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

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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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New Options to Get HDB Flats Sooner

July 19, 2017

During the Budget this year, I announced two measures to help couples get their new homes sooner. HDB is ready to launch the two measures.

The first is to offer Build-To-Order (BTO) flats with shorter waiting times by commencing construction of these projects ahead of their launch.

The first batch of 1,000 flats in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun will begin construction later this year.

These flats will be launched for sale in the second half of 2018 and will be ready between the fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021.

This means that homebuyers will wait about 2.5 years for their flat from the time of application, instead of the typical three to four years waiting time for BTO projects.

The second measure is the introduction of a new way to apply for balance flats. This will help families with more urgent housing needs and who are less particular about location and flat attributes.

Currently, HDB’s Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) are a popular option among households, as the flats are nearer to completion or even completed, and spread across various towns. But after every SBF exercise, there are usually some flats left unsold.

HDB will now pool together these balance flats and re-offer them for sale, as part of a new sales mode called the Re-Offer of Balance Flats or ROF.

Under the ROF exercise, applicants will be shortlisted using a computer ballot, and will get the chance to select any available ROF unit, regardless of flat type and location, based on their queue number.

The first ROF exercise will be held in August 2017 with nearly 1,400 units on offer.

For a start, we plan to have ROF exercises twice a year, alongside the major BTO exercises (and on top of the existing SBF exercises which are also carried out twice a year).

After the initial few rounds, we will do a review and consider whether there is a need to adjust the frequency.

I hope the wider range of options and more regular offer of flats will help homebuyers find a home that best suits their needs.

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High-Tech Farming in Singapore

May 9, 2017

Some of you may have read about local fish farm Apollo Aquaculture opening a new high-tech joint venture farm in Brunei a few months ago. This helps to reduce the risk of supply disruptions by diversifying our food sources.

Another way to enhance our food security is to grow our food locally. Our farms are an important source of vegetables, eggs and fish. Local production provides a buffer against overseas food supply disruptions.

Given our limited space, we will not be able to produce all the food we need. However, new farming technologies allow us to significantly boost our production levels. Not only will this provide us with more locally grown food, it will also help our farmers scale up their businesses.

The Government will do more to help farmers adopt these new technologies. Some have already come on board.

For example, Yili farm is using taller growing houses and semi-automated curtain systems for better ventilation and temperature control. They have also installed curved plastic roofs to protect against the elements.

Yili’s vegetables are now growing better and harvesting losses have been reduced. Farm worker productivity has also increased as they can now work in the growing houses even during hot afternoons.

Another example is coastal fish farm, Marine Life Aquaculture (MLA). Previously, MLA needed over a week to manually transfer 100,000 fish fingerlings using plastic containers from their land-based nursery on Pulau Ketam to sea-cages 100 metres away.

MLA knew that there was a better way so they invested in a live fish pump. The same task can now be done in a day! Using a scanner with imaging technology, MLA is even able to track and count the number of fingerlings automatically during this process.

A modern agriculture sector will continue to play a key role in Singapore’s future, even as our economy evolves and our society becomes more urbanised.

This is why we have set aside new plots of farm land in Singapore for productive and high-tech farming.

These plots will be tendered out with longer 20 year leases, compared to the earlier blocks of 10 years announced previously. This follows from feedback we’ve received from farmers that they needed a longer period to recover the investments for new technologies. Furthermore, in assessing the proposals for these new farm plots, we will place greater emphasis on quality and productivity considerations.

AVA will release more details on the farm land tenders soon.

We hope both existing and new farmers will participate, and work with us on this journey to transform our farms.

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