Category Archives: HDB

More budget, lower owner contribution to support HDB shop revitalisation efforts

There will be a bigger upgrading budget and shopowners will have to bear less of the cost to upgrade their shops as part of the enhanced Revitalisation of Shops (ROS) Scheme, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said on Monday (May 9).

The ROS upgrading budget for each HDB shop will be increased by 75 per cent from S$20,000 to S$35,000 per shop, according to the press release.

To encourage more HDB shops to participate in the scheme, the shopowners’ share of the upgrading cost will be reduced from 50 per cent to 20 per cent, and capped as S$5,000. HDB and the town councils will co-fund the remaining 80 per cent, capped at S$30,000 per shop, it said, adding that they will continue to bear 100 per cent of the upgrading cost for rental shops.

Additionally, HDB will provide new funding of up to S$10,000 for Merchants Associations (MA) to appoint a consultant to help shopowners in their ROS upgrading, the press release said.

Should the HDB shops not have a MA, HDB has also introduced a new Start-up Fund of S$10,000 to encourage them to form one.

The new enhancements are applicable for batch 7 of ROS onwards, a HDB spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.

The upgraded ROS package will cost about S$15 million yearly and was first revealed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget 2016 statement.

Since the ROS scheme was introduced in November 2007, 4,684 shops from 54 HDB town or neighbourhood centres islandwide have benefitted, covering more than 50 per cent of such centres, the agency said.

Of these, 16 HDB town or neighbourhood centres have completed upgrading and another eight centres are at various stages of upgrading. In addition, more than 300 promotional events have been organised by the MAs under the scheme, it said.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 9 May 2016

HDB tightens rules on changes on flat ownership

Keen to have a second property as a “vacation house”, 46-year-old Mr Khoo has been on the lookout for a private condominium since the start of 2016.

The Singaporean, who did not want his full name to be used, currently owns an HDB flat with his wife, so he was keen on taking up his property agent’s suggestion to “decouple” from his existing property to avoid having to pay Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).

Through this process, Mr Khoo would have transferred his share in his existing HDB flat to his wife, thereby leaving him free to buy a private condominium without having to worry about paying ABSD, as the subsequent purchase would have been be seen as his first. Such a practice can mean substantial savings for home owners like Mr Khoo who are on the lookout for a second property.

However, he will now have to shelve his plans due to changes in the rules governing the transfer of flat ownership by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

In an email response to a query from Channel NewsAsia, the HDB confirmed that changes in flat ownership will now only be allowed under six circumstances including marriage, divorce, death of an owner, financial hardship, renunciation of citizenship and medical reasons.

These new regulations took effect on Apr 1, according to the HDB spokesman, adding that HDB will assess on a case by case basis if the request to change flat ownership does not fall under the above circumstances.

This means that transfers in flat ownership between spouses or immediate family members will no longer be readily approved.

According to industry watchers that Channel NewsAsia spoke to, the practice of “decoupling” – a shift from co-ownership to sole ownership of an HDB – gained popularity among local home owners, particularly since the upward revision of the ABSD in Jan 2013.

Out of every 10 HDB flat upgraders, about 1 or 2 couples choose to “decouple”, said R’ST Research’s director Ong Kah Seng.

The ABSD, first introduced in 2011 and revised two years later, was part of the government’s cooling measures aimed at reining in escalating residential property prices.

Currently, Singapore citizens have to pay an ABSD of 7 per cent on a second property, and this increases to 10 per cent for third and subsequent purchases. Meanwhile, ABSD for foreigners is set at 15 per cent for first and subsequent property purchases.

Given the substantial savings, Channel NewsAsia understands that this practice was an “open secret” for home owners looking to avoid hefty duty, with property agents and lawyers readily offering advice to “decouple”.

However, the HDB spokesman stressed that the latest tweaks in regulations “are not meant to prevent married couples from decoupling to avoid ABSD” and are instead part of a regular policy review.

There are market watchers who applaud the move.

“The essence of an HDB flat is a basic shelter, and it should not be treated as investment product,” said Ku Swee Yong, Chief Executive of real estate agency Century21. “Home owners who engage in ‘decoupling’ have been treating the HDB as an investment tool and given the heavy subsidies by taxpayers and the state in this asset class, this is wrong.”

For R’ST Research’s Mr Ong, the latest tweak in regulations will ensure that buyers are not financially overstretched amid a weak economy.

“If we look at things holistically and strategically, changing of regulations (will) ensure that buyers do not beat the system by decoupling, or purchase a private property on impulse and overstretch property financing capabilities, especially in weak economic times that is set to persist.”

Given the sluggish economic conditions, there is a need for the government to “protect the masses by discouraging them in over-investing in private properties”, Mr Ong added.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 4 May 2016

Heartland retailers to get more financial support for upgrading: MND

Heartland retailers will receive greater financial assistance for upgrading works under the enhanced Revitalisation of Shops (ROS) scheme, announced the Ministry of National Development (MND) on Monday (April 11).

The upgraded ROS package, which will cost about S$15 million yearly, was first revealed by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget statement last month.

Since 2007, about half of all Housing and Development Board (HDB) shops islandwide have benefitted from the ROS scheme with upgraded shop fronts and funding support for promotional activities, said Senior Minister of State for MND Desmond Lee.

He revealed that last year, a Revitalisation of Heartland Shops Committee – comprising retailers, grassroots representatives and Merchant Associations (MAs) – was set up to review the ROS scheme, so as to better understand and support the needs of HDB retailers.

FINANCIAL AID

After evaluating suggestions and feedback from the heartland retail community, MND will adjust the co-funding ratio between Government, HDB shopkeeper and Town Council for upgrading works under the ROS scheme.

“What this means is that our shopkeepers pay less, while Government and Town Councils pay more,” said Mr Lee.

“Second, we will provide some start-up funding to support the formation of new Merchants’ Associations,” he added. “HDB will announce the details before launching the next batch of ROS soon.”

MND’s review is ongoing and there may be more in the pipeline, said Mr Lee.

Noting an increasing trend of ice cream parlours, artisan bakeries and hipster cafes being set up in residential estates, he also added that HDB will work with the Ministry of Trade and Industry and SPRING to support young entrepreneurs and SMEs with their heartland retail efforts.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Apr 2016

Details revealed for Fresh Start Housing Scheme to help rental flat dwellers

Details of the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, which aims to help second-timer families in rental flats buy a home, were released on Monday (Apr 11). Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong said his ministry aims to introduce the scheme by the end of the year.

Speaking in Parliament as part of the Committee of Supply debates, Mr Wong said that the scheme targets parents with school-going children.

Under the scheme, families who qualify will be able to by a new two-room Flexi flat, said the minister. The flats will come with shorter leases, ranging from 45 to 65 years, to keep the price affordable, and will also come with a longer Minimum Occupation Period of 20 years, to ensure a stable home for the children.

Those who apply for the scheme will also be given another Housing Development Board (HDB) concessionary loan, regardless of any previous HDB loans. The flat buyers’ CPF will be able to be used for the down-payment as well as mortgage payments.

The families will also get a Fresh Start Housing Grant of up to S$35,000, which will be pro-rated according to the lease of the flat they buy.

QUALIFYING FOR THE SCHEME

The scheme, first announced at the National Day Rally last year, will integrate financial assistance with personal responsibility and social support, said Mr Wong.

To qualify for the scheme and receive the full grant, families will have to show commitment to remain in stable employment, manage their finances well, and ensure their children are attending school regularly, he added.

Then, depending on the efforts made by the families, the the grant will correspondingly be disbursed in tranches over time. When they collect their keys, S$20,000 will be given, while the remainder will be given out annually over the next five years.

He added that Ministry of Social and Family Development officers will check in with these families to ensure that they are doing well, and to link them up with partners for social support if needed.

As for families that encounter difficulties after signing up for the scheme, Mr Wong said the ministry will consider individual circumstances and the effort they are making to meet the conditions.

“We will not reply on just a single criteria or matrix, because we will exercise discretion and judgement, and we will look at it case-by-case,” said Mr Wong.

He noted that those that might qualify for the scheme – those who are second-timers, with school-going children, and who do no have excessive arrears with HDB – number about 1,000, and that not all of them might choose take up the scheme.

“The numbers may not be very big, but I believe the scheme can and will have a meaningful impact on the families we are reaching out to,” said Mr Wong.

TENANTS’ PRIORITY SCHEME TO BE EXTENDED TO SECOND-TIMER FAMILIES

In a separate speech on Monday, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said that the Tenants’ Priority Scheme (TPS), will be extended to second-time rental families, including Fresh Start Housing Scheme beneficiaries.

The scheme was earlier opened only to first-timer rental families, where 10 per cent of two- and three-room flats in sales exercises were set aside for them. Second-timer families had a lower allocation quota than first-timers when balloting for new HDB flats, and now, the extension of the scheme to second-timer families will increase their chances of owning a flat, Dr Koh said.

Like first-timer families, the second-timers will be eligible if they have stayed at least two years in public rental, and are applying for a two- or three-room flats.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Apr 2016

Tengah will be new ‘forest town’

The Tengah new town, which had been announced earlier, will be integrated with Jurong Innovation District and planned as a “Forest Town”, announced National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday (Apr 11).

Tengah new town will be next to the Jurong Innovation District, which was earlier announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during his Budget 2016 statement, said Mr Wong. The Jurong Innovation District was described as an industrial park of the future and touted to the future of innovation for enterprise, learning and living.

Given that the area is surrounded by greenery, Tengah new town will be planned as a “Forest Town”. Together with the Jurong Innovation District, this will be an “exciting place to live, work and play”, the Minister said.

He added that more details will be released in due course.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Apr 2016

HDB resale prices dip 0.1% in first quarter

Resale prices of flats dipped 0.1 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the previous quarter, according to flash estimates from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) released on Friday (Apr 1).

The decline comes after the Resale Price Index (RPI) for the fourth quarter rose 0.1 per cent from the previous quarter.

The RPI for the first quarter of 2016 came in at 134.6, down marginally from the previous quarter’s 134.8, the HDB said. The index provides information on the general price movements in the resale public housing market.

The HDB plans to launch about 4,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in May and about 5,000 balance flats.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 1 Apr 2016

Observers hope Budget 2016 will address issues with Fresh Start Housing Scheme

Observers have said there are still some outstanding issues with the Fresh Start Housing Scheme that they hope can be addressed in the upcoming Budget, which is set to be delivered at 3.30pm on Thursday (Mar 24).

The scheme aims to help public rental tenants, especially those who previously owned flats and have young children, to own their own flat.

The Housing and Development Board and National Development Ministry have held public consultations to gather feedback on implementing the scheme. Some suggestions include more grants, concessionary loans and even shorter leases.

Experts said that a key consideration for the scheme will be refining the qualifying criteria.

“Past studies show that people who are homeowner-occupiers are more responsible citizens – it imbues a kind of responsible behaviour,” said one of them, DTZ’s head of research Lee Nai Jia. “Their children are also able to do better in school because of the stable environment.”

Dr Lee added: “I think this is a great scheme. The key problem is how we are going to identify this group and their income ceiling, and (how we are going to define) the type of benefits to give this group.”

Others said that given the financial situation such families find themselves in, it is likely that any form of Government support will have to take into account such issues.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, said the scheme gives a “second chance to families”, especially those who faced circumstances they could not control, leading them to have to sell their first flat and find temporary public rental.

“(The scheme) allows them to own a house eventually,” said Mr Saktiandi. “There could be more support for them in terms of grants and there could also be some conditions for the grants to be disbursed.

“(For example), the families (can first) show that they are able to pay for the new flats they are about to acquire.”

Besides built-in conditions, social welfare organisation Fei Yue Family Service Centre said it is important to educate the families on the responsibilities of home ownership. It suggests running a set of programmes parallel to the disbursement of grants, such as financial management and activities to keep children in school.

“We don’t want to come to a point where they are on the scheme and then there is a setback and they are penalised or thrown out of the scheme,” said Ms Lilian Ong, principal social worker at the centre. “We could introduce some sort of readiness or transitional programme to prepare the whole family for this.”

The centre recommends that such a transitional programme for these households run for half a year.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 22 Mar 2016

HDB will be flexible with third HDB loan: Lawrence Wong

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will be flexible in assisting households with a third HDB housing loan, but this will be on a case-by-case basis and typically for households that need urgent assistance but cannot secure mortgage financing from banks, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

In Parliament on Monday (Mar 14), Mr Wong qualified by saying that these households must have sufficient savings and steady incomes to service the loans.

Last year, HDB provided a third loan to about 900 households. About 75 per cent of these loans are on a non-concessionary basis – meaning market rates – and 25 per cent are concessionary loans, he said.

“As I said, HDB would want to assist applicants to buy a home. But HDB is also wary of people, or families, who overstretch themselves, and end up with more debt. I don’t think we want that to happen just for the pursuit of buying a home.”

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 14 Mar 2016