Couples frustrated by long wait for flats under SBF exercise

It was their third time balloting for an HDB flat. So, the administrative executive and her fiance were overjoyed when they were given a queue number for the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise last August to select a flat in Punggol.

Early last month, however, the couple still had not received a selection date for a flat and were getting worried.

“We were frustrated because we were logging on every day into the system to see if a selection date was given. We tried calling the HDB but we were told to wait because they only had a tentative schedule,” said Ms Tan, 26, whose wedding banquet had been booked for the third quarter of this year.

She and her fiance have since received a selection date and Ms Tan expects to get her flat keys within three months.

But she added: “I’m worried the flat will not be ready in time. If not, we will just stay apart first.”

Applicants of the SBF exercise who were still waiting for their flat selection dates in January told MediaCorp that the blind wait made it hard for them to take leave in advance for the selection date or to make travel plans.

The anxiety heightens when they see applicants of some build-to-order (BTO) launches – held after the SBF exercise – selecting their flats.

One SBF applicant, Ms Low, 25, said: “People are waiting for SBF is because they can’t wait that long for BTO flats. I understand that BTO exercises need sufficient (number of) subscriptions to proceed and that’s why they (HDB) are putting more emphasis on it but it doesn’t mean that SBF can take a back seat for so long.”

She had applied for a flat in Sengkang with her boyfriend of six years and said she would have to plan her solemnisation ceremony according to when she can get a flat.

She also received a selection date late last month.

Another SBF applicant, 26-year-old chemist who is planning to get married next year, said: “I can’t be sure if I can get the units I want. If I can choose my flat earlier, I will know roughly when is the completion date and, hence, plan for things like renovation.”

The HDB told MediaCorp that the selection period for each SBF exercise varies, depending on the number of flats offered, towns/flat-categories offered for sale and the response of the applicants.

An SBF exercise generally needs more time to complete than a BTO exercise because of its high application numbers and the number of “queues” in each exercise, said a spokesperson.

“The larger number of applicants for SBF exercises, therefore, lengthens the time needed to complete the processing, which includes eligibility checks on the applicants, the balloting process and notifying applicants of the results.”

The HDB said it received 11,500 applications for the 1,624 units of flats offered under the SBF exercise.

It added it was doing its best to complete each selection exercise quickly, including extending operation hours.

Since last January, the HDB has been conducting selection exercises after office hours on weekdays from 5.30pm to 8pm, and on Sundays from 8am to 5pm.

The HDB also first schedules the selection exercise for completed flats with available keys to allow applicants who select a flat to collect their keys earlier.

As of end January, about 80 per cent of the selection exercises had been completed, said the HDB.

The SBF exercise was launched in October 2009 to simplify the flat application process and provide buyers with a wider choice of flats across a range of locations in one exercise.

It offers flats from earlier BTO exercises, the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme and repurchased flats. The exercise is launched when sufficient flats accumulate.

If it is a completed flat, an applicant can collect the keys within three months. If not, the keys can only be collected when the flat is completed.

Source : Today – 14 Feb 2011