SINGAPORE: Those who are looking to sell their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats but are unable to find a buyer from a particular ethnic group can ask for a time extension, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 9).
Mr Wong was responding to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC Zainal Sapari, who had asked about the assistance given to sellers who face problems selling their flat due to the ethnic integration policy (EIP).
"Sellers will not be able to sell their flat to a particular buyer if the sale causes their blocks' or neighbourhoods' EIP quota to exceed," HDB says on its website.
“For those who are unable to sell their flats, HDB may grant them an extension of time and advise them to be realistic with their asking prices,” Mr Wong said.
“Additionally, HDB has and will continue to exercise flexibility for households of mixed parentage or marriages, or where there are exceptional circumstances.”
Under HDB rules, sellers must dispose of their old flat within six months of getting the keys to their new flat.
However, Mr Wong noted that “most flat sellers are able to secure buyers from eligible ethnic groups” given the abundance of buyers on the market every year.
The EIP was introduced in 1989 to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups in HDB estates.
“It applies to the sale and purchase of all HDB flats, and is implemented in a fair and transparent manner,” Mr Wong said, noting that prospective buyers and sellers can check their ethnic eligibility through the HDB InfoWEB.
“The ethnic proportions are updated on the first day of every month, and they apply to all completed resale applications received during that month,” he added.
The minister also clarified that the EIP does not apply to tenants who rent HDB flats on the open market, as their stays are typically temporary in nature and do not affect ethnic proportions in HDB estates in the longer term.
Instead, owners who rent out their flats to one or more non-citizen tenants are subject to the non-citizen quota, introduced in 2014. “The quota helps to maintain the Singaporean character of our HDB heartlands,” Mr Wong said.
According to the HDB website, the maximum proportion of flats that can be rented out to non-Malaysian, non-citizen subtenants is 11 per cent for a block and 8 per cent for a neighbourhood.
“Malaysians will not be subject to the non-citizen quota in view of their close cultural and historical similarities with Singaporeans,” it said, adding that the quota does not apply to the subletting of bedrooms.
For that, owners are required to seek HDB’s approval and ensure they meet the quota before renting out their flats, he added.
“HDB conducts regular inspections of flats to ensure that all flat owners adhere to HDB’s regulations. Unauthorised renting out of HDB flats is a serious infringement of the lease, and HDB will take firm action against any errant flat owners.”
And if residents suspect breaches of the quota, Mr Wong said, they can report it to HDB. “We even do surprise inspections and we will take these errant flat owners to task.”
Nevertheless, Mr Wong noted that there have not been such breaches and that numbers are “well within the quotas that we have set”.
These quotas also have to be calibrated carefully because of owners who want to rent out their flats for extra income, he added.
“If we tighten it too much, they will find it difficult to rent out their flats and that may deprive them of some income for their families and households.”