Thursday, 1 August 2013

More help for low-income singles to buy new flats

Up to $30k extra subsidy if applying alone, and $60k for joint applicants
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2013

LOW-INCOME singles looking for their first new Housing Board flat will now be able to get up to $30,000 in extra subsidy if they apply on their own.

The grants double to $60,000 if two or more singles apply together, pushing a two-room flat's price to as low as $16,000.


Previously, singles could buy only resale flats.

But with this launch, first-timer singles aged 35 and up, with a monthly income of $5,000 or less can, for the first time, apply for a new two-room flat in non-mature estates.



HDB may relax its policy even further. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan told The Straits Times that offering two-roomers was just "a start", and bigger flats may be available to singles in the future.

For now, up to a third of the 519 two-roomers which have been made available in Sengkang and Yishun will be reserved for singles. Coming in 35 sq m and 45 sq m sizes, they are priced between $76,000 and $133,000.

Singles who apply on their own, however, will have to pay an extra $15,000 on top of the selling price, but the money will be returned as a $15,000 grant if they get married later.

To ensure low-income families are not squeezed out of these new two-roomers, their qualifying income ceiling has been raised from $2,000 to $5,000.


Singles who earn up to $2,500 and apply on their own can get an Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to $20,000. Those who take home $1,125 a month or less get a Special CPF Housing Grant of $10,000.

The numbers are doubled for those applying under the Joint Singles Scheme, which means a new two-roomer in Yishun can be bought for as low as $16,000.

In comparison, the price tag of a four-room unit in a mature estate such as Bukit Merah starts from $430,000 with grants.

Low-income singles can also avail themselves of the AHG when they buy five-room or smaller resale flats.

Another change which kicked in was to keep first-timers who marry someone who had bought a flat in the past, for instance a divorcee, in the priority queue.

Previously, these couples would have been considered second-timers, and have a tougher time getting a new unit. Now they will be treated as first-timers, for whom the bulk of new flats are reserved.

The effect of all these changes, said ERA Realty's key executive officer Eugene Lim, could see more turn away from the resale market. "Singles and second-timers will find it easier to apply for new flats. Coupled with cooling measures earlier and a ramp-up of new flat supply, this could lead to less demand on the resale market."





New BTO launch attracts many singles
Five applications from singles for every 2-room flat set aside for them
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2013

WITHIN hours of yesterday's Build-To-Order (BTO) launch, the Housing Board received five applications from singles for every two-room flat that had been set aside for them.

Property analysts, reversing their previous expectation of a poor take-up, said numbers will rise because the latest offer is too good to pass.

Yesterday's launch marked the first time singles, who had previously been restricted to the resale market, were allowed to buy new two-room flats, starting with those in Sengkang and Yishun.


But making it even sweeter are grants which are now being offered to low-income singles to buy new two-roomers.

The Government announced yesterday that those earning $1,125 a month or less can get as much as $30,000 in subsidies. It rises to as much as $60,000 if two singles apply under the Joint Singles Scheme.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday made clear his concern for helping the lower-income become home owners. "With housing grants of up to $60,000, these two-room flats will only cost as little as $16,000 for low-income families... We are on the right track."

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said singles now have an alternative to having to fork out cash premiums paid above a resale flat's valuation in the open market.

"Another pull factor is that some of the flats are already being built, and would be ready soon."

The 108 two-roomers in the Orchid Spring @ Yishun, for instance, are expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Civil servant Fiona Tan is keen on the new 35 sq m and 45 sq m units in Yishun, where prices start from $76,000, saying the grants are attractive. But she is hesitant due to their small size.

"Ideally I would want something bigger," said the 42-year- old single, who currently lives in a rental flat in Queenstown.

Mr Khaw added yesterday that the number of two-room flats available to singles this time round is just "a start", and that other types of flats may be made available in future.

The Government yesterday also extended the Additional CPF Housing Grant of up to $20,000 to singles who are looking to buy a resale flat, but have a monthly income ceiling of $2,500 or less.

Low-income singles buying a property under the Joint Singles Scheme get double the amount.

This is on top of the $15,000 all singles earning less than $5,000 get when buying their first flat in the resale market.

"There is a small group of buyers who have fallen through the cracks. The added funds would help mitigate the impact of cash premiums, and would push for home ownership," said SLP International's head of research Nicholas Mak.





More qualify as first-timer couples for new flats
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2013

SECOND-TIME buyers will stand more chance of bagging a flat under the new rule changes.


This means they move up in the queue.

The policy change, which kicked in yesterday, will help divorcees and those who have previously bought a flat with a sibling or parent.

In the past, they would have been considered second-timers and less likely to get a unit during a launch.

Project engineer Zheng Kai Ling said that she and her fiance were at a disadvantage when they applied for a flat together last year, because he was a divorcee on his second purchase.

"It was quite unfair," added the 30-year-old.

"I was a first-timer, but we were categorised as second- timers.

"In terms of priority we were far behind first-timer couples, so we were left with flats which were not in good locations."

In the end, they managed to get a new unit in Sengkang's Rivervale Delta, which was not one of the most popular projects.

"It's too bad for me that this move didn't come sooner, but I think it's good for couples in similar circumstances," said Ms Zheng.

Yesterday's new Build-To- Order exercise is due to close next Monday.





Improvements over the years
By Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2013

REGULAR reviews have been carried out over the years to ensure that housing policies for single people have remained relevant to Singaporeans.

1990 - Introduction of the Joint Singles Scheme (JSS), which allowed two to four singles to pool together and purchase a resale flat.

1991 - The Single Singapore Citizen Scheme meant that singles could buy their own resale flats.

However, these were restricted to three-room flats or smaller, in all but the central areas.

There was no income ceiling.

1998 - Singles could get a grant of $15,000 for resale flats, if they had not received a housing subsidy before and if they earned $3,000 or less a month.

Two singles could get up to $30,000 under the JSS.

2001 - Singles could now buy any three-room or smaller resale flat in any location.

2004 - They were allowed to buy resale flats of any size. But to qualify for a Housing Board loan, their monthly income could not exceed $3,000 and their flat of choice could not be larger than a five-roomer.

2011 - The income ceiling for singles to qualify for the grant was raised from $3,000 to $5,000 a month.

2013 - First-time buyers who are single and earn no more than $5,000 a month can apply for new two-room, Build-To-Order flats in non-mature estates.

They also qualify for the additional housing grants and special housing grants, although the amount allowed will be half of that which families receive.

They will also get an additional housing grant of up to $20,000, if they opt to buy a resale flat in the open market.

However, they would need to earn less than $2,500 a month to qualify.





Singles' demand for 2-room flats hits 55 to 1
Applicants' data shows focus of BTO launch was appropriate: Khaw
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2013

AN OVERWHELMING response from singles to a Build-To-Order (BTO) launch has silenced sceptics who had predicted a low take-up rate, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

With the exercise due to close at midnight last night, there were around 55 singles vying for each flat on offer by 5pm.

"This is not lukewarm at all," Mr Khaw wrote in his blog.

He added that the flood of applications from singles had not affected first-timer families also applying for two-room flats. Their application rate was below one per flat, which means they are highly likely to get the home they are seeking.



The launch marked the first time singles are able to buy new Housing Board flats, with up to 30 per cent of the 519 two-room units in Sengkang and Yishun reserved for them.

Sengkang's two-room flats were particularly popular, attracting 77 singles per flat - twice as many as the 36.6 singles each Yishun flat attracted.

ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim said it was a "no-brainer that such a high number of singles applied".

He noted that the new flats are priced "very affordably" from $76,000 to $133,000, compared to resale three-room flats in the same area, which go for close to $400,000.

OrangeTee head of research and consultancy Christine Li said the shorter waiting times for some two-room flats could also be a draw. These units are leftovers from previous launches.

For example, the 57 Rivervale Arc units in Sengkang are already completed, while another 108 flats at Orchid Spring @ Yishun are estimated to be finished by the end of next year.

The two-room flats were not the only ones in the limelight. Larger flats also proved to be magnets for families buying their second home, with some in Bukit Merah nearly 19 times over-subscribed by this group.

"Four-room flats have three bedrooms and better serve the needs of families than three-room flats that have only two bedrooms," said ERA Realty's Mr Lim.

But first-timer families will still get top pick of the Bukit Merah flats, with at least 95 per cent of the supply set aside for them.

The average application rate was 4.6 for all 4,079 flats in Bukit Merah, Sengkang and Yishun.

"Over the next few weeks, we will analyse the BTO data in greater detail to see how we can refine our next BTOs," said Mr Khaw.

He revealed that the median age of the nearly 8,500 singles who applied was about 43, and their median monthly income about $1,800.

"Our decision to focus on singles aged 35 years and above and up to $5,000 (a month) income level was therefore appropriate," he said.

Administrative assistant Wong Chui Ling, who is in her early 50s, hopes new three-room flats will soon be made available to singles.

She chose not to apply for a two-room flat this time round, as she feels the 35 sq m or 45 sq m sizes are too small for her mother and herself to live comfortably.

"Age is catching up with me," she said.

"I hope it will be soon. I've been waiting donkey's years."





* 8,500 singles apply for 155 flats
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

THE final count was 58. That was the number of singles who applied for each two-room flat available to them in the Housing Board's latest Build-To-Order launch, which closed at midnight on Monday.

That means more than 8,500 singles have jumped on the up to about 155 flats in Sengkang and Yishun reserved for them.

The most heavily subscribed flats were the ones in Sengkang, with just over 81 singles going for each of the estimated 69 units available. In Yishun, the application rate was about 39 singles for every unit, still far higher than the overall subscription for the entire launch.

Including both singles and families, there were about 20,000 applications for all 4,079 flats. This means that there were close to five applicants for each flat. Successful applicants will be invited to select a flat from next month.

The high take-up rate from singles was due to "strong pent-up demand and the cheaper-than-expected pricing with grants for eligible buyers", said property consultancy OrangeTee's head of research and consultancy Christine Li.

The exercise was the first time that singles aged 35 and over, and who earn up to $5,000 a month, could apply for new two-room flats in non-mature estates. Up to 30 per cent of the 519 two-room flats in Sengkang and Yishun were reserved for them.

On Monday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the high level of interest showed the HDB's policy tweak was "appropriate".




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