Flat owners may have their flats seized by the Housing Board (HDB) if they intentionally make misleading or false statements when transferring flat ownership, following changes to a law that Parliament passed on Tuesday (Oct 6).
Currently, such compulsory acquisition is allowed only when flat owners deliberately make a misleading or false statements for the purchase of flats, and not for the transfer of flat ownership.
Another change made to the Housing and Development Act will allow approved banks to pledge property loans involving HDB flats as collateral for liquidity from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
This part of a pre-emptive move announced by the MAS in September when it launched a Singapore-dollar term facility to provide liquidity to local banks through the inclusion of a wider range of collateral.
This allows banks and finance companies in Singapore to gain access to more funds if they run into liquidity problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Presenting the Bill for debate, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee assured HDB flat owners that they will not be “adversely impacted” in any way. “This arrangement will neither affect flat owners’ rights to their flats, nor result in any change to the terms and conditions of their housing loans,” he said.
HDB flat owners will continue to service their housing loans with the approved financial institution.”In the highly unlikely scenario where an approved financial institution defaults on its loan from MAS, MAS will take over the residential property loans and HDB flat owners will be asked to re-direct their loan repayments to another approved financial institution appointed by MAS”, said Mr Lee.
Other changes made to the law include increasing the maximum number of board members on the HDB board from 12 to 15.
Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said allowing banks to use HDB loans granted by them to obtain credit facilities and repurchase transactions from MAS comes with risks, as more home loans will become delinquent or default in the current crisis economy. This means that banks will find it harder to repay MAS if households cannot repay their loans.
To this, Mr Lee said the current housing non-performing loan ratio remains low and stable at around 0.5 per cent.”The majority of borrowers are able to service their mortgages and should continue to avoid further build-up of debt,” he said.
On the HDB’s extended powers to seize flats from owners who made false statements, Ms Nadia Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked if that would “excessively penalise” flat owners who may be innocent and unaware of the misrepresentation of facts.
Mr Lee said the HDB will investigate each case thoroughly before initiating compulsory acquisition.
He added: “HDB will not exercise its powers to compulsorily acquire HDB flats lightly, and will generally only contemplate such action as a last resort for egregious cases, and where the flat owners refuse to regularise the ownership of the flat.”