Singaporeans aged 21 and above who are married to non-citizens are now eligible for additional housing grants of up to $40,000 when they buy a resale flat for the first time.
The age criterion was lowered from last Saturday. Previously, only those aged at least 35 were eligible for the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (Singles) when they bought a resale flat under the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme, which allows a Singaporean whose spouse is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident (PR) to buy a flat.
The grant will be calculated based on half of the couple's average monthly household income, subject to an income ceiling of $4,500.
Last month, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong unveiled the new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG), which streamlines two older grants – the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) – with a higher income ceiling of $9,000, compared with AHG's cap of $5,000 or the SHG's $8,500.
The new, enhanced grant, for first-time buyers of flats, gives couples more flexibility in choosing and affording a home that suits their needs as it has a higher income cap and does not impose any restrictions on the flat size or location.
When the EHG came into effect on Sept 11, HDB received a total of 2,300 resale applications over the next month, of which 1,110 were from first-time buyers.
Of these, about half were eligible for the EHG, a significantly higher number than last year's monthly average of 160 households who bought a resale flat for the first time and received the AHG.
The caveat for the EHG is that the flat's lease must cover buyers until they are aged 95, in the Government's push to get people to buy homes that can last them for life. Those who do not meet this condition will get a pro-rated amount depending on the lease.
Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research and consultancy at ERA Realty, said the move to lower the age criterion for Singaporeans with non-citizen spouses could increase demand in the HDB resale market, but he did not expect purchase prices to fluctuate widely as a result.
"I don't think numbers under this scheme are that huge. Neither would such couples rush out to buy a resale flat, so we shouldn't see much of an effect," he said.
"However, it does level the playing field and make the rules more equitable for these cross-nationality couples to be able to afford an HDB flat of their choice and start a family earlier."
Written by Michelle Ng. Originally published in The Straits Times.