Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomehousingHDB policy changes for singles kindle hope in 52-year-old who wants ‘a...

HDB policy changes for singles kindle hope in 52-year-old who wants ‘a home that I can call my own’

SINGAPORE – With a pay cheque of $1,700 a month, Mr Melvin Marc Loh, 52, had long accepted that he would not be able to buy a flat in Bedok to live near his mother.

“I don’t think I can afford to buy a resale flat in Bedok with my salary,” said the sales associate, who is single.

Under the current public housing framework, singles aged 35 and older like Mr Loh can buy new two-room flexi flats only in 12 non-mature estates such as Jurong East, Sengkang and Woodlands. He cannot apply for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in mature estates such as Bedok, Queenstown and Tampines.

But he will have a chance to buy a new flat in Bedok in the future, after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally on Sunday that all BTO projects launched from the second half of 2024 will be classified as Standard, Plus or Prime.

Singles will be able to apply for two-room flexi flats across all types of BTO projects islandwide under the new framework, which will not be applied to existing flats.

Mr Loh, who worked in Hong Kong for 20 years as a freelance fashion show director, returned to Singapore in 2017. He wants to spend more time with his 86-year-old mother, as his father died of cancer in 2018.

He had to move into his sister’s flat, as he did not have much savings in his Central Provident Fund (CPF) account.

The latest housing policy change has kindled hope for Mr Loh, who hopes to apply for a two-room flat in the future.

“I don’t look to profit from the flat. The location matters to me more than the size of the flat. It’s a home that I can call my own and to be near to my mother,” he said.

Similarly, civil servant Ms Teo, who asked that only her surname be used, is planning to apply for a two-room flat to live near her family after the new framework is rolled out.

The 34-year-old, who earns less than $7,000 a month, currently lives in a flat with her parents in Tampines.

She has been monitoring the prices of resale flats in Tampines, but has found them to be too high.

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“I was very happy when I read the news. Having more grants and the option to purchase a new flat instead of a resale flat definitely helps singles like me,” she said.

Under the new framework, singles can also buy a two-room Prime resale flat, or a Standard or Plus resale unit of any size, except three-generation flats.

But only singles who earn $14,000 or less a month can buy Plus flats on the resale market in the future.

Plus flats will be sited in more attractive locations within every region, such as near MRT stations or town centres. Like Prime flats, they come with a 10-year minimum occupation period (MOP), among other conditions.

Mr Fed Wu, a car dealer in his 40s, is among those deterred by the longer 10-year MOP, compared with five for Standard flats.

“Life circumstances can change in a few years. If I buy a two-room BTO flat, and after a few years, I find a partner and have a child, I would have to share the one bedroom with my child until he is six or seven years old before I can sell the flat,” he said, noting that he would be in his 50s by then and may not have enough money in his CPF Ordinary Account to buy a bigger resale flat.

The Government’s move to expand housing options for singles comes after some in this group raised concerns about being barred from buying new or resale Prime Location Public Housing flats when the model was rolled out in November 2021.

While singles welcomed the changes, some are hoping the age limit of 35 will be lowered in future.

Student Keith Goh, 30, said 35 “feels quite late in adulthood for someone to be buying a flat”, given that a single person would be around 40 by the time the BTO project is ready. “That’s also assuming the projects HDB releases when you turn 35 are the exact areas you want,” he said.

Mr Goh also questioned why singles are restricted to buying new two-room flexi flats and not larger units, given the growing need for a work space, with working from home becoming the norm.

Huttons Asia senior director of research Lee Sze Teck said he understood singles’ disappointment at the size and age restrictions. “However, there is a need to strike a balance between the needs of singles and families,” he added.

PropNex chief executive Ismail Gafoor said the changes will help singles who want to buy a new flat near their parents living in a centrally located estate, or who would like to live closer to the central area.

“There may be scope to further relax the policy to allow singles to buy three-room BTO flats in any location, as some of them may find a partner and get married later in life, or may need more space, given flexible work-from-home arrangements,” said Mr Gafoor.

He added that the $14,000 income ceiling for both families and singles buying Plus resale flats will help curb potential sharp price increases when such flats are resold, thus ensuring they remain affordable to Singaporeans.

Chief research officer for property portal Mogul.sg Nicholas Mak said setting the income ceiling for Plus resale flats at $14,000 allows singles to compete on a level playing field with families for such flats. The cap for singles buying Prime flats is $7,000.

Mr Mak noted that the majority of two-room flats transacted on the resale market today are older flats, which make up less than 2 per cent of total transacted resale flats.

The resale prices of the older flats will not increase in step with the newer two-room flexi flats, he said.

“The current prices of these older flats do not reflect the value of the newer two-room flexi flats. In the future, when more two-room flexi flats are transacted in the resale market, their resale values are likely to move in tandem with that of three-room resale flats,” he said.

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