Singapore: Young couples willing to buy new flats can have income assessment postponed

HDB flats in Singapore
A view of a newly constructed public housing estate in Singapore Reuters

Singapore's National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Tuesday that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) will allow young couples applying for their flats to defer their assessment of income for housing loans and grants to just before they collect their keys from May. This latest initiative is designed to help the youngsters save some time in purchasing a new flat.

Noting that buying a flat is a serious commitment, Wong said that the Government can "exercise some flexibility to support young couples in their marriage and parenthood journey", especially for them who have "considered it carefully".

The Ministry of National Development (MND) and HDB revealed more details of the announcement in a joint press release and said that at present the first-timer couples buying a new flat have to be continuously employed for 12 months before their flat application if they wish to apply for grants such as the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) and Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG).

According to MND and HDB, the couples also need to remain employed at the time of their flat application. Those who plan to take up an HDB housing loan must have a valid HDB Loan Eligibility letter when they book a flat

However, based on the May 2018 Build-to-Order and Sale of Balance Flats exercise, first-timer couples who are full-time students or National Servicemen (NSF), or have recently completed their studies or NS will be able to qualify for this deferment.

The media release added that the deferment of income assessment will reduce the time required for them to secure a new flat by at least a year. HDB and MND said they will reveal more details later.

Speaking in Parliament during his ministry's committee of supply debate, Wong added that 3,000 flats will be launched with shorter waiting times of two to three years. Out of these, 1,100 flats will be launched for sale in the second half of 2018 in three projects in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun. While, another 2,000 will be offered in 2019.

According to Wong, more than 90 per cent of ROF flats on offer were snatched up under the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) scheme launched last year which puts up unsold flats.

In an update on the balloting process for flats, the minister added that HDB is reviewing the process to make it simpler and faster. He said that applicants previously needed only to attend a ballot ceremony for their flat allocation. But this was only possible because the number of flats and applicants were smaller.

In today's scenario, it takes more than six weeks to work through the entire balloting process. Wong explained that this happens due to checks that HDB has to conduct such as the applicant's eligibility, schemes and quotas and that the ballot is fair.

"Still, I think the time taken can be significantly reduced. Challenged the HDB team to see if they can halve the balloting time to three weeks. HDB has taken on this challenge -- working through processes and hope that they will be able to announce some good news before too long," Wong told Channel NewsAsia.