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More supply but HDB prices will go up: Mah

Board may offer another 6,000 units through build to order scheme

(SINGAPORE) The Housing and Development Board will continue to monitor demand and could offer another 6,000 units through its build-to-order (BTO) system. However, prices are also likely to go up.

Saying that he did not want to ‘fudge the issue’, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: ‘Prices will go up as a result of resale prices going up.’ Mr Mah was speaking at the launch of two new housing projects under the BTO system.

The projects, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang town and Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang town comprise a total of 1,162 flats.

Three- and four-room flats (68 sq m-93 sq m) at Segar Meadows will cost between $116,000 and $231,000, while two- to four-room (48 sq m to 97 sq m) flats at Compassvale Beacon will cost between $69,000 and $233,000.

Although the precise formula for fixing prices was not revealed, Mr Mah explained that it would be based on average resale prices rather than the ‘spectacular prices’ reported for some flats recently.

Mr Mah also let on that he had received a few letters and e-mails from constituents saying that they had not been successful in getting flats through the BTO system.

But he reiterated that the government was committed to providing a variety of affordable public housing to meet the ‘aspirations’ of first-time buyers and young couples.

To this end, he revealed that 4,800 units have been launched through BTO this year, twice the number compared to 2006.

On affordability, Mr Mah said that the majority of households spent a manageable 20-25 per cent of their monthly household income servicing loans for their flats. He also added that since the implementation of the Additional Housing Grant scheme in March 2006, 4,100 eligible households have benefited from grants amounting to about $50 million.

And demand from first time buyers has been strong. According to HDB, about 92 per cent of those who applied for the 4-room flats for the two BTO launches in August and September and were successfully short-listed within the first 100 per cent flat supply were first timers.

Mr Mah also had this advice for those looking to buy a flat now: ‘If you cannot afford a big flat, then buy a smaller flat. If you can’t get a new flat, then get a resale flat. In life, we make trade-offs all the time.’

To meet the needs of the ‘sandwiched class’, Mr Mah revealed that HDB will be making more sites for executive condominiums (ECs) and the Design, Build and Sell scheme (DBSS) available in the first half of 2008.

Up to three EC sites with a total of 1,300 units, and four DBSS sites with a total of 1,900 units are set to go on the reserve list of Government Land Sales Programme for H1 2008.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak said that the supply of more public housing flats could cool resale flat prices but the impact will be felt next year. ‘It could be a signal that the government will release more sites to control runaway prices in the resale market,’ he added.

Managing new supply and demand will be a tricky job for HDB because it does not want to be stuck with a surplus of flats.

A tight hold on supply could, however, push up prices.

But demand seems stable. Mr Mak points out that so far, demand as measured by the number of applications received for new flats between 2000 and 2007 has ranged from 7,900 to 13,800. This pales in comparison to the 60,000 to 70,000 applications received in the mid-1990’s, he said.

Mr Mak also added that he expects the impact on the private property market to be minimal.


Source: Business Times 29 Nov 07


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