Sunday 21 June 2015

More applying for flats under schemes to help families live closer

Khaw Boon Wan: They have formed 24% of BTO applicants since 2011
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2015

ALMOST a quarter of applicants for new Housing Board flats applied under schemes that help families live closer together, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed yesterday.

These measures aim "to help extended families live together or close by for mutual care and support", he wrote in a blog post.

Since 2011, 24 per cent of Build-To-Order (BTO) applicants have applied under such schemes and enjoyed higher success rates than applicants who did not.

The proportion is even higher - up to 36 per cent - for mature estates such as Tampines and Bedok.

The Married Child Priority Scheme is the most popular, accounting for about 90 per cent of such applicants last year.

It used to give more ballot chances to married children applying to live near their parents or vice versa.

Now, certain percentages of flats are set aside for them instead. The new version of the scheme, which started in last November's BTO, has seen applications from 6,200 families so far.

Interest has also risen for other schemes that help extended families live nearby.

Of all applicants for such schemes last year, 10 per cent applied under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS) or for Three-Generation (3Gen) flats, up from 5 per cent in 2013.

The MGPS is for married children and their parents applying for units in the same BTO project.

Since September 2013, 284 pairs of families have applied.

More than 600 families will also be moving into 3Gen flats, said Mr Khaw. These are around 115 sq m in size and are meant for multi-generation families.

Interior designer Fahrur Razi Mohd Ali, 35, successfully applied for a 3Gen flat in Tampines last November.

He now lives in a four-room flat with his parents, wife, their one-month-old son and domestic helper. All of them will move to the 3Gen flat when it is ready.

"Compared with a four-room or five-room flat, I thought the additional space of the 3Gen flat was quite good," he said.

As an only child, he considers it only natural to live with his parents, he said. "They've taken care of me since I was young, now I think I should repay that."

Noting that more people want to buy flats with or close to extended families in mature estates, Mr Khaw said: "We have tried to meet these needs by launching more flats in mature estates."

The first project in Tampines North was launched last year, and the first project in Bidadari will be offered in the August BTO.

"We expect application rates in Bidadari to be high," said Mr Khaw. "To help families live closer together, we will give priority to those whose parents live in Toa Payoh, Potong Pasir or within the 2km radius."

Resale buyers also get help, with the $40,000 Higher-Tier CPF Housing Grant for first-timers buying a resale flat near their parents or married children, $10,000 more than the usual.

"We will also study whether we can further help those who wish to buy a resale flat to live near their parents," he said.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said besides increasing the grant amount, one way to help such families would be to relax the distance criteria.

The grant is currently for those buying a resale flat either in the same town, or within 2km of their parents or married children, but Mr Lim suggested this could be increased to 3km or 4km.

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