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.

Right-sizing

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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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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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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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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Building Homes, Supporting Families

December 14, 2016

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2016 marks another fruitful year of our public housing programme.

We successfully launched about 18,000 BTO flats spread evenly across the mature and non-mature estates. This kept prices stable and offered many choices to home buyers.

Meanwhile, the BTO application rate for first-timer families applying for 3-room or bigger flats in non-mature estates has remained stable and manageable, at 1.5 times for the most recent November launch, and an average of 2.0 times for the whole year. From experience, this means that BTO applicants will be able to get a flat within their first or second try, and most definitely by the third try. Hence, I always advise young families to apply for BTO flats in non-mature estates to increase their chances of success.

I am also glad to see that many more families and singles have benefitted from the initiatives announced last year – about 2,200 more households were able to purchase a subsidised flat under the higher income ceiling; 4,100 households benefitted from the enhanced Special CPF Housing Grant; and about 6,000 households benefitted from the Proximity Housing Grant when they purchased a flat in the resale market close to their parents or married children.

We also made a significant move with the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, which will help second-timer families with young children living in public rental housing own a home again. We have just opened applications for the scheme at the start of the month. I look forward to supporting as many families as possible in their home ownership journey.

All of these demonstrate our commitment to keep home ownership within reach of all Singaporean families. But our work is not complete. We will press on with our mission to house a nation, and to help Singaporeans own a home that meets their budget and needs.

In 2017, HDB will launch about 17,000 new flats for sale to Singaporeans. We are gradually tapering supply but still ensuring a healthy pipeline to meet demand. Once again, we will offer a good spread across the mature and non-mature estates. This will give buyers a range of choices, including young couples who wish to live near their parents or the elderly who want to right-size and age in place.

At the same time, we will continue to monitor the market, make adjustments to our building programme, and review our schemes to meet the housing needs of Singaporeans. For example, over the past year, I’ve received feedback from young couples to make the waiting time for BTO flats shorter. So I’ve asked HDB to plan and prepare the land for several new sites which can subsequently be put out as BTO units with shorter waiting time. These units will not be ready next year, but I hope we can begin to offer them by 2018.

There’s much to be thankful for as we wind up the year. 2016 has been a year of disruptions, surprises, and upheavals around the world. But we’ve kept Singapore an oasis of calm and stability in Asia. With your partnership, I’m confident that we can continue to make progress in our journey to build a better home for all.

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Fresh Start Housing Scheme: A Fresh Start for Families

December 1, 2016

In April, I spoke about the new Fresh Start Housing Scheme. The scheme aims to help second-timer families in public rental flats and with young children to own a home of their own again. I’m happy to announce that Fresh Start is now open for application!

Some second-timer public rental families are ready and hoping to own a home again – they are in stable employment, manage their finances well, and have a stable home environment. However, they may find it challenging to buy a flat, or have worries about making a substantial financial commitment.

Fresh Start will help to bridge the gap for these families by allowing them to buy a more affordable 2-room flat on a shorter lease, and giving them another HDB concessionary rate loan and a new Fresh Start Housing Grant of up to $35,000.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and HDB will assess the readiness of families who apply, and check in with families who are on the scheme to ensure they remain on track.

We are starting with a more targeted approach. So the number of Fresh Start families may not be large to begin with. But we will keep the scheme open, and families who are keen but do not qualify on their first attempt can apply again when they are more ready. Meanwhile, I encourage them to persevere toward homeownership and seek help to improve their situation.

This scheme marks a new way of integrating housing and social assistance, and implementing it will be a learning process for all agencies involved. This is why I have approached Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman to chair a Fresh Start Advisory Committee to support outreach efforts and provide guidance on the implementation of the scheme.

Dr Maliki was in MND when the scheme was initiated, and has a great deal of experience and knowledge in both social work and housing policy. The committee includes members who are deeply involved in the social sector and community work, and I am glad for their help in getting the scheme off to a good start.

Interested families may visit the HDB InfoWEB or their nearest HDB Branch to find out more. Not everyone will take up the scheme or qualify for it initially. But I know it will make a lot of difference to each family who does, and I wish them all the best in their journey towards home ownership.

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