First-timers must select BTO flats when invited by HDB or lose priority for a year from August launch

SINGAPORE – First-timer applicants who do not select a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat when invited to do so will be considered second-timers in subsequent flat applications for a year, starting from the August sales exercise.

The tightening of the rule is meant to reduce the number of people who decline to pick a flat and ensure more efficient allocation, so that those who need a flat can secure it more quickly, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Thursday.

Currently, first-timers will be moved to the second-timer category for a year when balloting for flats only if they do not book a BTO flat twice.

Far fewer flats are set aside for second-timers – 5 per cent of four-room and larger flats, versus at least 95 per cent for first-timer families.

Mr Lee also announced other measures to help first-timers secure their home during the debate on his ministry’s budget, including setting aside more flats for a new subset of first-timer families – those with Singaporean children aged 18 and below as well as married couples aged 40 and below.

From the August BTO exercise, up to 40 per cent of the flat supply will be reserved for this group of applicants, up from 30 per cent now.

Up to 60 per cent of Sales of Balance Flats (SBF) units will be set aside for them as well, an increase from the current 50 per cent. SBF flats are typically either completed or in various stages of construction.

Applicants under this new First-Timer (Parents & Married Couples) priority category will also get one additional ballot chance in their BTO and SBF applications, for a total of three ballot chances.

Various MPs, including Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), asked if more support can be given to help Singaporeans buy their first home amid the strong housing demand and elevated resale prices.

Help will be provided on several fronts, starting with the ramping up of flat supply in the next few years, said Mr Lee.

Close to 100,000 homes are expected to be completed between 2023 and 2025 across both the private and public housing markets, he said.

Of these, almost 40,000 homes will be completed this year – the highest in the last five years, including pre-Covid-19 years of 2018 and 2029, he added.

This increased supply should help to alleviate some pressure in the rental market as those who have been waiting for their keys will stop renting, and new homes will provide additional rental supply, said Mr Lee in response to Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC).

On tightening the rules for BTO flat non-selection, Mr Lee said it strikes a balance between considering the interests of flat applicants with urgent housing needs and being fair to those who successfully balloted for a flat.

He noted that the drop-out rate for BTO flats has hovered around 40 per cent in the past few years, even as strong housing demand pushed up application rates.


Business Asia
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