Another Successful Year of Housing a Nation

December 30, 2015

SG50 has been a special year for all Singaporeans.

As we celebrated our Golden Jubilee, we also had many moments to reflect on our progress as a nation.

A major part of this journey in nation building is our home ownership programme.

This morning, I visited a few families who recently moved into their new flats in the Tampines Greenlace BTO project.

Both families applied under the Married Child Priority Scheme, and are now living close to their parents.

With the completion of some 26,000 new flats in 2015, I’m glad that many families like Mr and Mrs Tan and Mr Hilmi and Mdm Somaiah can look forward to welcoming the New Year in their new HDB homes.

In 2015, HDB launched some 15,000 new BTO flats.

The BTO application rate for first-timer families (applying for 3-room and bigger flats in non-mature estates) has stabilised to about 1.6 times. This means that most of these families would have been able to book their flats in their first attempt.

We are also on track for a soft-landing in the property market.

Resale prices have softened gradually to 2011 levels, and more than half of resale flats are now transacting close to their market value. This is a good outcome for both buyers and sellers.

The more stable market environment has enabled us to enhance our housing policies to benefit a broader spectrum of Singaporeans. These include new 2-room Flexi flats, higher income ceilings, and additional grants, like the new Proximity Housing Grant and the enhanced Special CPF Housing Grant.

We’ve had very good response to these new policies.

So for 2016, we are planning for a slightly higher BTO supply of about 18,000 flats.

These will be spread across a good variety of locations, so that homebuyers can be assured of flats for every budget and need.

While the 2016 flat supply will be increased to meet new demand from the recent policy changes, the broader plan remains to keep supply at a more sustainable level over the long-term.

Over the coming year, we will continue to monitor the market closely and adjust our building programme when necessary.

We will focus on making our housing policies more inclusive and build even better homes for all Singaporeans.

Here’s wishing all a Happy New Year!

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


Helping Public Rental Families Own a Home Again

December 15, 2015

Helping Public Rental Families Own a Home Again

A few weeks ago, I shared in my Facebook post that MND and HDB are gathering views on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme through a series of public dialogues.

One of the groups we consulted were former flat owners who are now living in public rental flats. We wanted to better understand the challenges they face and how the government can better support them.

Most said they wanted to own a flat again for their children to grow up in, but were unable to get mortgage loans. Some also said it was difficult to pay the resale levy in cash. Fresh Start Housing Scheme Public Consultations

The Fresh Start Housing Scheme will go some way to help these second-timer families.

First, the new Fresh Start Housing Grant will reduce the amount they need to pay.

Second, we can consider providing them with another HDB concessionary loan.

Third, I’ve asked HDB to explore offering 2-room Flexi-flats on shorter leases under this scheme. These flats are more affordable due to the shorter lease, and are currently only available to the elderly. We are also studying the possibility of a longer Minimum Occupation Period for these flats.

While I understand that some larger families may prefer to buy a bigger flat, it would be more prudent to secure a flat first, and then move on to a bigger unit when they are able to do so.

The 2-room Flexi-flats will be similar in size to their existing rental flats, but this will be a flat which they will pay for and will eventually be able to call their own, unlike a rental flat. This is the big difference.

Taken together, the provision of another housing grant, another concessionary HDB loan, and a shorter lease flat are significant steps to help these families.

We also met with former public rental tenants who have progressed to become home owners. I was inspired by how they overcame various challenges to own their homes again.

Many of them achieved this with support from friends, family, government agencies and community organisations. Above all, they had a very strong sense of self-motivation.  They all agreed on the importance of securing regular employment, working hard, and putting their children through school, so that the problems do not continue with the next generation.

Fresh Start Housing Scheme Public ConsultationsWhile this group had succeeded in buying flats on their own, they felt that the government could provide additional support to the families who have not been able to do so, provided they show the commitment to put their lives and finances in order.

In our consultations with social workers, they said that a critical factor was for these families to believe in their own ability to succeed. They gave many good suggestions to give these families hope and motivation.

One suggestion was to disburse the housing grant in a few tranches over time, subject to certain conditions which have to be met, instead of a single lump-sum payout. I think this is a good idea, which HDB will consider incorporating into the scheme.

Given the complex issues families face, some may need more guidance and support before they can commit to homeownership. So the number of Fresh Start families may not be large to begin with. But it’s better to start the scheme on a sound footing, and then see how it can be expanded over time to benefit more families.

Overall, we received many valuable insights and suggestions to make Fresh Start a meaningful scheme.

We have posted the summaries of our discussions at the Fresh Start webpage. We continue to welcome your views, and you can send us your suggestions at feedback@mnd.gov.sg. Thank you for helping our fellow Singaporeans who are making the effort towards home ownership.

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 

 


Healthy Response to Bumper Launch

November 26, 2015

The Nov 2015 BTO and SBF exercise will close tonight. This is a landmark launch for HDB, with a record 12,411 flats on offer. It is also significant because several policy changes took effect, benefiting many more Singaporeans across different buyer groups.

First, with the higher income ceilings, more Singaporeans are able to apply for a new HDB flat. About 2,100 families and 220 singles in this exercise benefited from the higher income ceilings of $12,000 and $6,000 respectively.

Second, more lower- and middle-income home buyers benefit from the enhanced Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG). Some 6,500 families are eligible to apply for grants, as the SHG was extended to middle-income buyers earning up to $8,500. All eligible families will also receive a higher SHG quantum, in some cases, up to $20,000 more.

Third, we offered 2-Room Flexi flats for the first time to give seniors more choice and flexibility, and set aside 40% of these units for them. Response has been encouraging. About 1,400 seniors applied for the 966 units of 2-Room Flexi flats offered under this BTO exercise.

Infographic

Overall, the BTO application rate for 2-Room Flexi flats is a healthy 2.5.  Flats in Bidadari flats received some of the highest application rates, despite their higher prices.  This can be attributed to their central location, presence of two MRT stations and distinctive “Community in the Garden” concept. To meet the strong demand, we will be launching more flats in Bidadari next year, with close to 1,600 units in the Feb 2016 BTO exercise.

It is also heartening that about one-quarter of Bidadari applicants applied through the Married Child Priority Scheme to live with or near their parents or married child, in this case staying in Toa Payoh town or Potong Pasir estate. This is an example of how we provide more opportunities for families to live closer together for mutual care and support.

Overall, the BTO application rate for 3-room or larger flats is a healthy 3.2. Notwithstanding the strong demand, for Singaporeans buying their first home, the good news is that the first-timer application rate in non-mature estates is only around 1.6. Non-mature estate flats are also more affordable and make up 70% of the BTO flats launched in this round.  Taken together, this means that almost all first-timer applicants will stand a good chance of selecting an affordable flat of their choice.

With application rates stabilising, we are still keeping a close eye on buyer demand and will adjust the BTO supply accordingly. In the meantime, best of luck to home buyers who applied in this exercise!

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


More Affordable to Buy a Resale Flat

October 30, 2015

At the National Day Rally (NDR) this year, PM announced several measures to make public housing more affordable for more Singaporeans, and to help more families live closer together for mutual care and support.  Some of the measures relating to the HDB resale market took effect on 24 August 2015, or the day after NDR.  Just two months on, I am happy to see many home buyers already benefitting.

The response towards the new Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), $20,000 for families and $10,000 for singles, has been most encouraging. Out of the 3,506 HDB resale flat transactions, more than one in five home buyers applied for the PHG.

We had deliberately extended the PHG to all Singaporean families looking to buy a resale flat with or near their parents or married children. So there’s no household income ceiling.  Even those who had enjoyed housing subsidies or owned private property before can qualify for the grant.

We did this because we recognise that the desire to live closer to parents and children is shared by a wide spectrum of Singaporean households, and not just first-timer couples.

Indeed nearly half of the families and about 9 in 10 of the singles who applied for the PHG would have been ineligible for any such grants under previous rules.  But with the PHG, they will find it more affordable to buy a resale flat.

In addition, the raised income ceilings have also benefited many home buyers over the last two months.

–  About 1 in 10 first-timer families and singles are now eligible for the CPF Housing Grant because of the higher income ceiling of $12,000 and $6,000 respectively.

–  Almost 1 in 3 new Executive Condominium (EC) buyers are benefitting from the new $14,000 income ceiling.

Since coming into MND, I’ve received several appeals from home buyers looking for a BTO or balance flat near their parents or children. But such new flats are not always available, especially in matured estates. With the enhanced schemes, these home buyers can now consider resale flats in their preferred locations.

Overall, our new measures are off to a good start, and they have provided tangible help for different groups of Singaporeans.  We will continue to work hard to provide more affordable housing options for all Singaporeans, and especially for families to live closer together.

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015

ContinueTheTradition_header

I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


Phew, a much welcome soft landing!

September 28, 2015

Blog banner

With the Cabinet reshuffle, this will be my last blog post on “Housing Matters” :(

I started this blog more than 4 years ago, with a post: “Trepidation and Expectation”. Housing was hot and I came to MND with great trepidation. But I also came with some expectation to be able to do some good.

pics

Four years passed very quickly. Launched 100,000 new flats, built 120 km of park connectors, planted many trees, handed over many keys to new home owners! It had been a great journey. There were tense moments when I had to seek peace and wisdom at Sembawang Park!

But overall, I think I did not waste my 4 years at MND. Made many friends, got to know many dedicated staff and experts in URA, HDB, BCA, AVA, NParks, CEA, and learnt so much from them. Had healthy debates with developers, contractors, industry analysts, property agents. Hosted many Our Singapore Conversation on Housing and tested out many ideas on them. I thank them for their advice, suggestions and generous sharing of expertise.

pics2

I thank Singaporeans in particular for their patience and understanding: you know that policy changes and cooling measures need time to produce results. Particularly happy to be able to help many newlyweds get their home and start their family early. Very pleased to have helped many extended families live close together. Broke new ground with singles being able to buy new HDB flats. Shortened the queue waiting for HDB rental flat. The hot housing market is soft-landing nicely.

But there remains much to do. 2R Flexi is just starting. Fresh Start Housing Grant is a great idea which needs to be fleshed out. There are still a few thousand singles waiting for their new flats. I am sorry that I will not be able to finish up this business. But I am reassured that MND will be in good hands.

Goodbye, my friends for reading the posts on “housing matters”. Where I am going next will be another adventure for me, with even greater trepidation and expectation. I hope I do not have to camp overnight at Sembawang Park :) I certainly hope to continue to have Singaporeans’ patience and understanding.

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


Serving with Passion

September 26, 2015

title

Min Khaw giving awardsModern Singapore was built by many pioneers who had selflessly toiled in the background. Mr Tan Lian Ker, who turned 86 this year, is one. He is one of MND’s longest serving board members, having served as President of the Strata Titles Board (STB) for 22 years. He has asked to retire, and we cannot say no.

Until his retirement in 1984, Mr Tan served in various appointments including as the Head of the Legal Department of the SAF, and as a District Judge. Not content to just sit back and enjoy his retirement, he set up a law firm to continue helping others. When STB was set up in 1988 to handle strata-titled property disputes, Mr Tan volunteered to be on the Board, despite his busy schedule.

STB news articles1Under his leadership, STB resolved over 1,400 cases, of which 85 per cent were mediated without trial. His motto is to resolve disputes amicably whenever possible, so that residents can live in harmony.  Even if it meant going down personally to homes to review the evidence, he was ever ready. His landmark decision in 2005 to abandon the then practice of sharing costs between the upper and lower units involved in disputes on inter-floor leakage led to a legislative change and we now see speedier resolution of such disputes. Mr Tan was also involved in the major legislative changes to the Land Titles (Strata) Act relating to en bloc sales. Over the years, he has effectively determined some 200 en bloc sales.

Thank you Mr Tan for years of sterling service!

Please visit MND Facebook to leave a comment! 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 373 other followers