Singles, I Hear You

Since I joined MND last year, I have often received suggestions and feedback from Singaporeans that HDB new flats should also be made available to singles.  Currently, they (above 35) can only buy resale flats, but not new HDB flats.

To these requests, I have routinely given an interim reply: I hear you. I know your wishes to have a roof of your own. But let me tackle the more urgent needs of the married couples first, especially the first-timers.

I am grateful that the singles have been patient and understanding.  Thank you.

Last year, I focused attention on the first-timers and we have produced good results.

I have now begun to focus on second-timers.  These are still early days, and results will take a few more months to show.   This means going into next year.  But I am confident that we will have results to show eventually.

This has allowed me to begin to think about how to address the singles’ housing needs.

Since PM’s ND Rally, many more comments and suggestions have surfaced.

Some are quite sound.  For example:

–   Allowing singles to buy BTO flats should not be at the severe expense of married couples;

–   There must be some restrictions on the type of flats that singles are allowed to buy;

–   Singles should not be allowed to rent out the flats;

–   If two singles with 2 BTO flats subsequently get married, one of the flats should be sold;

–   There must be a difference between the subsidy received by a single and a married couple.

There were other suggestions.

For example:

–   The flats sold to singles should be of shorter lease and longer MOP;

–   A higher (than 35) age threshold should be imposed on such BTO applicants.

Property analysts have added to the debate, commenting on the impact of such a policy on the resale market, and in particular on the “shoe-box” market.

I am glad that many Singaporeans have given thoughts to this topic.  That is the value of such national conversation, creating a forum for interested Singaporeans to share their views and suggestions on a common topic.  The Government cannot obviously accept all suggestions, but the informal nature of the consultation allows all views and ideas to be aired and duly considered.

I will continue to mull over this issue.  In any case, I cannot hurry too much as firstly, I need to focus on the immediate needs of the second-timers until they are largely addressed next year.  Secondly, I want to have a better handle over the likely additional demand on new HDB flats when we open the scheme to singles.  The additional demand is unlikely to be small and if we misjudge, the interests of the married couples, especially those with children, may be adversely affected.

I suppose one practical approach given the difficulty of assessing demand, is to adopt an incremental approach to implementation.  We can start the scheme with some initial restrictions (e.g. on flat type).  This way, we can better ensure the scheme meets the needs of the singles, while still protecting the interests of the married couples.

Another logical way is to launch a larger number of BTO flats next year.  Question is what should that magical number be.  This requires some study, and market research.  Hence, I need some time.

Meanwhile, please continue to let me have your views and suggestions.

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