HDB suffers S$2b deficit

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has reported a S$2b deficit before government grants in its latest annual report.

The figure is more than double the loss reported in the previous financial year.

HDB said the huge deficit for the financial year ending March was due mainly to more flats being sold. These flats are highly subsidised by the government. Higher construction costs also led to the large deficit.

Other reasons that contributed to HDB’s loss include upgrading works for lifts and rental flats.

Between April last year and March this year, HDB pushed out 8,000 flats under its Build-To-Order Scheme. That’s 2,000 more than what it supplied the year before.

At a media briefing on its latest annual report, HDB also gave an update on the Lease Buyback Scheme which allows low-income elderly Singaporeans to get a portion of cash upfront while HDB buys back the tail-end of the lease of their flat.

HDB has received more than 400 applications since the scheme was launched earlier this year.

Some 25,000 households are eligible for the scheme.

But the elderly have other options to monetise their flats.

HDB’s CEO, Tay Kim Poh, said: “Some of them will sublet their entire flat, and the rental for even a three-room flat is very good nowadays. They can easily get $1,500 per month from the rental and they move in to stay with their children (after renting out their flat).”

Despite the global downturn, HDB said the mortgage arrears rate has dropped 0.4 percentage point to 7.5 percent.

Market watchers said this may be due to the high resale prices of HDB flats.

Eugene Lim, associate director of ERA Asia Pacific, said: “So there was an upswing in the market since the beginning of this year. And what happens is that those households in arrears probably made use of this opportunity to sell their flat and downgrade to a flat that they can afford.”

Moving forward, HDB said it will focus on improving community relations. A new department has been set up within the housing board to look at strengthening social cohesion and integrating newcomers.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 2 Nov 2009

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