Around 16,000 to 17,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will be launched in 2020 to meet additional demand following key policy changes this year, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced in a blog post on Monday (Dec 16) morning.

New flats will be available in Sembawang and Toa Payoh next February and in May, new flats will be launched in Choa Chu Kang, Tengah, Pasir Ris and Tampines. 

The Ministry of National Development had raised the income ceiling in September for eligible first-time home buyers and introduced a new Enhanced Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant.

More young couples can benefit from the increased housing subsidies for their first Housing Board flat, enjoying up to $80,000 in grants when they buy a new flat and up to $160,000 in grants when they buy a resale flat in the open market.

The income ceilings for HDB flats and executive condominiums (ECs) have been raised by $2,000, to $14,000 and $16,000 respectively. Mr Wong said: “These changes will lead to greater demand for public housing.”

The projected number of BTO flats for next year is more than this year’s supply of 14,600 flats. Over the last five years, around 150,000 families have booked or collected the keys to their first homes.

Mr Wong noted that many of these first-time buyers have purchased flats in non-mature estates like Punggol, Sengkang or Tengah, where the Government priced these flats at “generous discounts to the market”. 

As a result, the majority of buyers of these flats “spent little or zero cash outlay on their mortgage payments,” he said. 

Besides ensuring housing affordability, he said the Government is “investing significantly” in the upgrading of HDB estates and has spent about $3 billion on various upgrading programmes over the last five years. 

“In the coming years, we will continue to do more to provide better, greener and smarter homes across all HDB precincts,” he added.

The Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS), which helps seniors supplement their retirement income and age in place, has nearly doubled in take-up rate to around 1,500 households this year. The LBS was extended to cover all HDB flat types this year. Previously, it was only available to seniors who own four-room or smaller flat types.

Mr Wong said the Government is working out the implementation details of Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers) to redevelop older HDB towns and will “share more when ready”.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, there have been several alternative suggestions to Vers, including different ways to manage the expiring of HDB leases. 

The Workers’ Party (WP) and a group comprising property consultant Ku Swee Yong, veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon and economist Yeoh Lam Keong, had published separate proposals in the last three weeks to recommend alternative solutions to existing public housing issues.

The WP paper suggested an alternative scheme to the current Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers), which it called Sers Plus. To speed up the urban renewal process, the paper proposed that with Sers Plus, the Government does not need to secure a replacement site before launching Sers.

The trio of citizens proposed a one-time automatic lease top up for all HDB flats owned by Singapore citizens back to 99 years once the units are 50 years old to address the issue of declining value of these ageing flats. 

In response, Mr Wong said across these different proposals, there is common ground on some key fundamentals.

“In particular, there is broad-based recognition of the need for urban renewal in our land-scarce city, so that land can be recycled, and new flats can be built for future generations. This is the reason why so much of our land is on a leasehold basis, be it for private or public residential properties,” he added.

Mr Wong said MND will consider all such feedback and ideas, and study them in greater detail.

 

Written by Michelle Ng for The Straits Times.