‘BTO applicants’ profiles justify higher income ceiling’

His predecessor had announced the review and, yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan gave the numbers to suggest that the income ceiling for new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats will, indeed, be raised from the present S$8,000.

In last month’s Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise, more than half of the first-timers had applied under HDB’s Fiance-Fiancee Scheme and had a median age of 27. For the other first-time applicants, who are already married, their median age was 34.

“There is therefore justification to revise the HDB income ceiling, giving the rising ages of applicants,” Mr Khaw wrote on his housing blog.

He had asked HDB for the profiles of the 14,000 BTO applicants – the first time such a detailed breakdown for a BTO launch was given – because “the first rule of good customer service is to know our customers” and their needs.

Among his observations: About 40 per cent of first-timers applied under the Married Child Priority Scheme to live near their parents, an aspiration “we must be mindful of”.

“However, meeting it will not be easy, as mature estates have limited scope for further BTO development. But we’ll try to squeeze out as many as possible,” he wrote.

Mr Khaw noted yesterday that fewer of the applicants last month – 45 per cent, down from 60 per cent in the first three months – were making their second or more attempt.

Still, 14 per cent had applied for three or more previous BTO exercises in the last one year. One-third of these applicants had the chance to select a flat “but didn’t do so for their own reasons”.

Mr Khaw said he was “conscious of the frustrations and anxiety of those who didn’t have a chance to select at all” and was increasing BTO supply to ease this problem. “Meanwhile, my advice is that they try less mature estates to improve on their odds,” he said.

Property analysts said that apart from offering transparency, the figures support the decisions to ramp up BTO supply and review the HDB income ceiling.

On Mr Khaw’s comments on the anxiety of repeat applicants who were unable to select a flat, SLP International head of research at property consultancy Nicholas Mak noted that they were somewhat different from the Government’s previous message “that a lot of people had the chance to select but didn’t want to”.

Said Mr Mak: “Mr Khaw is saying he’ll try to meet the aspirations of this group.”

Source : Today – 17 Jun 2011

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