Thursday 20 June 2013

Over $1 billion given to low-income to buy HDB flats

By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2013

MORE than $1 billion in grants has been given out by the Government to help low-income households get on the property ladder by buying their first HDB flat.

This has benefited close to 60,000 first-timer households since 2006, the Housing Board said in a statement to The Straits Times.

There are two types of HDB housing grants available to citizens who earn less and whose needs are seen as greater when it comes to securing a permanent roof over their heads.

For instance, the Additional Housing Grant (AHG), introduced in 2006, gives up to $40,000 if the applicant's household income is less than $1,500 a month.

This grant, which can be used to buy either a new flat from the HDB or a resale unit in the open market, has been disbursed to 58,845 households as of April this year, totalling $1.1 billion.

The other scheme, dubbed the Special Housing Grant (SHG), was implemented in 2011 as a supplement to the AHG.

To be used only for flats bought directly from the HDB, this grant was meant to lessen the sting of the rising cost of living for poorer Singaporeans, property analysts said.

Under the SHG for example, applicants earning less than $1,500 get $20,000.

The HDB said 1,238 households had taken advantage of the $13.15 million given out by the government scheme.

These figures do not include other schemes such as the family or single grants.

Property firm PropNex's chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the grants have provided a yearly average of 8,000 households a foothold in the property market.

He said: "The two schemes have given lower-income households a head start.

"Their flats, which are the same quality of product as everyone else's, will see similar capital appreciation, and effectively ease wealth distribution among citizens."

Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at property consultancy firm SLP International, said it was perhaps timely to raise the income level of the schemes to include even more people.

"This will cast a wider net and capture more groups that are facing the reality of a higher cost of living," he said.

More low-income households buying flats with Govt grants
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2013

MORE low-income households are stepping forward to purchase a flat with the help of a Government grant, amid the ramp-up in supply.

Some 13,325 households received aid of up to $40,000 under the Additional Housing Grant (AHG) last year, compared to 1,762 when it began in 2006.

Overall, some 58,845 households have received a leg-up for both resale and new flats, to the tune of $1.11 billion, said the Housing Board yesterday.

The AHG is one of two schemes to help low-income Singaporean households - earning less than $5,000 - secure a HDB flat, although the amount disbursed depends on the income level.

The other, dubbed the Special Housing Grant, which gives up to $20,000, also saw a strong take-up last year.

Some 762 applicants signed up for it last year, compared to 248 when it was introduced in March 2011. As of April this year, $13.15 million had been given out under the SHG.

International Property Advisor director Ku Swee Yong said it was no surprise that that so many households had applied, given that property is viewed by many as an appreciating asset.

"Another contributing factor," he added, "was the fact that HDB has been aggressively pushing out more flats to meet demand, which has accumulated in recent years."

The HDB rolled out 27,000 Build-To-Order flats last year - the most since the system was introduced in 2002. In 2006, it launched only 2,400 units.

Singapore has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world, with more than 80 per cent of its citizens living in HDB flats.

Such schemes have helped home-buyers like Mr Ngan Kok Hwee and his wife.

They received a $60,000 grant in total for their three-room flat in Sembawang, which brought the price tag down to $105,800.

Mr Ngan, 32, who does freelance work organising funerals, said: "The cost of living these days is very high. With the help given, at least I'm able to start a family of my own and hopefully be able to pass something of value to our children in future."

Others, like house-hunter James Koh, believe the two schemes can be expanded to include those earning a bit more.

"I understand that the grants are tiered towards helping the lower-income. But these are arbitrary numbers that have adverse effects on some buyers," said the 28-year-old book store assistant.

But limits are there for a reason, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail. "If everyone wants more and more handouts, the burden on taxpayers will only get unreasonably larger," he said.

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