Buyers of BTO flats in prime areas may get more subsidies

To keep future housing projects in prime locations affordable, additional subsidies may be required, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOH

Updated from : The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2020

Build-To-Order (BTO) flats in prime locations may receive more subsidies as the Government considers ways to ensure that new Housing Board units remain affordable for ordinary Singaporeans.

But home owners may face restrictions on the resale conditions for future prime area public housing projects, under one idea being considered.

In a Facebook post yesterday, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said that a new housing model is necessary for BTO flats in “new areas with very prime attributes” because they will be “a lot more expensive than current BTO flats”.

In order to keep future housing projects in prime locations – such as those in the city centre or the Greater Southern Waterfront – affordable, Mr Lee said the Government may have to apply more subsidies, on top of the existing subsidies that are already provided today for all BTO flat buyers.

But he acknowledged that the additional subsidies may raise some issues.

“There is the issue of fairness when these additional subsidies add to higher capital gains for buyers of such flats in prime locations,” he said.

“In addition, we want to preserve the character of public housing in these estates, so that like other HDB estates in Singapore, they continue to remain inclusive over time.”

He also reiterated that a diverse range of flat types will be built in upcoming estates in prime locations, including two-room flexi flats and rental housing where possible, to cater to different needs and keep Singapore’s public housing diverse.

Mr Lee said the Government will consider measures for upcoming new flats in the prime areas that “balance between these various objectives”.

“We have received many ideas – for example, some have suggested introducing some restrictions on the resale conditions for future prime area projects,” he said.

Calling for more suggestions from the public, he said there is a whole range of ideas that can apply to these future flats under the new housing model, which will be studied carefully by the Government.

Last month, Mr Lee said in an interview with Lianhe Zaobao that a range of housing types will be deliberately injected into upcoming estates in prime locations.

He also acknowledged the lottery effect of these well-located flats when they are resold at high prices, resulting in a likely windfall for home owners.

He then said that the pricing of flats must be kept affordable at the first sale by HDB, and also in resales, hinting that a series of measures may be implemented to ensure “if resale is permitted for these flats, that they remain affordable for generations to come”.

Experts said it was reasonable to expect that public housing projects in prime areas may be subjected to different measures, compared with those in the suburbs and newer residential estates.

Finance, economics and real estate professor Sumit Agarwal of the National University of Singapore’s Business School noted that with the obvious benefits to living in prime areas, there was a need to apply mechanisms to make it harder for these home owners to profit from resales.

“In the first order, it is very important we have integration – we don’t want two Singapores, with one Singapore in the suburbs and another in the city centre, where rich Singaporeans and foreigners live,” he said.