Saturday 28 December 2013

10,000 couples benefit from HDB Parenthood Priority Scheme: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan

Quick steps by authorities to help the young have made this possible: Khaw
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 27 Dec 2013

BY NEXT month, almost 10,000 couples will have benefited from a Housing Board scheme which gives priority to parents.

Under another scheme, nearly 800 families with children have been able to rent HDB units while waiting for their new flats.

Such success, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a blog post yesterday, was made possible because of quick moves by the authorities to help the young meet their aspirations.

"When formulating housing policies, I am guided by important social objectives," he wrote.

One is to boost the number of marriages. Another is to "encourage the couples to have children as soon as they get married".

To achieve that, the Government had three policies to help young couples: ramping up Build-To-Order (BTO) supply and introducing the Parenthood Priority Scheme (PPS) and the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS).
- First, the backlog of first-time buyers has been "largely cleared" after three years of increased supply. The HDB will thus launch fewer three-, four- and five-room flats next year, but build more two-room flats for singles.
- Second, there is the PPS, which sets aside 30 per cent of BTO flats and 50 per cent of balance flats for married couples who have a citizen child aged below 16, or are expecting a child.
It was launched in January this year and, by next month, it will have benefited almost 10,000 couples, said Mr Khaw.
- Third, other families have been helped by the PPHS, which gives families the option of renting an HDB flat while waiting for their new flat.
When launched in January, it was open only to first-timer married couples with children.

By September, only 327 couples had applied for the 1,150 flats on offer. But in the same month, the scheme was extended to divorced and widowed parents, as well as couples where one spouse is a first-time applicant and the other a second-timer.

Now, almost 800 flats have been taken up. Some units still lie vacant, but that "is a bit of a happy problem", said SLP International Property Consultants' head of research Nicholas Mak.

As Mr Khaw observed: "I am glad the new policies are showing results."

The changes were necessary, he added, because young couples today get married and start a family only after they get a home.

"In my generation, most went through this sequence: Get married, rent a home, have a baby or more, buy a home. I did," shared Mr Khaw, who is also an MP for Sembawang GRC. "But my young Sembawang activists taught me that such a sequence was outdated."

The updated policies have been well received. Mr Chang Tay Chiang thinks the PPS scheme may have helped his successful application for a BTO five-room flat in Woodlands this July. The 43-year-old IT manager has three children aged 11 to 17.

"A couple of our friends applied (for the same BTO) but could not get it," he said, noting that they did not have children.

For administrative assistant Juliana Chua, 38, it is the PPHS which helped. The divorced woman previously lived with her 10-year-old son in her mother's flat, along with her brother, his wife and her grandmother.

Last month, she moved into a rental four-room flat with her son, who is happy about it. "He has his own room now," she said.

Cut in supply of 3-room and larger BTO flats
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 31 Dec 2013

AFTER three years of ramped-up launches, the supply of new Housing Board flats will fall 3 per cent next year to 24,300.

The drop comes from the number of new three-room and larger flats being slashed by nearly a fifth, to about 18,600 units.

But first-timers applying for such Build-To-Order (BTO) flats should not worry, say analysts, as their chances of securing them are unlikely to worsen.

As for two-room flats, their supply will almost double to meet strong demand from singles.

The cut in three-room and larger flats "is timely as the supply and demand for BTO flats by families has achieved a better balance", HDB said. Ramped-up supply and cooling measures have "largely stabilised" the public housing market and cleared the first-timer backlog, it added.

In 2010, for instance, there were an average of 5.3 applicants for each BTO unit. This fell to an average of three this year.

For first-timers, the average application rate was 1.7 this year.

With such a low rate, first-timers "need not worry", said PropNex chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail Gafoor.

Corporate finance officer Ryan Kuan, 25, who plans to apply next year, agrees: "They have already built quite a few flats this year, so I think it should be okay."

Next year's supply of larger flats is still more than the 15,000 new families expected to be formed, said HDB. This excess surprised Century21 chief executive officer Ku Swee Yong, who had expected a larger overall cut.

The application rate for two-roomers among singles remains high, with 25.2 applicants per flat last month. To meet the demand, 5,000 two-room flats will be offered next year, up from 2,600 this year.

Administrative assistant Wong Chui Ling, who is in her early 50s, hopes the Government can go further and allow singles to apply for three-room flats too.

Finally, 700 studio apartments for seniors will be offered. From 2011 to this year, a total of 5,600 such BTO units were launched.

The quotas for different groups have not changed, with the largest share still for first-timers. But SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak thinks the quotas might be tweaked if demand shifts.

Even as fewer flats are launched next year, more new flats - from ramped-up launches of the past three years - are set to be finished. This year, 13,600 new flats were completed, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on his blog yesterday.

"Next year, we will see greater results of this ramped-up programme, when we complete more than 28,000 new flats," he wrote.

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