Tuesday 17 February 2015

Fewer apply for HDB flats under parenthood scheme

20% drop attributed mainly to more of them succeeding in buying units
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 16 Feb 2015

THE number of applications under a scheme to help married parents secure their first Housing Board flats has dropped, as more of them successfully attain units.

There were 8,000 flat applicants under the Parenthood Priority Scheme last year, down a fifth from 10,000 in 2013, when it was first introduced.

The HDB and property experts said the number of applications has fallen chiefly because more first-timer families have managed to purchase flats.

"The housing needs of this group have already been met," said R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng.

SLP International research head Nicholas Mak agreed, pointing to falling first-timer application rates for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats.

There were 1.7 applicants on average for each new flat in 2013.

For the first half of last year, the rate was between 1.0 and 1.7. For some projects, the rate was even lower, at less than 1.0, meaning that applicants were guaranteed a flat and did not have to ballot.

Under the Parenthood Priority Scheme, 30 per cent of the BTO flat supply and half of the Sale of Balance Flats supply are set aside for first-timer married couples who are expecting a child or have children younger than 16. Their children must be Singapore citizens.

Applicants who are widowed or divorced may also apply under the scheme if they meet the same eligibility conditions.

Analysts said a decreased BTO supply last year may have contributed to the dip in the number of applications. There were 22,455 BTO flats offered last year, down from 26,494 in 2013.

The cooling resale market may also have drawn away some potential scheme applicants, said Century21 chief executive Ku Swee Yong.

"Now that the resale market is cooling, some of these families can turn to resale flats, where they can be more selective about the location," he observed.

For undergraduate Lee Li Long, 25, the Parenthood Priority Scheme was helpful when he and his wife applied for a five-room BTO flat in Bukit Batok last September. They were successful.

"We really like the area because it is near to both our parents. So it helps that there is such a scheme to increase our chances," said Mr Lee, whose daughter was born last month.

Experts expect the number of applications under the scheme to keep sliding as the resale market continues its downward spiral and the BTO supply decreases further to 16,900 this year.

Noting how many second-timers are eager to upgrade or move to a location closer to their workplaces or their children's schools, Mr Mak said: "Perhaps it's about time to allocate more flats to them."

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