The number of approvals granted to permanent residents wanting to buy landed homes on mainland Singapore has fallen sharply, since the authorities further tightened the eligibility criteria in 2011 to ensure these scarce properties remain the primary preserve of Singapore citizens.
The Singapore Land Authority told The Business Times that the number of such approvals fell from 145 in 2010 to 117 in 2011 to just 31 last year (the first full year after the tightening). In the first six months of 2013, only six applications received the nod.
Back in October 2011, Law Minister K Shanmugam had indicated that the number of approvals given to PRs to buy landed homes would fall by more than half to no more than 50 per year.
Since the authorities raised the bar some time in 2011 on eligibility criteria for PRs to buy landed residential properties, about two-thirds of approved applicants are married PR couples with children who are also PRs. “Where these couples have sons of National Service-eligibility age, the sons are serving or have served NS,” said an SLA spokeswoman.
“Given the scarcity of landed residential properties in Singapore, the government’s policy has always been to ensure that such properties remain the primary preserve of Singapore citizens.”
Foreigners who wish to own landed homes in Singapore must first seek government approval. On mainland Singapore, the minimum criterion is that they must be PRs. In addition, “they have to meet very stringent criteria that reflect significant economic contribution and rootedness in Singapore”, said the spokeswoman.
If approval is given, it is restricted to one landed residential property with a site area not exceeding 15,000 square feet. The property must be for owner occupation and cannot be rented out.
In addition, approved applicants must hold the property for at least five years, up from three years previously. Market watchers believe this change was effected sometime during the second half of last year.
Around the same time, the authorities stopped giving PRs approval to buy landed homes in Good Class Bungalow Areas. Previously, they could do so if the land area did not exceed 15,000 sq ft.
The spokeswoman added that where a Singapore citizen wants to co-own and live in a landed residential property with his or her PR spouse, “we will consider such applications favourably, so as to ground the family unit in Singapore”. However, the PR spouse is not allowed to own another landed residential property here.
Foreigners, whether PRs or not, are free to buy private apartments and condos anywhere in Singapore.
The figures on approvals for PRs to buy landed homes do not include Sentosa Cove, which remains the only place in Singapore where non-PR foreigners may buy a landed home, although still subject to government approval.
“Sentosa Cove is an exception as it was specially developed to attract influential and high net worth individuals to have a stake in Singapore,” said the SLA spokeswoman.
There is no holding period requirement for approved applicants. And the 15,000 sq ft cap also does not apply, although the site area is taken into account in assessing applications, she added.
“As with mainland (landed) properties, approved applicants can only use the property for owner occupation and not for rental. In addition, they cannot own more than one landed residential property, whether in Sentosa Cove or mainland Singapore.”
Purchases of landed homes by foreigners – in Sentosa Cove and mainland combined – form a small proportion of the total number. There were 4,355 caveats lodged for purchases of landed homes in all of Singapore in 2010, according to CBRE’s analysis of Urban Redevelopment Authority data. This fell to 3,340 in 2011 and 3,054 last year. In the first half of this year, 851 caveats have been lodged.
SLA also said the proportion of landed residential properties in Singapore (including Sentosa Cove) owned by foreigners (including PRs) has declined from 3.5 per cent in 2011 to 3.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.
“We will continue with this strict approach to only approve applicants with significant economic contribution and rootedness in Singapore,” said the spokeswoman.
URA data shows that the number of completed landed private residential properties in Singapore stood at 70,145 at the end of 2011 and 70,578 at the end of Q1 this year.
Source: Business Times –6 August 2013