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BUDGET 2017

Shorter waiting time for BTO flats, easier resale transaction process

Singapore

MORE help to first-timer homebuyers is underway, including shorter waiting time for build-to-order (BTO) flats in non-mature estates and quicker access to balance flats, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said.

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) also aims to - by leveraging on technology - shorten and streamline the resale transaction process. The current process takes about 16 weeks to complete and requires two appointments with the HDB. More details will be announced by the end of the year.

Mr Wong explained that HDB will not be rushing construction in offering BTO flats in some projects with a shorter waiting time. Instead, it is commencing construction ahead of launch, so as to trim waiting time to around 2.5 years from the current three to four years. There will be about 1,000 units in non-mature estates in the first batch of BTO flats with such shorter waiting times. These will be launched next year.

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First-time home buyers will enjoy greater priority on these flats. At least 95 per cent of the four-room and larger flat types will be set aside for first-timer families, a 10 percentage point increase from the current quota of 85 per cent in the non-mature estates.

To enable those with more urgent housing needs to gain quicker access to a flat, HDB will also introduce a new sales mode for unsold flats.

Currently, sale-of-balance flat (SBF) flats are only offered twice a year, and applicants apply for a specific town and flat type.

To offer unsold SBF flats in a more efficient manner, HDB will pool together unsold flats that remain after the SBF exercises and put them out for balloting at regular intervals, with priority given to first-timer households.

The first such exercise will be launched in the second half of this year; more details will be announced nearer the date. HDB is also paring down the monthly rents under its Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS), which is for first-timer families who are waiting for their new HDB flats to be completed, by S$200-S$400 depending on flat type and location. The revised rents, with effect from April 1, will be about or less than half of market rents. About 2,000 families have benefitted from PPHS, Mr Wong said.

Among other housing measures announced on Tuesday, the government is offering more support for the elderly who wish to right-size their home and unlock the value of their existing homes.

These include the deferred downpayment scheme (DDS) that allows such elderly buyers to defer the payment of downpayment until they collect the keys to their new flats, to ease their cash flow as their funds may be tied up in their existing flats.

A temporary loan scheme (TLS) will also be available to the elderly who are right-sizing their flats. Currently, they can make use of the HDB cash contra facility but it requires some coordination in timing, whereby the sale of the existing flat and collection of keys to the new flat have to be done on the same day. This is not always possible.

The TLS will hence allow them to complete the sale of the existing flat after collecting their keys. This temporary loan scheme will be extended beyond the elderly so that a wider group of home buyers can benefit.

The DDS, which will benefit homeowners aged 55 years old and above who are applying for a two-room Flexi or three-room flat from HDB, will be implemented from the May 2017 BTO and SBF exercises.

The TLS will be applicable to all resale transactions submitted from March 8.

Announcing these measures on Tuesday, Mr Wong also shared that the government expects resale HDB prices to remain stable.

Some members of parliament had asked if the increased CPF Housing Grants for resale flats might stoke higher demand for resale flats and hence drive up prices.

Together with existing grants, resale flat buyers can enjoy as much as S$110,000 in housing subsidies, depending on eligibility conditions such as income level.

Mr Wong said: "Firstly, there is currently a healthy resale flat supply. A good number of owners will be selling their existing flats when they move into their newly completed homes, so the additional supply will help to soak up the increase in demand... The resale price is also linked to the overall state of the property market."

In response to the proposal from a member of parliament to remove the additional buyer's stamp duty for Singaporeans, a topic that has been raised by other members on previous occasions, Mr Wong said that the property measures have helped to achieve a soft landing in prices.

"Today, housing demand remains firm given the current interest rate and income growth. So, we will continue to monitor this carefully to maintain a stable and sustainable property market."

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