Friday 13 February 2015

More room to shape landed homes

Greater leeway to alter interiors, as well as change outside area
By Rennie Whang, The Straits Times, 12 Feb 2015

OWNERS and developers of landed homes will have more flexibility when it comes to redevelopment, under new rules announced yesterday.

The changes give greater leeway when it comes to altering the interiors of properties, but there will also be more scope to change the outside area as well, including making improvements to attics and basements.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the new rules, which kick in on May 11, "simplify the existing guidelines... while safeguarding the low-rise character of landed housing estates".

The changes will give architects more scope in the interior design as long as the overall external size of the home still fits within a three-dimensional limit, or "envelope".

One change is to the floor-to-floor height requirement, which is now 4.5m for the first storey, and 3.6m each for the second and third storeys. Under the new rules, this will be up to the owner's preferences.

This means owners can vary floor-to-ceiling height, add more mezzanine floors or have higher ceilings in living and dining areas, said W Architects managing director Mok Wei Wei.

The new guidelines also relax a rule that requires the third storey to be set back an additional 1m from the first and second storeys. This requirement will go so the third storey can align with the lower floors and be more spacious.

The URA will also do away with a rule requiring attic roofs to be pitched, while basements may protrude more than the 1m above ground level as allowed now.

This will mean better ventilation and light for houses with attics and basements, said Bukit Sembawang Estates executive director and chief executive Ng Chee Seng. The company will adopt the new guidelines for its landed house projects in Seletar Hills.

Mr Mok said: "It may overall be possible to achieve more built- up area. This is a much better set of guidelines to work with."

The new rules will also bring tighter restrictions on total maximum permissible heights.

These have been reduced for three-storey homes from 17.7m to 15.5m, and from 14.1m to 12m for two-storey ones. "This is the typical height that most landed houses are currently built up to under current guidelines and will respect the low-rise character of our landed housing estates," said a URA spokesman.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday that the new guidelines will most likely benefit people in intermediate terraces.

Larger houses like good class bungalows tend to have enough space to play around with design, experts said.

The rules are being introduced following a pilot scheme at Sembawang Greenvale. Its 65 houses - 55 terraced and 10 detached homes - were completed last May under the new guidelines.

Landed home owner and Sembawang resident Tracy Low, 55, said: "There will be more variety in landed housing now."

But while the design of a house can influence its price, the value of a landed property is still derived predominantly from the location, age, tenure and type, said Mr Desmond Sim, CBRE research head for South-east Asia.

The URA said it will allow minor additions and alterations to landed houses under the current guidelines.

There are about 130 two-storey and 124 three-storey landed home estates in Singapore, comprising 72,000 houses, or about 23 per cent of total private housing units.

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