Providing Affordable Flats and Good Homes

December 16, 2019

2019 has been a busy year for MND’s work on public housing.

We are doubling down on our efforts to build affordable flats and good homes for all Singaporeans.

Over the last five years, around 150,000 families have booked or collected their keys to their first homes.

Many of them purchased new flats in non-mature estates (NMEs) like Punggol, Sengkang or Tengah. We price these flats at generous discounts to the market. As a result, the vast majority of buyers of new NME flats spend little or zero cash outlay on their mortgage payments.

In September this year, we made two major policy moves – we raised the income ceilings for HDB flats and introduced a new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant.

This means that more young couples will benefit from housing subsidies for their first HDB flat. They can enjoy up to $80,000 in grants when they buy a new flat (which is sold at a discounted price), and up to $160,000 in grants when they buy a resale flat in the open market.

These changes will lead to greater demand for public housing. To meet this additional demand, HDB will be launching about 16,000-17,000 new flats in 2020. This is more than the BTO supply of 14,600 flats this year.

Besides ensuring housing affordability, we also want existing HDB flats to remain good homes for their owners. Hence we are investing significantly in the upgrading of HDB estates.

Over the last five years, we have spent about $3 billion on various HDB upgrading programmes. In the coming years, we will continue to do more to provide better, greener and smarter homes across all HDB precincts.

We also recognise that some seniors use their HDB flats to supplement their retirement income. That is why we extended the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) to cover all HDB flat types. This allows HDB owners, upon reaching the age of 65, to unlock value from their flats to supplement their retirement income, and still continue to have a home for life.

Many people are still not that familiar with the LBS. So over the last few months, we stepped up efforts to raise public awareness about the scheme. The response has been very positive, and take-up for LBS has nearly doubled to around 1,500 households this year.

Besides these policy moves, we are making long-term plans to ensure HDB flats remain good homes to live in. In particular, as announced previously, the government will progressively redevelop older HDB towns through the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS).

We are working out the implementation details of VERS, and will share more when ready. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, there have been several alternative suggestions to VERS, including different ways to manage the expiring of HDB leases. MND will consider all such feedback and ideas, and study them in greater detail.

It is worth noting that across these different proposals, there is common ground on some key fundamentals. In particular, there is broad-based recognition of the need for urban renewal in our land-scarce city, so that land can be recycled, and new flats can be built for future generations. This is the reason why so much of our land is on a leasehold basis, be it for private or public residential properties.

Indeed as our HDB estates get older, there will be a greater need for comprehensive redevelopment and renewal works. The Government is committed to this long-term undertaking. That is why we started the process early, to plan well ahead in advance, so that the redevelopment of our housing estates can be done in an effective, orderly and sustainable manner.

Next year will be a significant milestone for HDB as we mark its 60th anniversary. HDB has been one of Singapore’s most successful public institutions. Right from the start, HDB has strived to foster communities, conscious of the need to give people homes, not just houses.

Most of all, HDB’s success is due to our ability to constantly adapt and change, and come up with new policies to meet the evolving needs of society.

It is this spirit of innovation that will enable us to realise our evergreen mission of providing affordable flats and good homes for every generation of Singaporeans.

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Stretching Our Land Options – Going Upward, Downward and Seaward

June 26, 2019

Land is a critical factor in any country’s development, more so for a little red dot like Singapore.  Hence, we are always looking at different ways to stretch our land options.

One strategy is to go upward. We are used to high-rise living in Singapore. But there are other vertical applications. For example, we are deploying solar panels on HDB rooftops and going for vertical farms.

In the new Tengah town, we are doing centralised cooling systems, with the chillers on the rooftops.  This is more energy efficient than split-unit air-conditioning systems in every home, and will also help to reduce the urban heat island effect that comes with existing air-conditioning usage.

The vertical strategy is also about optimising existing spaces, especially where we have yet to maximise the full development potential.

Paya Lebar Airbase is one such example. The Airbase is located near urbanised areas and imposes height restrictions on the buildings.

Imagine the potential once the Airbase is relocated. We can have new and higher developments, not just in Paya Lebar, but also in the surrounding areas.

Another strategy is to go downward or underground.  We already have underground utility systems, including our power grid, telco lines and a district cooling system in Marina Bay.

We are doing more to exploit our underground space.  Soon we will have our first underground 230 kV substation in Pasir Panjang, and more underground district cooling systems in new areas like Punggol.

We are also going deeper underground (more than 150 m below ground) to develop caverns. We already have the rock caverns in Jurong for oil storage. We are now identifying and safeguarding suitable locations for future cavern uses.

For the first time this year, we have put together a comprehensive 3D Underground Space Plan.  We’ve completed the underground plans for Marina Bay, Jurong Innovation District and Punggol Digital District, and will include other areas in the Plan over time.

Finally, we can create more space by extending seaward through reclamation.

For example, we have reclaimed land in Tuas for a new terminal.  We will move our existing ports in the southern part of Singapore to Tuas, and free up about 1000 ha of prime waterfront space. This will enable us to extend our downtown area, beyond Marina Bay to a new Southern Waterfront City.

Reclamation is costly and requires a lot of sand. That is why we have embarked on a new method of reclamation in Pulau Tekong using polders and dikes. This method requires about 40 per cent less sand compared to traditional reclamation.

Reclamation is important for another reason – it is a strategy to protect Singapore against the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change.  We have already raised reclamation levels by an additional 1m.  But more will need to be done.

So we are studying the need for other infrastructure, including sea walls and pumping stations to protect against rising sea levels.  These are long-term investments but we are planning well ahead so that we can put them in place in a timely manner.

Land will always be a constraint in our little island.

But through human ingenuity, we can come up with innovative ways to stretch our land options – upward, downward and seaward. That’s how we can overcome our natural constraints, and continue to succeed over the long-term.

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New Option to Get HDB Flats Even Sooner

February 7, 2019

Every year, about 20,000 Singaporean households buy a flat from HDB. Many do so through the Build-To-Order (BTO) or the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises.

In 2017, we introduced the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise, where all unsold HDB flats are offered in a common pool. Under the ROF exercise, applicants need not indicate the flat type and location when they apply for a flat, and can book any available units according to their eligibility. This benefits homebuyers who may be less particular about location and other flat attributes, or who have more urgent housing needs.

The ROF exercises have been popular, with about 2,500 households booking a flat since they were first launched. Nearly two-thirds of these households have already collected the keys to their flats.

The ROF is now offered twice a year. HDB has been studying if there is a way to make the sale of such flats even more accessible to potential homebuyers.

I am happy to share that HDB will provide an option for flat buyers to book remaining flats from the ROF pool at any time of the year. This open booking will start around the middle of the year, with the first batch of about 120 flats.

In other words, flat buyers can apply online anytime on a first-come, first-served basis, and book a flat by the next working day. This will effectively reduce their waiting time to book a flat to just one day.

With the increased range of options available, I hope that it will be easier and more convenient for potential homebuyers to find a flat that meets their different needs, preferences, and budget.

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More Help for Seniors

November 16, 2018

Financial planning for retirement is something we must all take seriously. For HDB flat owners, this process is also linked to the various monetisation options to unlock the value of their flats. Before deciding on any particular option, it’s best to do some homework and work out the sums carefully. For example, I recently met an elderly couple in their 60s living in an Executive flat in Woodlands. Their flat is worth $570,000 today, and they are looking to monetise their flat for retirement, as their children are all married and have their own flats. I went through with them their options.


If they choose to right-size, they will have to think about the size and lease of the next flat, and whether to purchase it from the resale market or to get something new from HDB.

For example, they can buy a 3-room resale flat in the same town for about $230,000 with around 55 years of remaining lease, which would be more than enough lease to cover them for life.

There is no resale levy when they purchase a flat from the resale market. In fact, they could even get a Proximity Housing Grant of $20,000 if the resale flat is close to their children (within a distance of 4 km).

Alternatively, they can buy a second subsidised 3-room flat from HDB with a full 99-year lease. They will then have to pay a resale levy of $50,000 on top of the price of the flat. Another option is to purchase a new 2-room Flexi flat with a short-lease from HDB. This will be more affordable, and the resale levy is also reduced to around $18,000 or less.

If they are right-sizing to a 3-room or smaller flat (new or resale), they can also take up the Silver Housing Bonus (SHB) to receive a cash bonus of up to $20,000 when they use part of their cash proceeds to top up their CPF Retirement Accounts and join CPF LIFE, which will provide them with a monthly income stream for life.

Lease Buyback Scheme

If they wish to continue staying in their current flat, they can take up the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS). As I have announced previously, we are extending the LBS to 5-room and larger flats. HDB is working out the details, which should be ready by early next year.

The amount they get from LBS will be smaller than what they can get from right-sizing, but the advantage is that they can continue to stay on in the same flat. At the same time, they can also consider renting out their spare bedrooms.

More personalised help

The process of retirement planning and unlocking value from one’s HDB flat can be complex and there are many factors to consider. In fact, when planning ahead for retirement, we should look at the assets we own in totality – not just the value of the existing flat, but also the income from work, and the savings in our CPF accounts and other areas.

Every individual’s circumstance is different and unique. That is why HDB offers comprehensive one-on-one financial counselling sessions for seniors.  I’ve also asked HDB to see what more it can do to provide more personalised information to seniors.  For example, this could include information on the estimated proceeds that one can get from the different options, be it LBS, right-sizing to a new or resale flat, or renting out a room.  By doing so, we can help our seniors make informed decisions about their housing monetisation options.

The MoneySense campaign is also launching a series of financial planning roadshows over the coming months. The first one will held this weekend (17 and 18 Nov) at Our Tampines Hub (Festive Walk East). There will be a section on retirement and estate planning, where you can learn more about the various housing monetisation options, and determine which one best suits your needs. You can click here for more details.

As our population ages, Singaporeans will be looking at ways to plan ahead for their retirement. We will do more to help everyone in this process, so that they can be assured of a home for life, and also enjoy financial security in their golden years.

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Transforming Construction with BuildTech

November 5, 2018

Tech is the buzzword across all sectors of the economy. We are all familiar with terms like FinTech for the financial industry, PropTech for the real estate industry, and MedTech for medical devices.

But what about BuildTech? While construction is one of the least digitalised industries worldwide, digitalisation will offer many opportunities for the industry to transform. The need to boost construction productivity, enhance safety, and reduce abortive work, has attracted the attention of regulators, research institutes and investors worldwide. This has led to venture capitalists investing in BuildTech. New start-ups are emerging in this space with potentially game-changing solutions that use a combination of advanced software technology and cutting-edge hardware.

For example, Transforma Robotics, a local start-up firm, has developed a robotic platform equipped with advanced sensing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities to objectively assess workmanship quality against established specifications, and detect defects such as cracks and wall unevenness for rectification. This will enable contractors and quality inspection teams to improve their productivity by up to 50%, thus freeing up their teams for higher value-added work.

BuildTech is not only being driven by start-ups. Our larger home-grown contractors are also leveraging new technologies to improve construction productivity and expand their businesses overseas.

For example, Tiong Seng Holdings has invested in off-site construction techniques that speed up construction, reduce manpower, and cut down on noise and dust at construction sites. Using Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) (or commonly known as the ‘Lego’ method), modular building components are manufactured in a factory and assembled on-site. In fact, Tiong Seng has recently successfully completed the construction of a residential building in Myanmar using this method. Tiong Seng has also just signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) to set up a factory and offer pre-cast construction components in China. We encourage other local companies to seek similar business opportunities abroad.

The government has embarked on the Construction Industry Transformation Map with our tripartite partners to develop an innovative Built Environment sector.  We will do more to strengthen the industry, and help our firms to venture abroad. In particular, companies and start-ups can look forward to several new programmes, which they can tap on for mentorship, test-bedding opportunities, access to networks, and funding support.

HDB will be launching the Cool Ideas Enterprise at its Innovation Festival on 28 November.  Under this initiative, HDB will welcome ideas from enterprises and work with them to develop practical solutions for our housing estates. This will benefit both our enterprises as well as our residents.

BCA will be launching an accelerator programme to support BuildTech companies and fast-track their solutions to market. The programme will support a range of activities including interest matching to industry hosts, access to investor funding and business networks, and the provision of mentorship to companies. More details will be announced next year.

At the same time, we are partnering trade associations such as the Singapore Construction Association Ltd (SCAL) to help our firms build capability in productive technologies such as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, and Integrated Design Delivery. For example, SCAL has provided platforms and forums to provide the latest updates on construction technologies and share best practices among industry stakeholders.

Where technology is concerned, construction is starting from a relatively lower base, compared to more mature areas such as finance and healthcare.  But this means that there are potentially bigger upsides. Given the sector’s size, small improvements can translate into substantial benefits for companies and workers. To reap the most benefits from these new technologies, we need all hands on deck, and support from all stakeholders. Then we can build a stronger eco-system of innovative construction firms with the capabilities to undertake quality projects in Singapore and abroad.

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Planning Ahead for Our Next Phase of Public Housing

August 20, 2018

Public housing is a success story unique to Singapore. Over the years, we have provided affordable and quality homes for the vast majority of Singaporeans.

Now, we are planning ahead for the next phase of our public housing programme, especially as our population ages and our building stock gets older.

At the National Day Rally yesterday, PM sketched out MND’s plans to systematically upgrade older HDB flats, and progressively renew and rebuild older HDB towns.

These are long-term plans which will be implemented over several decades.

Meanwhile, MND will be making several shorter-term moves to help seniors unlock the value of their HDB flats for retirement.

Today, many seniors choose to rent out a spare bedroom for extra income. Others prefer to sell their existing flats and right-size to smaller units, and enjoy the Silver Housing Bonus.

To facilitate right-sizing, we are looking at ways to improve the liquidity of the resale market for older flats.

Currently, CPF can be used for the purchase of older HDB flats but subject to certain restrictions. These rules are meant to ensure that buyers purchase a home for life, without compromising their retirement savings.

But there is scope to provide more flexibility for buyers of shorter-lease flats while safeguarding their retirement adequacy. So we are working with CPFB to review and update the rules.

For those who wish to continue living in their homes, they can still monetise their flat by selling part of their remaining lease to HDB, under the Lease Buyback Scheme or LBS.

The LBS is a good scheme but it only applies to those living in 4-room or smaller HDB flats.  The original thinking was that it would make more sense for those living in bigger flats to right-size. But there are seniors who prefer to age in place. Some also have grandchildren who come over to visit regularly, and would like a bigger space for the extended family.

After considering the matter carefully, I have decided to extend the LBS to all HDB flats, including 5-room and larger flats. This will enable many more Singaporeans to benefit from the scheme.

The Government is making significant moves on housing to prepare for the future responsibly.

These moves are the result of many months of intensive study by MND and HDB. We have also been gathering feedback and views from Singaporeans, which have been most helpful in shaping our approach and thinking.

We have provided a broad outline of the key changes over the coming years and decades. Much work still lies ahead to flesh out the policies and work through the implementation details.  We will continue to engage and consult Singaporean in this process, to pool our ideas, and translate the plans into reality.

Let us continue to work together to build a better home for ourselves and for future generations of Singaporeans.

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First batch of Tengah flats in Nov 2018

May 13, 2018

Tengah banner_S2

HDB has always challenged itself to do better and break new frontiers, in imagining and planning each HDB town and estate.

Aerial_Marine Parade

Take for instance Marine Parade, which was made possible only through our land reclamation efforts. Over time, it has become a cherished home for many Singaporeans.

It will be no different for Tengah, our first new town in over 20 years. In November this year, we will be launching our first flats in Tengah. It will be a substantial offering of around 1,500 flats, with a good mix across different flat-types.

Over the next few years, we will continue to have a steady stream of Tengah flats. When completed, Tengah Town will grow to about 700 hectares, roughly equivalent to Bishan in size.

2pixin1In planning for Tengah, we wanted a town that is unique, like no other HDB town in Singapore. We have conceptualised it as our first “Forest Town”, and a green theme permeates the entire town.

Tengah will be integrated with the surrounding greenery and rich biodiversity, and feature a car-free town centre. It will be a green, car-lite, and pedestrian-friendly town.

With the recent announcement of the 24-km Jurong Region Line (JRL), residents in Tengah can also look forward to excellent connectivity, with four JRL stations connecting the town to Jurong Innovation District, Jurong Lake District and beyond. Within Tengah, we are also looking to enhance last-mile connectivity through autonomous vehicles.

We look forward to working with Singaporeans to make Tengah a home treasured by generations to come, a place where precious memories and community bonds are formed.

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Another Fruitful Year for Public Housing

December 14, 2017

2017 has been another fruitful year for public housing. This year, we focused much of our efforts on helping first-timer families move in to their homes more quickly.

For first-timer couples looking to settle down quickly, we made buying a flat on the open market more affordable by enhancing the CPF Housing Grant from $30,000 to $40,000/$50,000 in February 2017.

In total, first-timer couples can now receive up to $110,000 in grants (comprising the enhanced CPF Housing Grant, Additional CPF Housing Grant and Proximity Housing Grant) when buying a resale flat. Since the changes, close to 6,900 first-timer households have benefitted from the enhanced CPF Housing Grant.

We also enhanced the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) to help couples who are waiting for their new flat to be ready. To date, about 840 households have benefitted from the higher PPHS rent subsidies.

In August 2017, we launched the first Re-offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise, which pools together unsold flats for sale to those with more urgent housing needs, or who are less particular about location. While the flat selection exercise is still ongoing, about 800 households have already managed to book a flat.

All these mean that young couples will have even more affordable and accessible housing options to start their marriage and parenthood journey early.

For 2018, HDB will maintain a steady supply of about 17,000 new flats, comparable to the 17,584 flats launched in 2017. We will continue to calibrate our flat supply carefully, taking into account underlying demand and the stability of the HDB resale market.

Over the course of the coming year, new flat buyers can look forward to a good spread of projects across mature and non-mature estates, including flats in the new Tengah town.

In the second half of 2018, we will launch about 1,000 flats in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun. These flats will have shorter waiting times of about 2.5 years, instead of the typical 3-4 years for most other BTO projects.

We will also continue our efforts to ensure that our housing policies remain inclusive and enable families to live closer together for mutual care and support.

Here’s wishing all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Faster and easier HDB resale transactions

October 19, 2017

A HDB resale transaction can be quite an involved process for both buyers and sellers. Currently, it takes about 16 weeks to complete a resale transaction, requiring two appointments with HDB.

We can do better than this.

Earlier this year, I shared that we will make use of technology to make the resale process faster and more streamlined. After months of preparation and consultation with stakeholders, HDB is ready to launch the HDB Resale Portal on 1 January 2018.

This is a new digital platform to guide flat buyers and sellers through the HDB resale transaction process. You can conduct eligibility checks, submit resale application forms and upload required documents on a single platform.

With the portal, HDB will streamline its internal processes and reduce the number of resale appointments from two to one. The first appointment will no longer be needed as the required documents and verification checks can be completed digitally. You can do away with the filling of hard-copy forms, and save on a trip to HDB hub.

In fact, if buyers and sellers submit all documents online promptly, the resale transaction time can be halved from 16 weeks to around 8 weeks!

This new platform is an example of how digital technology can be applied in practical ways to streamline existing processes and make citizens’ lives more convenient. It is one of the initiatives under our Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) and part of our move towards being a Smart Nation.

The HDB Resale Portal will also benefit real estate salespersons. It will free them up from time-consuming administrative work and allow them to focus on higher value-added work.

In developing the portal, HDB has taken in feedback from stakeholders to ensure that it is user-friendly. But we are mindful that there may be some flat buyers and sellers who will need help to use the new portal. HDB will set up a dedicated helpline and helpdesk at the HDB Hub to guide those who require assistance through the resale process.

I encourage buyers and sellers to share your feedback with HDB, so that it can continue to improve the system, and serve our residents even better.

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Quality Matters

September 19, 2017

As the saying goes, in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, and location”.

But quality matters greatly too.

Every home owner wants to move into a home with good workmanship and minimal defects.

If you are buying something that is already built, you can check for quality by inspecting the unit.

But what happens when you want to buy something off-plan?

You can look through the plans and view the show unit, but there is no way to be sure of the quality of the completed unit.

This is why MND and BCA are putting more emphasis on quality measures of work done by contractors and developers.

One indicator is BCA’s Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS).

It assesses the quality of structural, architectural, mechanical and electrical workmanship. The assessment covers internal finishes, external walls, external works, and material and functional tests like waterproofing work installation etc. The assessments are conducted on a representative number of units in each development.

Another indicator is the Quality Mark (QM), which is an extension of CONQUAS. QM checks cover 100% of the units in a housing development using the same CONQUAS checklist.

Both schemes recognise quality workmanship and finishing by developers and contractors.

So if you are looking to purchase a new unit off-plan, you might want to look at the CONQUAS and QM scores of the contractor and developer, and see how they have performed in previous projects.

Such information is already in the public domain today, but it takes a bit of effort to find the data and make sense of it.

To make it more convenient for home buyers, BCA has revamped its website so that you can easily search for the CONQUAS and QM scores of specific developers and contractors (based on the past projects they’ve done), and compare these scores against industry averages and that of other companies.

I encourage all developers to publish the CONQUAS and QM scores from previous projects in their sales documents. For greater transparency, those with no previous experience and no previous CONQUAS or QM scores should make this known explicitly in their documents.

The CONQUAS and QM scores by themselves are not perfect measures of quality. But they reflect the track record of the contractor and developer, and I believe that’s something home-buyers would want to take into account before making a major decision on their home purchase.

I hope these efforts will help home-buyers make more informed decisions, and also motivate the industry to strive for even higher quality projects.

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