Singles will face restrictions if allowed to buy new flats

Published on Sep 09, 2012

By Rachel Chang

Even if singles are allowed to buy new flats directly from the Housing Board, they will likely still face restrictions, such as not being allowed to sub-let them, and being able to buy only smaller flats.

If two singles who each own a flat get married, they will also likely be made to sell one of the flats.

And singles will probably not be allowed to buy before turning 35, which is the current rule for buying a resale flat.

These were the outlines of a change in the singles policy, as drawn by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday at a dialogue with 130 Sembawang GRC grassroots leaders.

He later told reporters that he is still collecting views, and will unveil and implement the new policy next year.

The discussion came after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the National Day Rally that the Government would look into letting singles buy new, Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, to help them overcome their limited housing options and high resale prices.

Currently, singles are allowed to buy flats only from the resale market.

But at yesterday's dialogue, several participants said that allowing singles to buy flats more easily would give them a greater sense of responsibility, improve their relationship with their parents, and keep them rooted in Singapore.

Mr Khaw told reporters later that he was "very sympathetic" towards the housing needs of singles and this could not be simply brushed aside.

"Not everybody chooses to be single. There are circumstances that make it end up that way," he said.

He also said the policy changes would apply to three groups: those who have never married, single parents and those married to foreigners.

Because foreigners cannot enter the HDB market, Singaporeans married to foreigners are treated as singles if they want to buy an HDB flat, and can buy only resale flats.

Later yesterday, Mr Khaw penned a blog post saying his biggest concern was to ensure that letting singles into the queue for new flats would not come at the expense of married couples.

"The additional demand (from singles) is unlikely to be small and if we misjudge, the interests of married couples, especially those with children, may be adversely affected," he wrote.

One way to avoid this, he said, was to adopt an "incremental approach", keeping some initial restrictions such as the type of flat singles could buy. The second way was to launch a larger number of BTO flats next year.

"Question is, what should that magical number be," he wrote. "This requires some study, and market research. Hence, I need some time."

Housing issues also dominated another dialogue in Telok Blangah, where Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang heard concerns that high flat prices were a reason for Singapore's low birth rates, as they were an obstacle to young couples settling down.

But he pointed out that low prices in the late 1990s had not affected the total fertility rate.

At both dialogues, participants also raised concerns about work-life balance, whether the two new universities coming online would create a glut of graduates, and how Singaporeans should take a stand against vitriol expressed online against foreigners.

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