Sunday, September 9, 2012

Khaw Boon Wan assures singles that he's looking into their housing concerns


SINGAPORE: Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday assured singles that he is looking into their housing concerns.

Mr Khaw, however, adds that he needs some time as his current focus is on the immediate needs of the second-time flat applicants, until they are largely addressed next year.

The minister also wants to have a better handle over the likely additional demand on new HDB flats when the scheme is opened to singles.

Mr Khaw says the additional demand is unlikely to be small.

He cautioned that if the demand is misjudged, the interests of married couples, especially those with children, may be adversely affected.

In his latest posting on the ministry's "Housing Matters" blog, Mr Khaw has thrown up some possible ideas.

He says one practical approach, given the difficulty of assessing demand, is to adopt an incremental approach to implementation.

A scheme could be started with some initial restrictions, such as flat type, and this could better ensure the scheme meets the needs of singles, while still protecting the interests of the married couples.

Another logical way, says Mr Khaw, is to launch a larger number of Build-to-Order (BTO) flats next year.

But the question remains as what the magical number is and so this requires some study and market research.

Mr Khaw says since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech which touched on the concerns of singles, many more comments and suggestions have surfaced.

And some, the minister says, are quite sound.

These include allowing singles to buy BTO flats but not at the severe expense of married couples and some restrictions on the type of flats that singles are allowed to buy.

There are also proposals that singles should not be allowed to rent out the flats and that if two singles with two BTO flats subsequently get married, one of the flats should be sold.

Some have also called for a difference between the subsidy received by a single and a married couple.

Mr Khaw says property analysts have also added to the debate, commenting on the impact of such a policy on the resale market, and in particular on the "shoe-box" market.

The minister said: "I am glad that many Singaporeans have given thoughts to this topic. That is the value of such national conversation, creating a forum for interested Singaporeans to share their views and suggestions on a common topic.

"The government cannot obviously accept all suggestions, but the informal nature of the consultation allows all views and ideas to be aired and duly considered."

Mr Khaw has called on Singaporeans to continue sending their suggestions.


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