Fewer HDB BTO flat launches in 2019

ST File Photo

The Housing Board (HDB) will launch fewer new flats next year, with around 15,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) units planned for neighbourhoods such as Sengkang, Jurong West and Kallang/Whampoa.

The agency launched 15,800 flats this year, which was lower than its initial estimate of 17,000 flats. This also marked a decrease from the 17,584 units launched last year.

Mr Ismail Gafoor, who is chief executive of PropNex Realty, said that next year's supply of flats marks the lowest number of units released since 2015, when 15,100 units were launched.

"This is understandable, mainly because the subscription has normalised at the rate of 2 to 2.4 times during the last three BTO exercises of the current year," he said.

He added that the number of BTO flats has been on a marginal decline since 2016 "as the Government is placing more emphasis towards existing and older flats in order to equip and better prepare ageing homes".

Mr Nicholas Mak, who is executive director of ZACD Group, said that BTO launch exercises this year have also shown that application rates for non-mature estates are falling among first-time home buyers, with some launches showing rates of below 1 for this group of applicants.

But the plans to launch 15,000 new BTO flats next year are "not set in stone", he added, and can be revised upwards or downwards if the HDB finds it necessary to do so.

In a statement yesterday, the HDB said that first-timer application rates for three-room and larger BTO flats in all estates have remained stable, with about two applications for each new flat on offer.

"Most first-timer families who apply for a BTO flat in non-mature estates have been able to book a flat within their first or second try, and definitely on their third try," added the HDB.

It also said that next year's launch will include around 2,000 flats with shorter wait times in Tengah.

Prospective home owners there can expect to collect the keys to their new flats in two to three years from the point of application, instead of waiting the standard three or four years to do so.

The first batch of flats with shorter wait times was launched last month in Sembawang, Seng-kang and Yishun. HDB said that 3,300 applications were received for the 1,100 flats launched in these neighbourhoods.

The HDB also said that its new resale portal, launched earlier this year, has shortened transaction times significantly from 16 weeks to eight weeks.

When former national development minister Khaw Boon Wan took over the portfolio in 2011, he ramped up the supply of BTO flats to tackle shortages and soaring home prices.

After demand stabilised, supply was cut back about 30 per cent, from 22,500 units in 2014 to 15,100 units in 2015.

In 2016, the BTO supply was raised to about 18,000 units.

This was to take into account the larger pool of qualifying buyers after the income ceiling went up from $10,000 to $12,000.

In its statement yesterday, the HDB said: "Moving forward, HDB will continue to monitor the housing needs of Singaporeans closely and calibrate our flat supply carefully to provide affordable and quality housing to all."

Written by Linette Lai for The Straits Times