Thursday, August 30, 2012

'Balance' flats: Priority for couples with young kids?

Straits Times: Wed, Aug 29

PUBLIC flats that are close to completion could be earmarked by the authorities for couples with young children, property analysts predicted.

These units, left unsold in previous launches, could figure in changes to housing policy as the Government seeks to raise fertility rates, they added.

In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government was looking at a range of measures to help stem declining birth rates. One was to afford "some consideration to giving couples with young kids priority when they book HDB flats".

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the target group is likely to be HDB first-timers expecting their first child.

Giving them priority in "balance" flats, in particular, would be useful as they would have to wait a substantially shorter time before they get their keys, he said.

Balance flats are those not taken up at previous launches for reasons such as there not being any takers, or the buyer rejected the unit. These flats are either close to completion or have been built.

On the other hand, those who opt for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats may have to wait more than three years from the time they book the flat to moving in.

This year, so far, the Housing Board has put up for sale about 17,000 BTO flats and about 4,000 balance flats.

Mr Ismail said giving couples with young children first dibs on such flats "will not only ease the concerns for such couples but it could also encourage them to have more children earlier".

Chris International director Chris Koh said that while there are several schemes in place to help home buyers, none has targeted this segment of young couples, or those with young children, directly.

Currently, up to 95 per cent of the supply of new flats in well- developed towns are reserved for first-timers, or those who have yet to get a housing subsidy. In less-developed towns, up to 85 per cent of flats are reserved for this group.

In addition, first-timers have twice the chance at the ballot box than second-timers. And they have more chances under the Married Child Priority Scheme - at least four tries - if they live near or with their parents.

Mr Koh said even more chances could be given to couples with young children to entice them to start bigger families. Another modification could come in the form of adjusting the third-child priority scheme.

Currently, about 5 per cent of available flats are set aside for families with a third child born in or after 1987. "Perhaps these flats could be set aside for families even if they have just one child," Mr Koh said.

Such changes might make all the difference to project manager Benson Lee, 28. He and his wife live with his parents and brother in a crowded four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio. Because of space constraints, the couple have postponed having children.

He said: "Having kids is a serious decision and it would be unfair on them if they don't have the room they need to grow."

Mr Jeremy Goh, 31, an assistant vice-president at a local bank, said he only had his daughter after he was close to moving into his own five-room flat in Punggol.

"Taking care of children is not just about diapers and storage space. You also want a roof over your head and peace of mind when starting a family," he said.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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