SINGAPORE: Public housing will become more affordable and easier to apply for, with new housing support announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Wednesday (Mar 4).
Speaking during his Committee of Supply speech, Mr Wong also said that the Housing & Development Board (HDB) will scrap the standalone Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise, with immediate effect.
Instead, unselected Sales of Balance Flats (SBF) will be pooled and offered directly for open booking right away, without going through another round of balloting.
“This will enable home-seekers with urgent needs to access flats more quickly,” he said.
Currently, flats are first sold during Build-To-Order (BTO) exercises, with unsold flats subsequently sold through SBF exercises and the ROF exercises, before being put up for open booking.
Effectively, there will be three main ways of applying for a HDB flat.
"You can go for BTO flats, new flats, which will be released four times a year, you can apply for a Balance flat which will be put out twice a year, or you can go for open booking and apply online at almost any time of the year," said Mr Wong.
This follows HDB’s September 2019 announcement that it would raise income ceilings for the purchase of new HDB flats. First-time buyers will also get more generous housing grants.
MORE GRANTS FOR SENIORS
Seniors will stand to receive more from the Silver Housing Bonus and Lease Buyback Scheme, as Mr Wong announced enhancements to both.
The Silver Housing Bonus - which gives seniors up to S$20,000 cash bonus when they downgrade from a larger flat to a smaller one - will be simplified and enhanced.
Currently, seniors may only receive the bonus if they top up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Retirement Account with part of the money received from right-sizing, which could amount to more than S$60,000.
Now, seniors will need only to top up the first S$60,000 of their proceeds.
Additionally, HDB will remove the requirement for seniors to downgrade from a larger to a smaller flat. Regardless of the type of flat they sell, seniors can apply for the Silver Housing Bonus as long as they purchase a flat that is 3-room or smaller.
The bonus itself will increase from S$20,000 to S$30,000. The bonus ratio will thus be S$1 for every S$2 topped up to their CPF Retirement Account, rather than S$1 bonus for every S$3 topped-up.
For those on the Lease Buyback Scheme, their cash bonus will increase by 50 per cent across all flat types.
Owners of 3-room flats will now receive a maximum bonus of S$30,000, up from the current S$20,000. Owners of 4-room flats will now receive S$15,000 while owners of 5-room flats will receive S$7,500.
The enhancements will take immediate effect, and will also apply to those who have applied for either scheme but have not received their bonus.
Unwed parents will have more flats to choose from. HDB will allow those who are aged 21 and above to buy up to a 3-room flat in a non-mature estate, in addition to resale flats.
Currently, unwed parents aged 35 and above may buy a 2-room Flexi flat in non-mature estates or a resale flat, while unwed parents aged 21 to 34 may purchase a 2-room Flexi flat or a resale flat on a case-by-case basis.
“We do want to ensure that children have a stable home to grow up in. So we will assist all unwed parents who approach HDB with their housing needs,” said Mr Wong.
MORE SUPPORT FOR THOSE WITHOUT DIRECT LIFT ACCESS
Residents living in HDB blocks without direct lift access, who urgently need to move due to medical conditions or mobility reasons, may apply for a S$30,000 Lift Access Housing Grant to buy a new flat with lift access, said Mr Wong.
This includes new and resale flats.
There are about 150 residents still living in blocks without lifts, due to cost or site constraints. Mr Wong said that HDB will continue to explore ways to implement lift access to these blocks.