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HDB to do away with re-offer of balance flats exercise: Lawrence Wong

THE Housing & Development Board (HDB) is doing away with the re-offer of balance flats (ROF) exercises, so that most of the unselected flats from the sale of balance flats exercises can be offered directly for open booking. 

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong shared this on Wednesday. Currently, unsold flats from build-to-order (BTO) exercises are first offered at sale of balance flats (SBF) exercises. Flats not taken up are then offered through the ROF exercises, before finally being made available for open booking if they remain unselected. 

The initial take-up of the ROF has been positive. But HDB has received requests for the ROF to take place more regularly instead of just twice a year. In 2019, it tried offering some unselected flats on an open booking system for people to apply for all year round, and is now ready to extend that further.

Mr Wong said this will remove the need to go through another round of balloting, and will thus enable home-seekers with urgent needs to access flats more quickly. 

Other measures he announced at the Committee of Supply debate include support for unwed parents who will now either be allowed to buy a new two-room or three-room flat in a non-mature estate if they have stable employment and can afford to do so, or will be considered for public rental flats if they have insufficient finances and need a place to stay.

Also, the Silver Housing Bonus (SHB) will be simplified and enhanced in three ways. First, the requirement that seniors must sell a larger flat and buy a smaller one will be removed. Regardless of the flat type they sell, seniors can apply for the SHB as long as they buy a three-room or smaller flat, and get some proceeds from the move.

To receive the bonus, seniors must previously top up some proceeds from their move into their CPF Retirement Account. The top-up depends on their net sale proceeds. This will be simplified such that seniors only need to top up the first S$60,000 of their proceeds. Finally, the maximum cash bonus will be raised by 50 per cent, from S$20,000 to S$30,000. Seniors will thus receive S$1 in cash bonus for every S$2 topped up to their CPF Retirement Account.

In line with the increase in SHB, the maximum Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) bonus will also be increased across all flat types. This means that owners of three-room or smaller, four-room, and five-room or larger flats can get a maximum cash bonus of S$30,000, S$15,000 and S$7,500, respectively. The enhancements to the SHB and LBS will take effect from Wednesday.

Furthermore, after receiving positive feedback for its concept of assisted living, HDB will be launching the new flat typology in Bukit Batok in May 2020. The pilot development will comprise about 160 units. The blocks will be designed with large communal spaces on every floor, with the flats at about 32 sqm, and enhanced with senior-friendly fittings, larger bathrooms and features to accommodate those with mobility needs. 

Mr Wong also announced that Bukit Merah, Queenstown, Choa Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio have been selected as the fourth batch of towns and estates to be rejuvenated under the Remaking Our Heartland  Programme.