A YOUNG couple buying a resale HDB flat for the first time will be enjoying higher subsidies of up to S$50,000 from today.
And piling on the additional CPF Housing and Proximity Housing grants would mean the couple getting up to S$110,000 in subsidies.
Announcing this in his Budget statement yesterday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said this measure, which helps to keep Singapore "a great place for families", is expected to cost the government an additional S$110 million a year.
With immediate effect, the CPF Housing Grant will rise from S$30,000 to S$50,000 for couples buying 4-room or smaller resale flats; and from S$30,000 to S$40,000 for 5-room or bigger.
Mr Heng told Parliament that while many couples "start their lives together by applying for BTO flats", resale flats meet the needs of others better.
Similarly, first-timer singles buying resale flats will also benefit from enhancements to the CPF Housing Grant. In a joint statement, the National Development Ministry (MND) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said the grant quantum, which is half that for families, will be increased from S$15,000 to S$25,000 for those buying a 4-room or smaller resale flat; and from S$15,000 to S$20,000 for those buying a 5-room.
Miss Tan Yun Yun, 27, who just got engaged two weeks ago, the S$10,000 saved would come in handy for their wedding next year.
"With the additional subsidies, it would also mean less time to repay the housing loans taken with the bank," she said, adding that they will be getting a flat in the west to be close to both sets of parents.
"But my dilemma here is we had just put in our application for the resale flat late last week and we were told this increase in the (CPF) housing grant only applies from Feb 21. We are getting our housing agent to speak to HDB to see if we can still qualify," she said.
The Budget this year seemed to have moved away from merely providing more money in the kitty for baby.
Instead, Mr Heng said he will be doubling the capacity of centre-based infant care from the present-day 4,000 to over 8,000 by 2020.
At the same time, the government will not only increase the bursary amounts for post-secondary education, but also extend these bursaries to more families by revising the income eligibility criteria. This translates to about 12,000 more Singaporean students benefiting.
Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan said: "We may be at the stage where marriage and parenthood incentives are now less on direct benefits but more on creating an enabling environment. The cash-for-babies approach is on its last legs as it has an accent of being a financial transaction. It suggests that the way forward is to provide support, whether it's housing grants, childcare facilities, and education grants, that are better and sustainable nudges in getting young Singaporeans the family way."
Agreeing, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "Child-raising is a long-term commitment. I reckon baby bonus is, by comparison, pretty short-term and occurs after a couple ties the knot. Whereas housing grants facilitate couples getting married in the first place, an important step before they even think about starting a family, while children's education matter for the long-term and their long-term well-being."
Prof Tan said the government pointed to a "more nuanced way to change mindsets and make Singapore more family friendly". "This move towards more nuanced incentives is likely to be received and more effective in the long run," he said.
The government is also giving additional support to the tune of S$850 million to defray household expenses, especially those linked to higher water prices and higher service and conservancy charges (S&CC).
It will provide a one-off GST voucher, costing about S$280 million in all, to help lower income households with expenses.
It will also spend S$71 million in rebates to cover higher water expenses. The funds will go towards the GST Voucher - U-Save Rebate scheme. It is meant to offset some of the increases in water prices.
Three in four HDB households will see an average increase of less than S$12 in their monthly water expenses.
The government will also extend the S&CC rebate, and raise it by 0.5 months for fiscal 2017, costing them S$120 million.
Note: An earlier version of this article stated that the enhanced grant quantum for first-timer singles buying resale flats will be increased from S$15,000 to S$20,000 for those buying a 5-room or larger flat. HDB has since clarified that it is for those buying a 5-room flat only, and not larger flats. The article above has been revised to reflect this.
- More subsidies for first-time buyers of resale flats
- More places for centre-based infant care
- For more Budget 2017 stories visit bt.sg/budget17