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Help for HDB ‘second-timers’ to buy flats

AFTER easing the demand crunch among first-time Housing Board (HDB) flat applicants, the Government will now help ‘second-timers’ – a group that includes a large proportion of HDB upgraders.

It will change the rules to significantly boost their chances of successfully balloting for a new Build-to-Order (BTO) flat or executive condominium (EC) unit.

Announcing this in Parliament yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that starting this month, BTO launches in non-mature estates will see 15 per cent of flats allocated to second-timers, triple the current quota of 5 per cent. This should help lower the number of applicants who apply for each BTO flat put up for sale. At present, more than 25 of them typically apply for each available flat. Mr Khaw said he hoped the latest move would bring this down to a ‘single digit’. He also hoped to keep the first-timer application rate to below two applicants for each flat on offer.

The allocation for BTO flats in mature estates, however, will remain unchanged, at 5 per cent for second-timers.

HDB upgraders who want to buy EC units will also receive a leg-up. The quota for second-timers will be upped six times from 5 to 30 per cent with immediate effect. The change will mean that second-timers will have a much greater chance of buying an EC unit for the first month after launch.

One recent EC project – the 728-unit Twin Waterfalls in Punggol – saw 570 applications for just 36 units that were allocated for them. This translated to a one in 16 chance of buying a flat. Under the new rules, that ratio is now less than one in three.

The rule changes will also benefit other second-timers, such as divorcees and retirees, who may be forced to move into smaller flats.

Kicking off the Committee of Supply proceedings for the Ministry of National Development yesterday, MPs spoke passionately about the plight of such ‘downgraders’.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, the Government Parliamentary chair for National Development, appealed for a ‘compassionate’ approach to policy making in this area.

In response, Mr Khaw said that his ministry strived to govern with compassion, quoting an ancient Confucian saying – ‘lao zhe an zhi, shao zhe huai zhi’ – which advocates the simultaneous well-being of the old and the young in society.

‘(It) underpins strong families, the marriage institution and filial piety. This is how a strong society is built,’ he explained.

The minister said that worrying trends like rising divorce rates and the abandonment of parents were worrying signs that these values were being diluted.

‘At the minimum, MND policies must not unwittingly facilitate such negative trends. And where possible, MND policies must actively try to support positive trends,’ he added.

Accordingly, he announced a slew of new measures designed to encourage young couples to stay together with their parents in their new flats, or at least near to them.

Looking ahead, Mr Khaw outlined several challenges facing his ministry in the next few years. One of them was to bring back the ‘kampung spirit’ that had characterised community living in the past.

‘As we moved into city living, many things improved. Yet we become more isolated from one another,’ said Mr Khaw.

‘We need to find ways to encourage residents to own their community and care for one another again.’

Source: The Straits Times – 3 March 2012

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