Finding the right balance

June 8, 2016

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme for the second half of 2016 earlier today.

In considering the land quantum for the 2H2016 GLS programme, we have taken into account several factors:

First, the decline in the number of remaining unsold private homes, as well as the corresponding pick-up in new private home sales at a monthly average rate of 600 units over the last 12 months.

Second, the actual supply of private homes committed to in the first half of the year. This worked out to 2,130 homes, higher than the 1,560 homes offered in the GLS programme over the same period, due to the successful sale of a Reserve List site in February 2016.

With these in mind, we have increased the supply of new private homes on the 2H2016 Confirmed List to match the actual committed supply in the first half of the year. So over the next six months, we will sell four sites on the Confirmed List, which are expected to yield around 2,170 private homes.

If we were to include the sites on the Reserve List, we will have a total potential supply in the second half of the year that is similar to what was provided previously in 1H2016.

All this will help to meet the current demand for new housing sites from developers, and add to private housing supply over the medium term.

Besides the overall quantum, we have also taken a closer look at the location of the sale sites.

In particular, we have continued to focus on sites in suburban areas, as these are the preferred locations for most first-timers and upgraders.

In line with this, two of the sites from the latest GLS programme are in areas outside the Central Region – at Fernvale Road in Sengkang and West Coast Vale in Clementi – which can provide approximately 1,150 new homes.

We are also offering a site at Upper Serangoon Road, close to the upcoming HDB estate at Bidadari, for a mixed-use development comprising residences and a commercial complex. This complex will house retail and food outlets, offering many conveniences to the future residents of Bidadari Estate.

The new private homes from these sites should be completed around 2020. They will provide more choices for families looking for suburban private homes.

Over the coming years, MND will continue to provide a steady supply of land for private housing.

We are mindful that excessive supply in a weak market can exacerbate a decline in prices. At the same time, insufficient supply can result in a future shortage and an unwarranted spike in housing prices when demand picks up.

So we will continue to monitor the market closely, and find the right balance to ensure sustainable housing prices and a stable property market.

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Service at Your Fingertips

June 2, 2016

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We live in exciting times. Technology has opened up new and boundless opportunities in the way we live, learn, work and play.

The Government is also leveraging technology to improve our services and enhance our engagement with Singaporeans.

This is a key priority for us at MND.

For example, you may be familiar with the Municipal Services Office (MSO)’s OneService app, which allows the public to provide feedback on municipal issues while on the go.

The OneService Web Portal to be launched later this year will enable the public to access useful information on their neighbourhood, including HDB block-cleaning schedules, the location of dengue clusters and even traffic incidents.

HDB, too, has recently revamped its Mobile@HDB app. The improved app has new features which allow home-buyers to check resale flat prices (by scanning their surroundings with their mobile device’s camera) and to track sales and resale appointments with HDB.

URA is now joining this effort to put more information online in an easily searchable way. And it’s free-of-charge too.:)

Every year, more than 33,000 people write in to URA to ask for information on land matters.

In the past, URA would have to spend a few days to search its records. Due to the time and effort involved, it would charge a fee for the information.

Now URA will place some of the planning information online in an easily searchable way, and in a new online portal called URA SPACE (Service Portal and Community e-Services). Check it out at: https://www.ura.gov.sg/maps/

URA SPACE will consolidate detailed information such as land use plans, urban design guidelines, property use and approval, car park locations and availability, private residential property transactions, and conservation areas and buildings.

The data is presented on a map in GIS (Geographical Information System) format, with a 3D map feature, so that the search for information becomes more intuitive and convenient.

I understand that the majority of the queries received by URA pertain to allowable uses for a shophouse – for instance, whether a shophouse can be used to operate a restaurant, a spa, a pub, an office; or whether it can be leased or owned for other uses. The uses of shophouses are regulated to safeguard the character and amenities in different localities.

angsiangURA SPACE now allows businessmen, investors and shophouse owners to access this information at the click of a mouse, without having to pay, or wait a week for the information. We may well be one of the few cities in the world to offer such a service.

This new service will be piloted for six months to find out whether there is a need to further improve it. The experience gained will allow URA to work on further enhancements of URA SPACE to better serve the public.

There is still much more we can do in the MND family to tap on the power of digital technology. For example, the use of big data and data analytics can be a game-changer in the way we design, plan and develop our future urban landscape and HDB housing estates.

We will continue to innovate and strive to make information more accessible and user-friendly, and bring better service to your fingertips!

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Home for Every Budget and Need

May 24, 2016

The May 2016 Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise was launched earlier today.

A total of 3,770 BTO flats are available for application, alongside another 5,170 flats in the concurrent Sales of Balance Flat (SBF) exercise.

I know many buyers have been looking forward to this launch, as it has been more than three years since HDB last offered BTO flats in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, and Bukit Panjang.

I’m sure those with families living nearby would be especially excited, more so when HDB is also offering 114 3Gen flats in Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Panjang, for the first time, to help multi-generation families live under one roof.  Those applying for other flat types to live near or with their parents will also continue to enjoy higher priority through the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme and the Married Child Priority Scheme.  This is how we support the building of stronger families.

The last two BTO launches were well-subscribed, with flats in mature estates like Bidadari attracting much interest.  Building on this, HDB is offering more options of BTO flats in mature estates such as Ang Mo Kio and Bedok.  These flats, together with the SBF flats located in another 12 mature estates, will offer many choices to young couples looking for HDB flats in convenient locations or nearer to their parents.  But given their popularity, application rates for these mature estate flats are expected to be high, which means a lower chance of success.  So applicants have to be prepared for this.

In fact, I would encourage young couples to apply for BTO flats in non-mature estates.  There are some 2,800 such flats in this launch.  They are generally more affordable and come with more grants.  For example, a 3-room flat starts from $147,000 before grants, or $77,000 after grants.  By opting for a 3-room flat in Sembawang instead of one in a mature estate like Bedok, you get to save more than $100,000 instantly, which you could set aside for renovation and more.  You will also enjoy a much higher chance of success in your application.

There’s a perception that flats in non-mature estates are located far from work, and are not as well served by transport connections, or other amenities and facilities.  But there are significant development plans in many of these areas, which potential home buyers should take into consideration.  Also, our efforts to decentralise our urban development and build commercial centres outside the city will create more investments and jobs closer to homes in these areas.

I remember when my parents bought their HDB flat in Marine Parade back in the 70s.  At that time, it was a completely new town with few amenities.  There were also concerns about it being built on reclaimed land.  But look at how the whole area has developed over time.  So a ‘non-mature’ estate today can become a ‘mature’ estate tomorrow.

For this launch, there are also more choices for those in need of a flat earlier.  The concurrent SBF exercise offers 5,000 balance flats across 25 towns and estates.  These are flats which are already under construction or completed, so the time to key collection will be faster than BTO flats.  This will help families with a more urgent need for housing or who are looking for flats in certain specific locations.

Whether it’s price, location, or waiting time, the close to 9,000 flats to choose from in this sales exercise will ensure that you can find a home that meets your budget and needs.  So do consider the various options carefully, and good luck in finding your home sweet home!

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Our First Car-Free Sunday SG

February 16, 2016

Our First Car-Free Sunday SG

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met and spoken to many Singaporeans who support the vision of a car-lite and people-friendly city.

It will take tremendous effort and time to make our vision a reality.

Car-Free Sunday SG_2But if we want a future city that’s cleaner and greener, and provides an even better quality of life for all, we must start to make changes now.

Think of how we transformed Singapore over the last 50 years.

Likewise, the small steps we take today, accumulated over several years and even decades, can result in another wave of transformational change.

That’s why we’re working hard to improve our public transport and infrastructure for active mobility options like walking and cycling.

We’ve also been facilitating weekend road closures – initiated by local communities – around Singapore.

Later this month, we will take this a step further with our first Car-Free Sunday SG in the heart of the CBD and Civic District.

This will be done as a six-month pilot to be held on the last Sunday of each month from February to July. From 7am to 9am, the roads around the Padang – St Andrew’s Road, Stamford Road and Connaught Drive – and Fullerton Road will be fully closed to vehicles, while Shenton Way and Robinson Road will be partially closed for you to cycle, jog or walk.

On 28 Feb, come and experience for yourself what a car-free city is like. We’ve lined up an exciting series of family-friendly activities that morning. The museums will be opened earlier that day from 9am. So bring your family and friends to check out the re-furbished Asian Civilisations Museum and the newly-opened National Gallery of Singapore.

For those who prefer to simply relax and soak in the atmosphere, there’s a breakfast picnic area at the lawn in front of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, where you can enjoy roti prata, nasi lemak and other local delights.

Car-Free Sunday SG

We will be sharing more details on the programming very soon, but here’s a preview of the event logo for Car-Free Sunday SG.  Let’s all do our part towards a car-lite and people-friendly city.:)

Car-Free Sunday SG

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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