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Old 17-10-2005, 03:13 PM   #751
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Oct 11, 2005
9 in 10 of S'pore's poor own homes

More than half own four-room flats or bigger, survey finds

By Daryl Loo
THEY are among the poorest in Singapore but nearly nine in 10 of the bottom 20 per cent of HDB families own the roof over their head.

Even more notable is the size of the homes they own: more than half own four-room or bigger flats.

And if these 87 per cent of lower-income families sell their flats at current valuation, most will have quite a handsome sum in hand even after settling their HDB loan.

Technically known as home equity, calculations by the Department of Statistics estimate it to be an average $138,000.

But even more telling is when these figures are compared to the national average, which shows that 93 per cent of all HDB dwellers own their flats and that their home equity is $154,000.

In short, the lower-income families here do not trail very far behind the general population, about 80 per cent of whom live in HDB homes.

These figures, based on the 2003 Household Expenditure Survey, were released yesterday in a paper on Home Ownership and Equity of HDB Households 2003.

Experts said they point essentially to two things:


The national policy of home ownership, started in 1964, has worked well enough to reach the poor


When needed, the average HDB family can sell its property and have a tidy sum.

That most Singaporeans are in surplus does not surprise Dr Amy Khor, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development.

She noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally speech in August, had hinted at it when he mapped out a new CPF housing grant scheme to help lower-income Singaporeans.

PM Lee had said that many of the poor are actually already sitting on almost $200,000 worth of wealth.

He felt then that while this group's future was assured, 'we can do more to help them, not to spend but to build up their assets'.

The Statistics Department's figures also show that among the bottom 20 per cent, 71 per cent have at least $100,000 cash parked in their HDB properties, while 7.8 per cent can actually get more than $250,000 back when they sell their homes.

As a result of the high home ownership level, it is not surprising that as much as 46.8 per cent of all Singaporean households' assets are in their homes, with the rest in financial assets like savings and shares. In dollar terms, this residential property assets amount to $359 billion.

Nanyang Technological University Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap said the success of the home ownership policy, 'means it is now extremely critical for the Government to make sure the prices of HDB's cheaper flats do not dip'.


----------------------------------------------------------

Oct 11, 2005
Some flat owners can't afford to downgrade
They won't have enough to buy cheapest flat after paying off loan

By Daryl Loo
NEARLY half of the wealth of Singaporeans is invested in their homes, very often in bigger HDB flats.

Even in the bottom 20 per cent income group, more than half own HDB homes that are four-room flats and bigger, according to a paper released by the Department of Statistics (DOS) yesterday.

There is a danger in this, said Dr Amy Khor, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development.

By doing so, some Singaporeans may over-extend themselves financially in their zeal to own a home and may not be able to afford to downgrade when they need to - such as when the breadwinner loses his job, she added.

Calculations by the DOS show that almost one-third of the bottom 20 per cent will get less than $100,000 cash back when they sell their home and pay off their HDB loan.

This means they cannot afford even the cheapest three-room HDB flat which costs $150,000.

And renting an HDB flat has stiff conditions, including a 2 1/2 year waiting period after the sale of an HDB flat.

The overwhelming focus on property ownership is a result of the Government's constant push for people to buy their own homes, 'to encourage a sense of rootedness in the country', noted Dr Khor.

But she expects this 'asset rich, cash poor' situation to improve over time, as the Government now encourages home buyers to be prudent.

It also recommends that banks adopt stricter checks when assessing whether a home owner can afford the loan he wants.

In all, Singaporeans' wealth in residential properties is a whopping $359 billion, or 47 per cent of their total wealth.

The remaining $407 billion is invested in other financial assets such as savings, shares and life insurance.

Property consultancy Knight Frank's director of research Nicholas Mak estimates that the proportion invested in homes here is much higher than in the United States and Europe, although he did not have exact figures.

'But the 47 per cent in homes should be similar to that in Hong Kong and Japan,' said Mr Mak.

Nanyang Technological University's Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap said it is a predictable phenomenon that Singaporeans invested such a large portion of their money in their home.

'That's because historically, putting your money in property had been the fastest way for your assets to rise,' he said.

According to the DOS, about nine in 10 Singaporean households own their own home, with 93 per cent of HDB families owning the roof over their heads, and 88 per cent of those living in private homes.

darylloo@sph.com.sg


ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEN KWEK




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Most own their homes




NINE in 10 Singaporean households own their own home, with 93 per cent of HDB families owning the roof over their heads, and 88 per cent of those living in private homes.


Singaporeans' wealth in residential properties is a whopping $359 billion, or 47 per cent of their total wealth. The remaining $407 billion is invested in other financial assets such as savings, shares and life insurance.
Oct 17, 2005
Most S'poreans own homes, but most have not paid up loans yet
I refer to the articles by Daryl Loo on home ownership (ST Oct 11).

Two things caught my attention:

1. The articles mentioned how families prefer bigger flats and this can pose a problem when they are unable to finance their loans.

What I think needs to be highlighted is that the HDB is no longer building three-room flats. Therefore, families which want to get the smaller flats have to purchase them in the resale market, which is always more expensive.

Furthermore, the current four- and five-room flats are becoming smaller in size. Thus, when families look for a new flat of comparable size, they inevitably have to get the 'bigger flat', which costs more.

I believe there are enough anecdoctal accounts from those we know whose financial decisions for their homes are affected by such external factors.

2. While the article talks about the high ownership of homes among even the poorest (9 out of 10), I wonder how many of them have actually paid up their loans in full. By home ownership, I believe the author has differentiated it from rented homes.

The fact remains that a majority of Singaporeans is still servicing the HDB home loans on a long-term basis (20 to 30 years), and paying a monthly payment of hundreds or a few thousand dollars.

Thus I think the claim that most people own their homes is correct only if we are referring to those who have paid up their loans in full.

As long as a home loan is not paid up, one's home can technically be repossessed if one is unable to make the loan repayments. In this sense, one cannot say he owns it yet.

Can the relevant authorities shed more light on the full home ownership figures as I think the current manner of presentation can be misleading.

Terence Leong Yoong Hwa
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Old 17-10-2005, 03:29 PM   #752
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Oct 16, 2005
MPs: Help flat sellers hampered by ethnic quotas

SOME home owners are having problems selling their Housing Board flats because of ethnic quotas. It's time the Government helped them, say some Members of Parliament.

They are suggesting that the authorities give grants to affected home owners or even buy back the flats of those who cannot sell them because of the quotas.

The policy, which lays down how many people from each ethnic group can be allowed within a block and neighbourhood, was introduced in 1989 to avoid racial enclaves.

The Chinese, for example, are not allowed to own more than 87 per cent of the flats in a block and more than 84 per cent of the units in a neighbourhood.

For Malays, the limit is 25 per cent for a block and 22 per cent for a neighbourhood.

Indians and other ethnic groups, meanwhile, can take up only 13 per cent of a block and 10 per cent of a neighbourhood.

While the policy applies to all, home owners from the minority races say they are the hardest hit when the quotas are filled because they can then sell only to a very small pool of buyers.

Oct 17, 2005
Help owners who can't sell flat due to race quota, say MPs
Give grants or buy back units from affected owners, some of them suggest

By Tan Hui Yee
SOME home owners are having problems selling their Housing Board flats because of ethnic quotas.

It is time the Government helped them, said some Members of Parliament.

They are suggesting that the authorities give grants to affected home owners or even buy back the flats of those who cannot sell them because of the quotas.

The policy, which lays down how many people from each ethnic group can be allowed within a block and neighbourhood, was introduced in 1989 to avoid racial enclaves.

The Chinese, for example, are not allowed to own more than 87 per cent of the flats in a block and more than 84 per cent of the units in a neighbourhood.

For Malays, the limit is 25 per cent for a block and 22 per cent for a neighbourhood.

Indians and other ethnic groups, meanwhile, can take up only 13 per cent of a block and 10 per cent of a neighbourhood.


While the policy applies to all, home owners from the minority races say they are the hardest hit when the quotas are filled because they can then sell only to a very small pool of buyers.

The six MPs interviewed said few of those who appealed to them for a waiver of the quota were in serious financial difficulty.

But those who were received help in the form of deferred housing loan repayments, among other things.

Mr Zainudin Nordin, an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, told The Straits Times: 'The policy has a cost. At the moment, all the cost is being borne by the people.'

The MP, who gets about one appeal every week from a resident seeking a waiver from the ethnic quota, suggests that a 'cost-sharing' system be introduced so that affected home owners can get a grant to offset the loss in their flats' value.

Bishan is one area where most of the blocks have already reached the limit for Chinese owners.

So a Malay or an Indian home owner there can sell his flat only to other racial minorities, making the sale a lot harder.

The reverse can be seen in Tampines, which is popular with Malays. Some Chinese flat owners there are known to have difficulty selling their homes.

One such owner, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan, has been trying to sell her executive flat since March.

Her unit, which cost $500,000 in 1995, is valued now at $360,000. She is willing to sell it for about $340,000, but there have been no takers. Most of the interested parties are Malays, but she cannot sell it to them because the block has hit its quota of Malays.

Asked if she was willing to lower her price further, Mrs Tan, a bank officer in her 40s, blurted out: 'How low is low? I can't be selling it for $200,000. You have to cut your losses, but there is a line to be drawn.'

Housing agents estimate that her flat could have been sold within three months if Malays were allowed to buy it. But that can only happen when another Chinese family moves into the block.

Mr Inderjit Singh, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, suggests that the HDB buy back flats at a 'reasonable' price if there are simply no takers. He believes the number of such flats is likely to be small.

The managing director of property agency C&H Realty, Mr Albert Lu, suggests waiving the quota rule if a flat is left unsold for about nine months, as it takes on average three months to sell a flat.

The problem is it may be difficult to determine why exactly a flat cannot be sold.

Dr Amy Khor, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment, pointed out that the economy and the location and condition of the flat play a part too.

She suspects that the home owners' real gripe against quotas is that they have to wait longer to get the right buyer.

She said: 'This inconvenience is a small price to pay for the very important objective that we want to meet.'


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Old 18-10-2005, 08:34 PM   #753
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76 flats repossessed, number 'acceptable'
CNA
Tuesday • October 18, 2005

SINGAPOREANS' financial status was given a general clean bill of health yesterday in Parliament.

The number of repossessed flats are in an "acceptable" range, arrears in service and conservancy charges have dropped, and even the number of bankruptcies has seen a dip.

Responding to questions posed by Dr Amy Khor (Hong Kah GRC), National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan revealed that banks have repossessed 76 Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats since they started providing loans to flat-buyers in January 2003.

This makes up only about 0.1 per cent of all 65,000 bank loans to date. On top of this number, another 100 cases are pending mortgagee sale by the banks.

Saying that this figure is not "an exceptionally high level", Mr Mah added: "It's not realistic to expect no such cases; the industry considers it acceptable."

The HDB would adopt a "sympathetic" approach to those who have had their flats repossessed, he said. As of Sept 30, it has allowed 20 of them to rent a flat.

He said: "The assistance we provide will be considered on a case by case basis. To be considered for subsidised rental housing, such households must meet HDB's eligibility criteria and must be facing severe financial difficulties."

In a separate written statement, Mr Mah also said that the number of households in arrears of their service and conservancy charges has dipped, from 5.7 per cent in 2000 to 4.4 per cent as at the end of June this year.

Mr Mah credited this to the efforts of the town councils in helping residents manage their arrears.

These include allowing instalment payments, offering part-time or temporary jobs to needy residents when possible, and referring them to relevant bodies for financial help.

The number of bankruptcies has also dropped. In the first six months of this year, there were 1,759 bankruptcies, down from 2,365 for the same period last year. Of that number, 1,207 were consumers and the rest, businesses, said Monetary Association of Singapore deputy chairman Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Credit card debts make up 723 of the consumer bankruptcies. This forms a small percentage — 0.05 per cent — of credit card users.

Four in five of them are male, and the majority are aged between 31 and 50 years old.

— Lee U-Wen


--------------------------------


Oct 18, 2005
Just 0.1% of HDB flats on bank loans being repossessed

By William Han
THE number of Housing Board flats being repossessed by banks is small, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan assured Parliament yesterday.

Between January 2003 and Sept 30 this year, there was a total of 76 cases.

Of these, 15 flats have actually been repossessed by banks. Another 61 cases are awaiting HDB approval.

Some 65,000 HDB flat buyers have turned to banks for loans since January 2003, when the board stopped granting loans to those who do not qualify for its concessionary loans.

So the 76 default and repossession cases represent only some 0.1 per cent of bank loans to HDB buyers.

'This is not an excessive number,' Mr Mah said.

'So far, the number of cases has been within what the industry considers acceptable.'

There are another 100 cases of home buyers defaulting on their mortgage payments, but the banks have yet to take action against them.

Mr Mah gave the figures in his response to a question by Dr Amy Khor (Hong Kah GRC).

He acknowledged that at least some of these default cases deserved government help.

He said that HDB has provided financial assistance to 20 families so they could rent flats after their homes were repossessed.

He also assured MPs that HDB would be sympathetic towards families in dire financial straits. However, he steered clear of a more systematic approach to assistance, saying that cases of repossession would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, depending on individual circumstances.

He also urged home buyers to be realistic about their finances and buy a flat within their means. 'They must exercise the choice responsibly,' he said.

As for those who are irresponsible in their choices?

'I don't think HDB should be in the position of providing such a big safety net for them,' he said
.
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Old 18-10-2005, 08:35 PM   #754
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Contractors to upgrade

Those registered with HDB must attend two-day course to renew licence

Tuesday • October 18, 2005

Tor Ching Li
chingli@newstoday.com.sg

RENOVATION contractors registered with the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will now have to hit the books before they can hack your walls.

In a bid to professionalise the industry, a two-day course on "Renovation for Public Housing" is being rolled out next month by the HDB and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The 1,800 HDB registered renovation contractors will have to fulfil the requirements of the 14-hour course and pass a one-hour open book test to renew their licence.

To be conducted in English at the BCA's Construction Industry Training Institute in Braddell, the course covers topics such as HDB renovation guidelines and statutory requirements for building materials.

Fees will range from a minimum of $30 to a maximum of $210, depending on whether the company is eligible for a subsidy from the Skills Development Fund.

According to the BCA, about 800 registrations will expire next year.

Mr Lee Teck Seng of Teck Seng Designs said while he was open to the idea of a course, he hoped that lessons and tests could also be conducted in Chinese.

Mr Jason Goh of Sin Lip General Decoration Contractor noted that while more requirements were being placed on licensed HDB renovation contractors, HDB has also relaxed renovation guidelines for the laying of floor tiles and installation of false ceilings among other types of work.

"It makes me wonder if there is much value left in an HDB license if there is so much work that can be done without a permit," said Mr Goh.

According to the HDB website, it is up to flat owners to engage HDB registered renovation contractors who bear a HDB registration card and are listed on the website.
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Old 18-10-2005, 08:42 PM   #755
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Review HDB policy to help residents unable to sell their five-room flats

Tuesday • October 18, 2005

Letter from Wong Teck Tian

I refer to the increased demand for HDB resale three- and four-room flats.

Owners of flats with five rooms or more who want to sell their flats in order to downgrade are concerned about the chances of their flats being sold.

Some of them are experiencing financial hardship due to unemployment, limited incomes, low savings or high arrears.

The situation is such that there are either no buyers or those who do view the flats choose not to make offers.

Even if the HDB implemented measures such as allowing deferments on housing loan payments, it would still be impossible for this group of people to pay their monthly housing instalments on time. In the long term, they might even accumulate high interest payments and penalties.

Should the HDB review its policy and consider assisting those experiencing hardship to sell their flats? One way would be to introduce additional subsidies for those who purchase bigger units.

Maybe HDB will reply tt Singaporeans are reminded to buy a flat within their means or else rent their house...
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Old 19-10-2005, 09:28 AM   #756
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Facelifts for 46 precincts

Wednesday • October 19, 2005

FORTY-SIX Housing Board precincts will be upgraded this year under the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP), the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) and the Interim Upgrading Programme (IUP) Plus.

This is in line with National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan's announcement during the March budget debates. Thirteen precincts have been chosen for the IUP Plus — which covers lifts and area upgrading — and 30 precincts have been identified for the LUP. Three others will be selected for the MUP.

All 46 batches have yet to be polled for the upgrading works to proceed. These bring the total number of precincts chosen for upgrading to 457 — comprising 2,869 blocks and 350,581 flats. — Tor Ching Li

46 Precincts Selected for Upgrading in FY2004

In Mar 05 during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, the Minister for National Development, Mr Mah Bow Tan, said that 43 precincts will be picked for LUP and IUP Plus Programmes while 3 precincts will be selected for MUP in FY2004.

2All 46 precincts have been announced by the respective Advisors to the Grassroots Organisations in the constituencies where they are located. They comprise:

Programme No of precincts No of blocks No of flats
MUP Batch 20 3 22 2,797
IUP Plus Batch 3 13 122 12,626
LUP Batch 3 30 271 30,156
Total 46 415 45,579

The details for these 46 precincts are attached at Annex 1.


3With these latest precincts, a total of 457 precincts comprising 2869 blocks with 350,581 flats have been announced for various types of upgrading so far:


Programme Number of flats
MUP (include those upgraded under IUP before and those subsequently offered LUP) 130,500
IUP (include those subsequently offered LUP) and IUP Plus 184,767
LUP stand-alone 35,314
Total 350,581




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



ANNEX 1


Batch 20 MUP Precincts

S/N Precinct
1 Blocks 1 to 12 Haig Road
2 Block 32 New Market Road & Block 53 Chin Swee Road
3 Blocks 604 to 607, 610 to 613 Clementi West Street 1


Batch 3 IUP Plus Precincts

S/N Precinct
1 Blocks 602 to 612 Yishun Street 61
2 Blocks 211 to 222 Serangoon Avenue 4
3 Blocks 116 to 129 Pending Road
4 Blocks 685 to 698 Hougang Street 61
5 Blocks 800 to 804 Yishun Ring Road
6 Blocks 101 to 109 Bishan Street 12
7 Blocks 360 to 370 Bukit Batok Street 31
8 Blocks 715 to 717 Clementi West Street 2
9 Blocks 408 to 413 Bedok North Avenue 2
10 Blocks 456 to 461 Jurong West Street 41
11 Blocks 1 to 3, 5 to 8 St George’s Road / Lane
12 Blocks 336 to 350 Woodlands Avenue 1 / 3 / Street 32
13 Blocks 283 to 286, 294 to 298 Tampines Street 22


Batch 3 LUP Precincts

S/N Precinct
1 Blocks 141 to 151 Petir Road/ Gangsa Road
2 Blocks 302 to 306, 308, 311 & 312 Yishun Central/ Yishun Ring Road
3 Blocks 201 to 211 Bukit Batok Street 21
4 Blocks 209 to 220, 222 Petir Road / Pending Road
5 Blocks 540 to 547, 550 & 551 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10
6 Blocks 221, 221A, 222, 223A, 224, 225, 225A, 226 to 228 Jurong East Street 21
7 Blocks 902 to 911 Jurong West Street 91
8 Blocks 153 to 159 Bishan Street 13
9 Blocks 72 to 79 Marine Drive
10 Blocks 242, 243, 245, 252 to 256, 258 & 259 Kim Keat Link / Avenue
11 Blocks 231 to 238 Tampines Street 21
12 Blocks 185 to 187, 221 Boon Lay Avenue/ Place
13 Blocks 15, 17, 19 to 23 Hougang Avenue 3
14 Blocks 58, 60 & 62 Dakota Crescent
15 Blocks 223 to 226 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1
16 Blocks 701 to 704, 706, 707, 710 West Coast Road / Clementi West Street 2
17 Blocks 66 to 72 Bedok South Avenue 3/ Road
18 Blocks 451 to 460 Tampines Street 42
19 Blocks 110 to 119, 121 to 124 Teck Whye Lane
20 Blocks 72, 73, 93 to 97 Geylang Bahru
21 Blocks 830 to 838, 841, 843, 845, 847, 849 & 851 Tampines Street 82/ 83
22 Blocks 419 to 425, 427 to 432, 434 & 435 Fajar Road/ Bukit Panjang Ring Road
23 Blocks 109, 110, 112 to 119, 121, 123 to 127 Hougang Avenue 1
24 Blocks 801 to 808 Woodlands Street 81
25 Blocks 128 to 131 Marsiling Rise
26 Blocks 107 to 110 Bedok North Road
27 Blocks 105, 108, 110, 112 to 114, 116, 117, 119 Simei Street 1
28 Blocks 101 to 115 Bukit Purmei Road
29 Blocks 501 to 510 Bedok North Street 3/ Avenue 3
30 Blocks 404 to 411 Hougang Avenue 10



Issued By : Housing & Development Board
Date : 18 Oct 2005
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Old 20-10-2005, 09:03 AM   #757
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Oct 20, 2005

CAUGHT IN 'ETHNIC QUOTA' BIND


IN 'HELP owners who can't sell flat due to race quota, say MPs' (ST, Oct 17), Dr Amy Khor, who suspects that the home owners' real gripe is that they have to wait longer to get the right buyer, said: 'This inconvenience is a small price to pay for the very important objective that we want to meet.'

Six years ago, I bought my three-room flat from my in-laws because they could not sell it due to the ethnic quota. Now, six years later, I still cannot sell the flat, again due to the same problem.

The 'small price' is way too big for me because I cannot upgrade to a bigger flat even as my family grows.

I e-mailed HDB four months ago about this problem. Till now, there is no news
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Old 21-10-2005, 09:17 AM   #758
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Review HDB policy to help residents unable to sell their five-room flats

Tuesday • October 18, 2005

Letter from Wong Teck Tian

I refer to the increased demand for HDB resale three- and four-room flats.

Owners of flats with five rooms or more who want to sell their flats in order to downgrade are concerned about the chances of their flats being sold.

Some of them are experiencing financial hardship due to unemployment, limited incomes, low savings or high arrears.

The situation is such that there are either no buyers or those who do view the flats choose not to make offers.

Even if the HDB implemented measures such as allowing deferments on housing loan payments, it would still be impossible for this group of people to pay their monthly housing instalments on time. In the long term, they might even accumulate high interest payments and penalties.

Should the HDB review its policy and consider assisting those experiencing hardship to sell their flats? One way would be to introduce additional subsidies for those who purchase bigger units.

Maybe HDB will reply tt Singaporeans are reminded to buy a flat within their means or else rent their house...

---------------------------------------------
As expected...

HDB owners must be realistic, prudent

Friday • October 21, 2005

Letter from Tay Boon Sun
Senior public relations officer
for Director (Corporate Development)
Housing and Development Board

I refer to the letter "Review HDB policy to help residents unable to sell their five-room flats" by Mr Wong Teck Tian (Oct 18). Mr Wong suggested reviewing the policy to assist these sellers or introduce additional subsidies for buyers of bigger flats.

Based on resale applications registered, the number of resale cases for the various flat types has been relatively stable since 2004.

Home owners who are in financial difficulties and need assistance with their HDB mortgage loan repayments can approach the Branch Office managing the flat for advice.

The HDB has in place financial assistance measures such as rescheduling the loan, reducing or deferring payments, and paying arrears by instalments.

These are interim measures meant to help homeowners while they work out a more sustainable solution to their financial situation.

With the recent relaxation on subletting policy, lessees may also sublet their flats to reduce their financial burden if they meet the prerequisite occupation period of 10 years for those with an outstanding HDB loan, or five years for other owners.

In any property transaction, flat owners must be realistic in setting the resale price.

The transacted prices are basically affected by demand and supply forces.

Market conditions and the attributes of the property will affect the demand and ultimately the transacted price.

Hence, we have been reiterating that buyers must exercise financial prudence to buy flats within their means and treat it as a long-term commitment.

They are then less likely to be unduly burdened and will be in a better financial position to respond to economic changes.

We thank Mr Wong for his feedback.
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Old 21-10-2005, 09:24 AM   #759
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The Electric New Paper :

Number of new HDB flats sold
Down for 6th year
HDB still has 9,000 flats unsold and wanting. Has it been too ambitious in its home building binge?

By Desmond Ng

15 October 2005
ER, want to apply for a new HDB flat?

A lot of Singaporeans have proposed marriage that way.

But perhaps not so many these days.

The number of new HDB flats sold is going down.

According to HDB's latest annual report, some 9,433 new flats were sold in the last financial year 2004/05 compared to 14,914 new flats in 2003/04.

This represents a drop of about 37 per cent. This is the sixth year running that this number has dropped.

This is the first time in recent years that it has dropped below 10,000.

The new flats are sold through various programmes such as Walk-In-Selection (WIS), Built-To-Order (BTO) and Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers).

That number has been heading south since FY99/00 when the number of new flats sold was 28,732.

To compare, HDB sold 23,568 flats in FY00/01; 19,854 in FY01/02; 18,201 in FY02/03; and 14,914 in FY03/04.

But there're still 9,000 flats unsold, said HDB. These include leftover units from Sers and BTO contracts in the last financial year.

In comparison, there were about 10,000 unsold flats in FY2003/04.

Most of these unsold units are five-room and executive flats in outlying areas such as Jurong West and Sembawang.

Property watchers say the economic uncertainty last year could have had a dampening effect on the sale of new flats.

Because of that, some couples may have postponed their wedding plans, said Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

He added: 'There's also a movement from new flats to resale flats in more established locations. There were reports that some residents in new estates were complaining about the lack of amenities.

'I think this may have deterred some people from buying new flats in those areas and to buy resale instead.'

With condominium prices at an all time low, some potential HDB buyers may have chosen condos, he added. But Mr Mak said there's no cause for real concern yet.

'It just means that the authorities have to relook the role of HDB. If people are not buying new flats, what's HDB's role going to be?' he asked.

The most pressing issue - what can HDB do to dispose of the 9,000 unsold flats, even though the number of unsold flats is going down, albeit slowly. For one, HDB, unlike private developers, cannot simply slash prices. This may upset those who bought their flats earlier and may destabilise the property market, say property watchers.

Assistant Professor Muhammad Faishal, of NUS' Department of Real Estate, feels that with the property policy changes in July and the better than expected performance by the economy recently, more new flats may be sold during the next financial year.

He suggests a branding exercise for the unsold flats in areas such as Jurong West and Sembawang.

Said Mr Faishal: 'There's a perception that these areas are considered 'ulu' (far-flung areas). So, HDB could rebrand these estates and change the attitudes of buyers.'

For example, estates such as Sengkang have ample amenities but people still think otherwise, he added.

HDB can also improve the amenities of the outlying estates to attract buyers.

Mr Mak suggested the Housing Board give additional premium furnishings or soft discounts like furniture vouchers.

REPACKAGING

ERA assistant vice-president Eugene Lim added: 'They (HDB) have tried almost every trick in the book, via show flats or selling to developers. Aside from repackaging the flats with better furnishings, maybe they can convert them to accommodate foreign students.'

In the past, HDB has asked private developers to buy entire blocks for conversion into condos and NTU to buy them for student or staff accommodation.

Both groups said they were not keen with the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) saying that it's not so easy to convert HDB flats into private flats. If not hostels or condos, what then?

If you have any ideas, e-mail us at tnp@sph.com.sg



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


HDB's plans to sell flats

APPOINTING agents to sell the unsold flats.

Offering optional flooring to entice buyers.

These are just some measures HDB will be undertaking to sell the existing 9,000 unsold flats.

The Housing Board explained that, among the flats which had been vacant for more than five years, a new initiative was undertaken to offer 100 units for sale as resale flats.

'The response was good with 98 units sold. We are now studying whether to appoint more than one agent to sell more of such flats.

'But we would do so only gradually so as not to affect the resale market,' said an HDB spokesman.

OFFER

The Housing Board is also looking into offering optional flooring to some unsold flats which generally do not come with flooring for the living, dining room and bedrooms.

This will save home owners the hassle of renovation as it is offered as a package, said HDB.

And on the issue of why fewer people are buying new flats, HDB said that as buyers are now more cautious it has become difficult to sell these flats.

The 9,000 unsold flats are located at various places, but more of such units are in the outlying areas, and many are five-room and bigger flats built in the 1990s when the demand for such flats was high.

HDB said these units will be sold through the Balloting Exercise and Walk-In-Selection, and show flats will be put up when necessary.

'We have tried this method before and response had been positive,' the spokesman added.
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Old 24-10-2005, 09:02 AM   #760
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Condos seem more attractive than five-room flats

Monday • October 24, 2005

Letter from Chiam Moi Leng

I REFER to the letter "HDB owners must be realistic, prudent" by Mr Tay Boon Sun (Oct 21).

I spoke to many real estate agents and was informed that the demand for five-room flats is low compared to the smaller flats. The demand for properties can be affected by policies. More are buying private properties due to the measure to lower initial cash outlay payment for private properties and the small price difference between cheaper condominiums and five-room flats.

The question is: Why should one choose to purchase a five-room flat unit when he can buy a condominium unit at slightly higher price? The concern is: There might be an oversupply of five-room flats if measures aren't taken to boost demand.
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Old 24-10-2005, 09:09 AM   #761
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Two-room flats in great demand, prices up by 25%
Singles and those downgrading from bigger flats are snapping them up

By Tan Hui Yee
THE search for affordable housing has led Singaporeans to a little-known source: resale two-room flats.

Prices of these 41 to 45 sq m flats have risen by up to 25 per cent in the past three years, because of demand from singles and those downgrading from bigger flats, say property agents.

Their limited supply is also pushing up prices.

As the bulk of the 29,000 two-room flats in Singapore are rental units, just over 6,000 can be sold on the open market. Some of these were originally rental flats which were sold to existing tenants.

These 6,000 two-room flats make up less than 1 per cent of all owned flats in Singapore.

They are usually snapped up within a week of being put on sale, said property agencies Dennis Wee Properties and C&H Realty. Three- and four-room flats, comparatively, can take up to three months to sell.

The appeal of two-room flats is their price.

Since most two-room flats cost about $100,000, retirees find it easier to pay for them with their savings. Those who have a hard time getting a bank loan, because of financial problems, find two-room flats more manageable than three-room units, which usually cost at least $40,000 more.

Another plus is that these flats, which are no longer being built, tend to be located in mature housing estates like Ang Mo Kio and Central Singapore, which puts them near major transport networks and other facilities.

Two-room flats allow buyers like Mr W.M. Poon to live in the central area.

The 36-year-old management trainer, who is single, bought a two-room flat in the Selegie area in May for $130,000 and paid for it in full with his Central Provident Fund savings.

Orchard Road and its attractions are just a 10- to 15-minute walk away, he proudly pointed out.

Mr Eric Cheng, a division director of property agency PropNex, said the flats are less risky investments simply because they are easy to sell.

Just 388 out of the 33,421 resale flats sold last year were two-room units.

According to data from the Housing Board, the average valuation of a two-room flat in Central Singapore rose from $106,700 in the fourth quarter of 2003 to $124,000 in the second quarter of this year.

Two-room flat prices in Geylang rose from $80,300 to $102,600 in the same period.

The demand for two-room flats is, in part, caused by the economic downturn of recent years, which has made people more prudent in their housing choices.

The popularity of small flats caused the prices of resale three-room units to rise by 17.6 per cent in 2003, prompting the Government to resume building them last year after a 19-year hiatus.

In contrast, the prices of five-room and executive units have largely stagnated or dropped.
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Old 24-10-2005, 09:46 AM   #762
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Oct 24, 2005
What help is there for HDB flat owners who can't afford to downgrade?
I refer to the report 'Some flat owners can't afford to downgrade' (ST Oct 11).

I would like the relevant authorities to reply to these questions:

1. What avenues are there for such homeowners to turn to so that they are not enticed or coerced by their circumstances to ask for special payment arrangements from buyers when they wish to sell their flats in the resale market?

2) Are the authorities keeping track to see whether the recent measure to curb 'cashback' arrangement is effective? Have they sent any of their staff to go undercover as sellers and buyers to check and monitor the actual resale market situation, or are they relying on statistics alone and hoping that all's well will end well?

Would the actual resale prices and valuations be reflective of the market?

3) Are the relevant authorities aware of the numerous advertisements in the local newspapers that offer financial solutions by 'using your CPF funds' etc?

Leong Peck Chee

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Old 24-10-2005, 09:52 AM   #763
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Hasten review of HDB flat resale levy
I REFER to the reports 'HDB plans new ways to sell unsold flats' (ST, Oct 14) and 'Some flat owners can't afford to downgrade' (ST, Oct 11).

The Housing Board is again thinking of ways to get unsold flats off its hands. But HDB chief executive Lui Tuck Yew said this will be done 'carefully and gradually' so as not to upset the HDB resale market.

The fact is the market price for my five-room flat is depreciating. I urge the authorities concerned to hasten the review of the HDB resale levy so that those who need to downgrade may do so before prices plunge further.

Linda Seah Siew Yong
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Old 26-10-2005, 09:02 AM   #764
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Is the HDB responsible for leaking roof?

I refer to Mr Seah Kian Chong's letter on the prompt response of Sengkang HDB Branch Office in retifying his shoddy air conditioning ledge (ST Oct 4).

Unfortunately, I did not have such a pleasant experience. I live on the top floor of a HDB block in Sengkang and the ceiling of two bedrooms started leaking soon after I moved in last year.

I have complained about it countless times and have even met my MP about the matter. So far, HDB has said that it is the problem of the town council and the leakage has not been rectified after more than a year.

My wooden floor and paintwork have been damaged by the perpetual wetness and I have lived in the newly-renovated flat for less than two years.

My questions are: Isn't the HDB responsible for the leaking roof as it built the flat? Who is going to solve the problem? Who is going to compensate me for my damaged floor and paintwork?

Audrina Lee (Ms)
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Old 26-10-2005, 09:04 AM   #765
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HDB flat sale: Why does CPF refund take 14 days?
The sale completion of my HDB flat took place on 23 September 2005.

Part of the proceeds went to redeem my mortgage loan with the bank while a part was to be refunded to my CPF account, with the balance paid to me by a cashier's order.

I deposited the cashier's order on the day of completion and the sum was credited to my bank account on Sept 24.

My mortgage loan with the bank was discharged on Sept 23, as confirmed by the bank. What surprised me was that my CPF account was not credited with the refund. A check with the CPF Board drew the reply that it had not received the refund from the HDB.

After several emails that were not replied to, followed by numerous telephone calls to the HDB, I finally got the answer that the HDB took seven working days to make the refund.

Incidentally, CPF Board also said it needed seven working days to process the refund. So all in all, the CPF refund takes 14 working days. We are talking about thousands of dollars free-floating for almost an entire month.

Are the systems in these organisations that inefficient in processing the transactions? I don't think it is fair to CPF members.

Goh Xun Yu (Ms)

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