote.

"We recognise the desire shared by many Singaporeans to live closer to their families... We will continue to support this aspiration and help strengthen family bonds in Singapore."

1,500 families gain from raised HDB income caps
Ceilings adjusted in Aug 2015; higher-earning households able to buy new flats or resale units with housing grants
By Ng Jun Sen, The Straits Times, 9 Dec 2016

More than 1,500 households benefited from adjustments in housing policy last year that allowed them to buy new subsidised flats, or resale flats using grants, the Housing Board said yesterday.

These were households that could not buy new or resale flats before, as their earnings exceeded the previous income ceiling of $10,000 for families and $5,000 for singles.

HDB raised the ceiling to $12,000 for families and $6,000 for singles in August last year to adjust for rising incomes, which allowed higher-income households to buy public flats.

In the year that followed, up to August this year, some 1,565 households were able to buy resale flats with CPF Housing Grants, or new flats, because of the changes.

Of these, 565 households booked new flats and 1,000 households bought resale flats with the grants.

HDB said another 1,047 families booked executive condominiums (ECs) with tiered CPF Housing Grants who could not do so before; the ceiling for ECs was also raised last year, from $12,000 to $14,000.

The last time the income ceilings were raised was in 2011, when each limit went up by $2,000.

The changes were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last year so more Singaporeans could become eligible for new flats and ECs.

OrangeTee research and consultancy head Wong Xian Yang said the number who benefited was sizeable considering that there were 11,833 new flats booked and 6,464 resale flats sold during the period.

That means around 5 per cent of new HDB bookings and 15 per cent of resale flat purchases could not have been made before the income ceiling revisions.

Said Mr Wong: "The numbers are not small and represent a significant number of new bookings. The policy changes made an impact."

They gave this segment of buyers more options, he said.

But International Property Advisor chief executive Ku Swee Yong argued that the revisions had hurt the private property market.

He said: "These are 1,500 HDB buyers and 1,000 EC buyers who could have bought private properties as they are (relatively) high-earning families."

He said that, as more households became eligible for subsidised public housing, taxpayers would also end up bearing a heavier burden.

"Overall, I think taxpayers should not be paying for homebuyers who are more well-to-do," he said.

But Mr Wong feels the changes were made to keep pace with rising incomes. He said: "Most Singaporeans live in HDB flats, so if incomes continue to rise, the authorities should continue to adjust the ceilings accordingly."

Proximity Housing Grant: $20,000 grant to help families live closer together
Fresh Start Housing Scheme open for applications from 1 Dec 2016
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