Wednesday, June 29, 2011

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has been meeting developers and other stakeholders - sometimes even one-on-one - to get their take on the property market since he took over the housing portfolio in late May, sources say.
With the meetings, Mr Khaw is working to cover as much ground as possible in his quest to understand the various aspects of the real estate industry in Singapore before he formulates any new policies, the sources said.

BT understands that Mr Khaw has had in-depth, one-on-one meetings with key developers such as Far East Organization, City Developments, SC Global Developments and Wing Tai Holdings.

He will speak to more developers and will also meet industry bodies such as the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas).

In addition to meeting developers, Mr Khaw has also met the heads of some property agencies - including ERA Realty and Prop- Nex, who together handle more than half of all HDB resale transactions - as well as analysts and academics in a bid to get a good feel of the property market.

Sources said that Mr Khaw discussed the upcoming supply of HDB and private homes, the impact of the last round of government measures to cool the market (introduced in January) as well as other issues that impact Singapore's property market.

'It is Mr Khaw's style to consult widely and frequently,' said a spokesman from the Ministry of National Development (MND) in response to a query from BT.

'The meetings with the developers, contractors, architects, academics and property analysts are to help familiarise himself with the issues, and gain further insights into the property market. He intends this to be a continuous process of engagement.'

A source who was present at one of the meetings said that Mr Khaw acknowledged that he is not an expert in this field.

'He also assured that he is not a person who will change things just for the sake of changing things,' the source said.

Those present at the meetings were mostly impressed that Mr Khaw took the time to solicit their views.

'I have been in the business for umpteen years and this is the first time I've been asked for my views by the minister,' said an industry veteran who was asked to one of the meetings.

Mr Khaw took over the housing portfolio last month, and immediately started a blog where he promised to consult widely with experts, customers, industry players and Singaporeans. He has also used his blog to sound an alert that a huge pool of 53,000 new homes will be looking for buyers over the next few years. He also urged potential buyers to treat smaller- sized (or shoe-box) units with caution.

He also said in one post that privately built design, build and sell scheme (DBSS) flats should not be compared with ordinary HDB flats, in a response to public anger about flats with a price tag of up to $880,000 at a recent DBSS launch.

Said Citibank in a report this week: 'We believe his (Mr Khaw's) constant updates via the blog will help to alleviate some fear among potential buyers to prevent panic buying.' The report had a section titled The New Minister and His Blog.

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