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Redas president calls for ABSD reprieve for first-time upgraders

FOLLOWING the government's clampdown on Monday on the re-issuance of options to purchase (OTPs) by private housing developers, the head of the developers' body has urged the government to urgently consider allowing first-time upgraders from a HDB flat to a private property to defer payment of the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) till six months after the completion of the private property.

A similar dispensation is given to HDB upgraders who buy units in executive condominium (EC) projects, which are a hybrid of public and private housing.

"At least they don't have the pressure to pay up the ABSD within 14 days of (signing) the sale and purchase agreement," said Chia Ngiang Hong, president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas), on Tuesday.

Buyers of private property, however, have to pay 12 per cent ABSD if they have not sold their existing home.

"This will help a lot; it will ease the cashflow of the genuine first-time upgraders and hence reduce the need to ask for extension of the OTPs," added Mr Chia.

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In his speech at the association's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, he also urged the government to consider extending additional reliefs and flexibility to assist the real estate and built environment sector, given the economic slowdown.

"This will allow all parties affected to better plan ahead and work out revised contingency plans," Mr Chia said at the event.

"We have recently conveyed our members' grave concerns to the minister, and provided feedback and suggestions for a more sustainable property market for the near and longer term," Mr Chia added.

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee was the guest of honour at the event. In his response, Mr Lee said: "We will continue to monitor closely the impact of the pandemic on the sector, and will adjust our policies as necessary."

Some of the government initiatives currently in place include giving developers a six-month extension on the project completion period and ABSD remission timelines.

Mr Lee also said that the pandemic has shown the importance of building resilience in the system. "We need to be ready to take on future 'black swan' events that may occur ... We could for example, look at how we approach the procurement and management of construction supplies, driving digitalisation, and adopting more advanced building technologies."

He added: "More than anything else, this pandemic has strengthened our collective resolve to quicken the transformation of our entire construction and built environment sector, so that we become more integrated and resilient. This will also help us to enhance productivity, allow us to build and maintain our city more effectively and sustainably."

Developers have a key role in this by continuing research and innovation efforts, and promoting the adoption of new processes, technology and designs.

Mr Lee also highlighted that in planning and building the city, "we will need to consider the extent to which Covid-19 may permanently impact the way we live, work, and play".

An example is working from home, which has taken root during this pandemic because it is a public health requirement. "But when Covid-19 eventually passes, and it will, it may well be that some companies choose to retain significant flexible work arrangements, for business resilience. The mindset and expectations of employees may also change. With more people working from home, we can expect there to be changes to their commuting, retail consumption and lifestyle patterns.

"Some of these changes are short term, while others may well be permanent structural shifts, and we will have to be responsive as far as infrastructure and facilities are concerned."

All of this needs to be carefully studied, as the pandemic continues to unfold, to see how Singapore's urban landscape might need to change and evolve, he added.

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