AMID concern that young couples are being priced out of the public housing resale market, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the Government spent, on average, $1.4 billion a year over the last five years on its commitment to keep housing affordable – and has allocated a further $1.6 billion this coming financial year.
Last year, demand for public housing saw resale prices rise by about 17 per cent. Many first-time buyers voiced frustration at having to turn to the resale market due to a shortage of new HDB flats – but Mr Mah said that this was not an accurate picture.
While there was overwhelming demand for new HDB flats in mature estates such as Bukit Merah, Mr Mah pointed out there are still some 700 units available in the Built-To-Order projects launched last year in Punggol and Sengkang.
Urging buyers “to be realistic in their expectations”, he said: “The Government cannot ensure that flat buyers will get their ideal flat at the specific location and at the time that they prefer.”
As to calls from Members of Parliament to raise the $8,000 income ceiling for housing subsides, Mr Mah pointed out that eight in 10 Singaporean families are already eligible, which means even the upper-middle income are enjoying subsidised housing. “I hope members will agree with me that this is more than generous.”
Turning to another emotion-laden issue that surfaced during Tuesday’s Budget Debate, the Minister stressed that compulsory acquisition of flats by HDB was “absolutely the last resort”, carried out “only after other measures have been exhausted, and only if lessees do not make any effort to resolve their financial situation”.
He was referring to Tampines MP Ong Kian Min’s account of Ms Judy Mitchell’s plight – she had to vacate her flat after accumulating arrears of more than $10,000.
Mr Mah said Ms Mitchell lives in a five-room flat with her adult daughter and mother. “This is her third flat. She has bought and sold two previous flats and has made profits of about $190,000. She has enjoyed three concessionary loans.”
On four occasions over two years, HDB had allowed her to defer her mortgage or pay half her instalment amount, but Ms Mitchell – who was not receptive to HDB’s suggestion to include her working daughter to help service the housing loan – “did not make any attempt to find a long-term solution, and arrears kept mounting”.
Still, Mr Mah said he would ask HDB to consider a non-concessionary loan should Ms Mitchell fail to get a bank loan to buy a smaller flat.
Source : Today – 29 Feb 2008