Tuesday 17 November 2015

New Bidadari homes to sit amid lush gardens in November 2015 BTO exercise

Estate in city-fringe location will have 10ha park, lake and market square, among other things
By Yeo Sam Jo and Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 16 Nov 2015

The first Housing Board (HDB) projects in Bidadari, which will be launched this month, will feature lush greenery and social spaces, in line with the area's vision of being "a community in a garden".

Residents in the area will be able to visit a nearby market square and walk around a scenic park and lake.

The 10ha Bidadari Park will house the new Alkaff Lake, named after the Arab family that built the Alkaff Lake Gardens in the area in 1929.

The gardens closed after World War II.

The market square will also include a food court and bus interchange.

The first three residential projects - Alkaff CourtView, Alkaff LakeView and Alkaff Vista - will consist of 2,139 flats and be completed between 2019 and 2020.

They will feature pedestrian walkways flanked by social facilities and shops, roof gardens, elevated walkways and landscaped lift lobbies that extend out of the block facades for scenic views.

Alkaff CourtView will also have garden courtyards and a veranda for community activities.

Bidadari's green features extend to its "car-light" planning.

HDB urban planning director Lim Shu Ying said: "Residents can cycle safely and conveniently within the estate. We hope to encourage residents to use walking and cycling as alternative modes of transport rather than taking a car."

A 1.8km park connector, for instance, will provide a direct cycling route from Punggol to Kallang through the estate.

Car- and bicycle-sharing schemes, including special parking spaces, will also be provided.

Spanning 93ha, roughly the size of 150 football fields, Bidadari estate is bounded by Bartley Road, Sennett Estate, Upper Serangoon Road and Mount Vernon Road. The area will be eventually carved up into four districts, of which the Alkaff district is the largest.

Despite once being the site of a cemetery, Bidadari's central location in Toa Payoh town makes it one of the most anticipated sites in this month's bumper flat launch.

A total of 7,000 BTO flats in Bidadari, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang will be available for selection. Another 5,000 balance units not sold in previous exercises will also be put up for sale.

Prices will only be revealed when the flats are launched but some property experts said they expect buyers to pay a premium for Bidadari due to the area's city-fringe location and nearby amenities.

The projects are within a five to 10 minute walk from Woodleigh and Potong Pasir MRT stations, and close to Cedar Primary School and Cedar Girls' Secondary School.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail Gafoor said the new flats might cost at least 20 per cent more than those in Sengkang or Punggol.

In the May BTO launch, prices for four-room flats in Punggol ranged from $284,000 to $350,000.

Hot demand for Bidadari BTO flats
Five-room flats oversubscribed on first day; estate's central location a draw, say experts
By Janice Heng and Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 18 Nov 2015

Within hours of yesterday's sales exercise kicking off, there were more applicants for five-room flats in the new Bidadari estate than the units available.

As of 5pm, there were 259 applicants chasing 151 such units, making them the most sought-after so far in the current exercise.

The bumper Housing Board launch, which began yesterday, marks the first time that flats are being offered in Bidadari and under the new two-room flexi scheme.

A total of 12,411 flats are on offer, comprising 7,061 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats and 5,350 balance flats.

The record launch size stems from the planned September and November launches being merged, to allow new policies to kick in.

The 2,139 flats across three Bidadari projects are the only units in a mature town in this BTO exercise. Four-roomers there were also popular, with 399 applicants for 1,229 units so far.

Experts cited the new estate's central location as an attractive factor. "Bidadari is definitely an area where many flat applicants are looking forward to, notwithstanding its 'sad past'," said R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng, referring to Bidadari's history as a cemetery.

Said PropNex Realty chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail Gafoor: "As a mature estate, we believe this 'future Bishan of Singapore' is going to be a hot seller."

As for prices in Bidadari, experts said they were "reasonable". They start at $297,000 for three-room flats, $433,000 for four-room flats and $544,000 for five-room flats.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim noted that in May's BTO, Clementi five-roomers cost $576,000 to $725,000, yet drew almost 14 applicants for each unit.

Pilot Yu Shu Qing, 33, may get a Bidadari flat with his wife. He said: "It's a good location so it should be quite a hot piece of property."

But others like beauty adviser Nur Sahila Noor Sa-llehudin, 24, are shying away as they find the price steep. "Four-room flats in Bidadari are almost double the price of those in Sengkang," she noted. Sengkang four-roomers start at $252,000.

Also on offer are BTO flats in Choa Chu Kang, Sengkang, Bukit Batok, Hougang and Punggol.

Meanwhile, the concurrent Sale of Balance Flats exercise offers 1,443 flats across 14 mature towns - including a four-roomer at the Pinnacle@Duxton - and 3,907 flats across 11 non-mature towns.

Experts expect strong demand in this launch. "The slew of policies and incentives announced recently will increase flat buyers' interest," said Mr Ong.

"These include a higher income ceiling for new flats and a larger Special Central Provident Fund Housing Grant.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who visited the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh yesterday to speak to home buyers, noted in a Facebook post: "It was just Day 1, but the sales area was already abuzz with many home buyers."

"In fact, there is no need to rush," he added. Applications are open for 10 days instead of the usual seven, until 11.59pm on Nov 26. The public can apply online or in person.

Including balance flats in May and November, a total of 25,837 flats were offered this year.

The next launch is in February, offering about 4,150 BTO flats in Bidadari, Bukit Batok and Sengkang.

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Lukewarm demand for two-room flexi flats
364 apply for 2,093 units on first day of sale exercise; experts still expect strong demand
By Janice Heng and Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 18 Nov 2015

The new Two-Room Flexi Scheme got a modest reception on the first day of the Housing Board sales exercise yesterday, with the high supply remaining well in excess of demand.

In this Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, two-room flexi units make up almost 30 per cent of flats offered and are located in five of six towns available, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. "This will help ensure a broad range of options and locations to meet demand," he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

As of 5pm yesterday, there were 364 applicants for 2,093 two-room flexi units available, a ratio of about one applicant to every five units.

But experts still expect strong demand for the two-room flexi scheme, which merges and replaces the previous two-room flat and studio apartment schemes.

Units come in two sizes - 36 sq m and 45 sq m - and are available on 99-year leases or, on short leases of 15 to 45 years for eligible buyers aged 55 and above.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim expects short leases to be popular, noting that many older buyers "had requested for more flexible leases".

For BTO two-room flexi units, at least 40 per cent - subject to a minimum of 100 units - are for the elderly. Half of this quota is set aside for buyers of flats near their current home or married child, under the new Senior Priority Scheme.

In the concurrent Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise, two-room flexi units make up more than one in five of the 5,350 flats on offer. These include 442 units to be sold on either a 99-year lease or a short lease, and another 776 that are sold on a short lease only and come with elderly-friendly fittings.

While singles have been able to buy two-room flats in non-mature estates in BTO exercises since July 2013, this is the first time they can buy flats in SBF exercises, too.

In BTO launches, after setting aside flats for the elderly, half of the remainder is set aside for non-elderly singles. In SBF exercises, only 5 per cent of the remainder is reserved for singles.

Retiree Violet Seow, 69, is eyeing a 30-year-lease SBF flat in either Woodlands or Yishun. She said: "The shorter lease makes it more affordable for people like me who are not working and have no more money going into our Central Provident Fund."

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