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As part of Singapore’s housing development plans, prime locations such as the Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW) will see a range of housing types being constructed in the upcoming years.
Some of the housing types include two-room flats for seniors and rental housing for low-income families.
Extending from Pasir Panjang to Marina East, the development project was first announced in 2013. It will be developed in phases, starting with the former Pasir Panjang Power District, Keppel Club and Mount Faber in the next five to 10 years.
Making sure that everyone can afford housing at prime locations
One key concern about residential estates at prime locations is affordability.
This is an important issue as it concerns majority of the Singapore residents. According to the Housing Development Board (HDB), over 80 per cent of the nation’s population live in HDB flats.
In Singapore, flats are allowed to be sold in the open market after home owners have reached the Minimum Occupancy Period (MOP) of five years.
When that happens, those who are staying at prime locations may experience a likely ‘windfall’ as their flats can be sold at high prices.
In his interview with Zaobao, Minister for National Development, Desmond Lee, acknowledged this situation.
He said, “If flats are going to be sold and transacted at high resale prices, then there is a risk that only well-off Singaporeans can buy [flats in] those estates. And then of course, the character of the estates will change and it may be priced beyond the reach of ordinary Singaporeans.”
Mr Lee added, “We do not want to have estates that are gentrified and that only the wealthy can afford to live [in]. We want to have a good mix.”
Such is a familiar situation as there have been many instances where flats at prime areas were being sold for $1 million and above.
In March and August 2020 respectively, a five-room flat at Pinnacle@Duxton was sold for $1.232 million, while a four-room flat at Tiong Bahru had a transaction price of $1.1 million.
Two ways to ensure flats remain affordable
To ensure that housing remains affordable, Mr Lee mentioned that diverse housing types and controlling flats’ prices can help alleviate the situation.
A variety of housing types will be catered to the lower income group and seniors at prime areas, and rental flats will also be included in the mix.
For flats’ prices to be moderated, measures will be implemented to restrict resale units’ transactions at prime locations.
As to the specific pricing measures that will be rolled out, Mr Lee mentioned that the Ministry of National Development (MND) will be formulating the plans in the next few months. In addition, they are also gathering feedback from the public.
In the same interview, Mr Lee also shared his top three priorities after recently taking over the position as the Minister for National Development.
Ensuring that the construction industry is fully functional again
Circuit Breaker measures were implemented in April to curb the spread of COVID-19. Part of the measures included putting a temporary stop to all construction projects.
When the pandemic hit the foreign workers’ dormitories, construction works came to a further delay. It was only in August when all dormitories were declared cleared of COVID-19 cases whereby construction works partially resumed.
All these have resulted in the construction industry to be vastly impacted.
To ensure that the industry is fully functional once again, Mr Lee mentioned that they are working closely with The Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) to support the industry through various policies and programmes.
Though the situation has improved with work activities being resumed, the government is still closely monitoring the situation.
Helping those waiting for the completion of their BTO flats
Many BTO projects were delayed due to the complete stop in construction works. This has affected home owners who have bought BTO flats, as they are experiencing a longer wait.
Mr Lee mentioned that construction works for these BTO projects are restarting as quickly as possible. These flats will be handed over to home owners in due time, while also ensuring that the construction quality remains at its highest standards.
New policies to help existing home owners who are facing financial difficulties
COVID-19 has vastly impacted citizens’ livelihoods, resulting in many to be either unemployed or experiencing pay-cuts. Those who are also home owners face difficulties in repaying their home loans.
To help lessen their financial burden, Mr Lee shared that the government is looking at implementing new policies to help citizens repay their mortgages. This is so that home owners do not have to give up their flats.
In addition, Mr Lee highlighted that they will also be providing assistance to households living in rented flats. This group of people might be facing complicated situations which do not allow them to own a home. The MND will be working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Family Service Centers and other community organisations to assist them.
The government has implemented a series of measures to ensure that housing remains affordable for everyone. It is with hope that these measures will further strengthen the society ties which promotes diversity and inclusivity.