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Latest housing measures not an election package, says Khaw

Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for National Development.

MINISTER for National Development Khaw Boon Wan was asked by reporters on Monday if the latest set of wide-ranging housing measures targeting home buyers of different income groups is an election housing package, to which he replied that his housing policies have little to do with the general election (GE).

"If you have been watching what we have been doing since I entered MND (Ministry of National Development) more than four years ago, we have been making adjustments practically every year. My objectives are quite clear, that home ownership is a very important part of the governance of Singapore."

He added that he focuses on specific groups of people, one at a time. The latest measures to help middle to higher-income groups, singles, as well as home renters, come now that the Build-To-Order (BTO) backlog for first-timer newly-weds is largely resolved.

"That is how I approach the problem. Has it got to do with GE? I do not care less when is GE, but problems need to be resolved and when I am ready, I come up with a scheme and discuss it with Singaporeans. And once I am convinced that those are practical schemes, I will launch it as soon as we can do so."

Asked if the raised income ceiling for new flats will lead to more competition from those who previously exceeded the cap and had to buy executive condominiums (ECs) or private homes, Mr Khaw said he believes that the market will adjust itself.

"Some EC buyers may move into BTO applications; some BTO applications may go up to ECs, and so on. At the border of ECs and condos, there will also be movements. The key point is we have leverage over the supply and we can adjust the supply, expanding and reducing as necessary."

He added that timing is also important. It is only now when the BTO queues have cleared for first-time buyers that he can raise the income ceiling to let in more buyers. "It has nothing to do with GE," he said.

Whether private home owners or couples who formerly exceeded the earnings cap will move into the public housing market now is "personal decisions we leave to Singaporeans to decide", he said.

"We make options available, so then they are free to choose. If you are lucky in a high-income group, you really have a full plate of choices. You can buy a condo, landed property, resale, second-hand house or HDB."

He was also asked if EC developers might now push their unit prices up because of an enlarged pool of potential buyers, that is, higher potential demand.

"The market will adjust," he said again. "There have been so many ECs in the pipeline that if I were an EC developer, I would san si er hou xing," he said, using a Chinese phrase that means "think thrice before acting".

"If anything, I think many of them I know are thinking of adjusting prices downwards to meet the increased supply in ECs, versus the demand that has now largely been satisfied.

"So as I said, at the borders there will be some adjustments. Some pluses, some minuses. But the key point is we have leverage. We can control. It is like a tap. Every half a year, we decide whether to release more sites for ECs or cut down."

Read more about the coming Singapore General Election here.