Tuesday, April 26, 2011

HDB rolls out bumper crop of BTO flats

Straits Times: Tue, Apr 26
A BUMPER crop of new homes are in the pipeline, even as latest figures show that housing prices rose at a slower pace in the first three months of the year.

The Housing Board (HDB) will roll out 3,185 build-to-order (BTO) flats in Hougang, Sembawang, Sengkang and Punggol - its biggest launch since 2002.

It also unveiled plans to release another 6,070 BTO flats in the next two months, bringing the number of flats launched in the first six months of the year to 14,100 - within the Government's promise to offer up to 22,000 new flats this year.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday said 68,887 homes in the private housing market are in the works, the most since the URA began keeping records in 1999.

Of these, half - or 34,266 units - remain unsold, which works out to three years' supply of homes, based on an average take-up of about 11,400 units a year over the last three years, it said.

Analysts see the steady entry of new homes into the market as evidence of the Government's efforts to stem the tide of rising home prices.

HDB resale prices rose 14.1 per cent last year and another 1.6 per cent between January and March; private home prices gained 17.6 per cent last year and a further 2.2 per cent in the first quarter.

Mr Colin Tan, the research and consultancy director at real estate firm Chesterton Suntec International, said injecting supply has always been the weapon of choice when the market needs stabilising, followed by cooling measures where necessary.

PropNex spokesman Adam Tan added that the upcoming supply of new BTO flats would be a salve for first-time buyers, who find themselves priced out of the market for resale flats.

He noted that the demand for such flats, which are built only after eligible buyers register sufficient interest, is 'clearly there', going by how the last few launches of BTO flats have pulled in more applicants than the number of flats available.

HDB has raised the BTO flat supply, hiking the number of new units from about 9,000 in 2009 to 16,100 last year.

Its announcement of a fresh infusion of new homes comes amid a pre-General Election debate on the affordability of housing to first-time buyers; the Workers' Party and National Solidarity Party have taken on National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on the subject.

In the four BTO projects launched yesterday, 95 per cent of the units available will be set aside for first-timers. Applications for these flats end on Sunday.

Of the four projects, the units in two will come with quality finishes such as glazed porcelain ceramic tiles.

These are the 1,011-unit Anchorvale Cove near Sengkang's Farmway LRT station and the 804-unit Waterway Terraces II along Punggol Walk. Unit prices range from $179,000 to $484,000.

The other two BTO projects, standard ones with minimal fittings, are the 792-unit Hougang Parkview in Upper Serangoon Crescent, and the 578-unit Montreal Ville next to Sembawang Community Club. These cost between $92,000 and $404,000.

HDB also said its upcoming launches include two projects in Bukit Panjang and a third in Sengkang.

First-time house hunter Tracy Kong, a 23-year-old communications manager, welcomed the news yesterday.

'Slowly but surely, owning a private property or resale flat will be harder. So it's time to buckle down and get a BTO - and be prepared for the wait,' she said.

But analysts like DTZ's Chua Chor Hoon are concerned over a possible oversupply down the road, especially of private homes.

Owners may plan to resell these homes or rent them out, creating competition for buyers and tenants, she said.

'Supposing there's another global shock, interest rates are high, all these units coming out- then that's a matter of concern,' she said.


Home prices, sales cool in first quarter: MONEY PAGE B18


'Slowly but surely, owning a private property or resale flat will be harder. So it's time to buckle down and get a BTO - and be prepared for the wait.'

First-time house hunter Tracy Kong

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