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Condo-style flats only a small part of public housing, says Mah


PRICEY condo-style flats will remain a small proportion of the total public housing supply with the Government pledging yesterday to continue providing affordable homes.

Its assurance came as high-end flats in Boon Keng offered by private developers were launched recently for up to $727,000 for a five-room flat.

The flats come with interior layouts and fittings more commonly seen in private condominiums, such as bay windows in bathrooms, large balconies and built-in wardrobes.

Buyers are also concerned that prices of resale Housing Board flats shot up 17.4 per cent last year – the highest in a decade – and that sellers in coveted districts are demanding as much as $100,000 in cash over the valuation of their flats.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told Parliament that high-end flats – built under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) – ‘serve to fulfil the needs of a niche segment of the HDB market – those with higher aspirations and who can afford a higher price’.

Under the programme, developers are free to design and price the flats as long as they work within the rules of public housing. This means they have to sell flats to families earning no more than $8,000 a month – the limit for households buying public housing.

The first such project, the 616-unit Premiere@ Tampines by Sim Lian Land, drew almost 6,000 applications for its two-, four- and five-room flats with prices from $138,000 to $450,000.

The second, the 714-unit City View@Boon Keng by Hoi Hup Sunway Development, drew about 3,500 applications for three- to five-room flats. Prices ranged from $349,000 to $727,000.

The City View prices had prompted some to wonder if they were affordable to those earning $8,000 a month.

Nominated MP Eunice Olsen asked if the income ceiling could be raised for such flats.

Mr Mah said no, because it could result in developers pricing their flats even higher.

The minister added that private companies taking part in the DBSS scheme develop the projects knowing there is an income cap on buyers.

He told Dr Ong Seh Hong (Marine Parade GRC), who asked why the HDB had ‘shifted’ from its original mission of providing affordable housing, that the board was, in fact, staying the course.

In recent years it had re-introduced new two- and three-room flats, while additional housing grants are also being offered to low- income earners, he said.

Besides, recent buyers of new HDB flats actually spend just 20 per cent of their monthly household income on housing. This is about half of the debt servicing limit typically used by financial institutions.

Mr Mah added that the HDB was monitoring resale prices, but urged buyers who cannot afford the cash-overvaluation sums demanded by sellers to postpone their purchases or apply for new – and cheaper – HDB flats instead.

Demand for such homes has been rising as well. Last month, 316 surplus flats in the outlying towns of Hougang, Sengkang and Punggol drew 5,147 applications.


Source: The Straits Times 22 Jan 08


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