Sunday, September 30, 2012

New flats in old estates bring cheer

Friday, Sep 28, 2012

When Ms Daphnie Chong, 28, and her longtime boyfriend applied for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat in Pasir Ris earlier this year, they were in for a surprise.

It was their first time applying for a flat and they got lucky: They will get the keys to their four-room flat at the end of 2014.

The first-time buyers had not had their hopes up, having heard stories from peers about repeated unsuccessful applications.

Ms Chong, who works as an events coordinator, told my paper: "We didn't expect it. It's good that we got it now, because prices next year may go up."

Shorter queues for units have been a boon for young couples such as Ms Chong and her boyfriend, as a result of the Government's ramp-up in BTO projects for this year and next year. But rising prices are still a source of worry for many.

Yesterday, the Housing Board (HDB) announced that the total supply of BTO flats will hit 27,000 units for this year, up from the 25,000 planned originally.

Seven new BTO projects offering 3,727 flats were also launched yesterday. Among them are 2,424 units in mature estates, such as Ang Mo Kio and Tampines.

First-time buyers are set to benefit most, with 95 per cent of the BTO flats, excluding studio apartments, reserved for them in these mature towns.

HDB also said it will offer 3,328 balance flats in 11 non-mature and 12 mature towns. At least 95 per cent of this supply, excluding studio apartments, will be set aside for first-time buyers.

Yesterday's HDB announcement comes hot on the heels of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reiteration of the Government's stance on public housing made earlier this week.

Responding to questions submitted to - The Straits Times' current-affairs website - Mr Lee said that the Government's purpose is to build enough flats for Singaporeans and to offer more affordable housing for first-time buyers.

Mr Lee also addressed concerns of rising prices and questions about whether HDB flats should be treated as assets.

He said he preferred giving young people a housing asset as an "endowment" - something to help them start off with "the right chips".

First-time home buyers whom my paper spoke to raised concerns about the rising prices of public housing.

Said manager May Chen, 26, who bought a four-room flat in Hougang last July: "I'm glad I applied for my flat when I did.

"I bought it for below $300,000; it was a low-floor flat. Now you can't even find a similar one at such a price."

Ms Koh Yi Wen, 25, who is a student at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, said the five-room BTO flat she bought with her boyfriend in Clementi was "very expensive".

She said: "I had to pay a stamp fee of $15,000. It was an amount my boyfriend and I did not prepare for."

The stamp fee is calculated based on the selling price or market value of the property, whichever is higher.

Ms Koh said that, while owning an HDB flat offers stability, prices are increasing and having to service a bigger loan may be difficult for some.

HDB said that the next BTO launch will be in November, when it will offer 6,400 units in Queenstown, Bedok, Toa Payoh, Sengkang and Chua Chu Kang.

Mr Benny Ng and Ms Chan Li Ping, both 32, who bought a resale flat in 2008, said the Government is moving in the right direction in ramping up the supply of BTO flats.

"I think the problem was quite severe in the past, when my colleagues had to hold off on their marriage because they couldn't get a BTO unit," said Mr Ng, who runs a bag-making business.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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