5,000 more BTO flats in pipeline

Three-year wait likely, so couples in a hurry will have to resort to resale market

AS MORE flats come on stream under the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) build-to-order (BTO) scheme, the board says such units will be its main source of supply in future, and would-be home buyers would have to factor in a three-year wait.

This is because construction work on a project under the scheme will only start when a majority of the flats have been booked, so to as to avoid over-building, said the board in a statement yesterday.

What this means is that those getting married will now have to start planning early for their housing needs, said property experts. Couples in a hurry will have to buy their flats in the resale market, where sellers have been demanding a higher cash-over-valuation (COV) for their units, leading to a spike in the prices of such units.

The HDB said it plans to offer 5,000 new BTO flats in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Bukit Panjang between now and September.

This brings the total planned BTO supply for the first nine month of the year to 6,100 units, surpassing the number of such flats launched in the whole of last year and in 2006.

It will also refine its combined balloting/walk-in system from July. The supply of unsold four-room-and-bigger flats, currently grouped under three sectors – North and West, Northeast and established towns – will be consolidated under a single launch.

The sales exercises will also be re-structured. The sale of unsold three-room-and-smaller flats will be conducted once every three months, starting from July.

For three-room premium, four-room and bigger units, the sales exercise will be conducted once every six months from October.

With the changes, a larger supply of unsold flats will be offered for sale under each launch.

And in response to public feedback, the HDB will extend first-timers priority at these sales exercises, with 90 per cent of the flats being set aside for these applicants. They will also enjoy double chances over regular applicants under the ballot to determine their queue positions.

PropNex director Joseph Lee welcomed the refinements, saying it favoured first-time buyers.

“I think a three-year wait is a relatively good time for couples to plan their finances, as well as determine issues like job security,” he said. “I don’t think this ruling will deter young couples from marrying – my own clients tell me that they would either stay with their parents, or go into the resale market.”

Ms Shirley Loke Lai Teng, 29, a procurement executive, who will be getting married next March, shared the sentiment: “I don’t mind the waiting, even for three years, as long as I can get a flat. At most, I will stay with my in-laws first.”

Mr Eugene Lim, ERA Singapore’s assistant vice-president, agreed that the BTO policy was “pro-first timers” because the HDB’s existing unsold stock of about 1,000 flats was depleting fast.

However, those in urgent need would have “no choice but get into the HDB resale market, making it more expensive, especially for flats in the mature estates”, he added.

Source : Today – 11 Apr 2008

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