Singapore's Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced on Tuesday that young couples and first-time home buyers will receive more help in getting their Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats earlier.
"I know there are many young couples who hope to move into their own home even more quickly, to embark on this marriage and parenthood journey together," Wong said in the press conference. "So we have looked into their requests seriously," he added.
Thus, HDB will shorten the waiting time for new Build-To-Order flats in some projects by a year. Wong said: "We are achieving this not by rushing construction, but by commencing construction ahead of launch. So the waiting time will be cut to around two-and-a-half years."
The authorities have targeted to launch the first slot of about 1,000 units in non-mature estates (less than 20 years old) in 2018. According to reports, at least 95 per cent of flats, which are 4-room and larger will be set aside for first-time buyers, that is up from the current quota of 85 per cent in non-mature estates.
Wong explained the process and said that this is to "further prioritise young couples who are ready to settle down". He added that "these are the flat types which are most popular amongst first-timer families".
Meanwhile, the unsold flats will be available for balloting at regular intervals after the twice-yearly Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises. The minister said that this new, "more efficient" measure, which is scheduled to be launched in the second half of 2017, will see these balance flats offered in one common pool instead of separate selection queues for each town and flat type. But, the first-timers will also be given the priority.
"Those with urgent housing needs and who are less particular about location can apply and need not wait for the usual SBF exercise," he said.
Wong said that the transaction process for resale flats will also be sped up from the current 16 weeks and two HDB appointments required.
"Today, doing a resale transaction can be quite an involved process, even with the help of an agent. We will leverage technology, and make the process faster and more streamlined," he added.
The minister also revealed that HDB will lower the monthly rental rates by S$200 to S$400 for its Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS). The scheme helps the first-timer families to live on their own while awaiting completion of their new flats.
The revised rents will take effect from April 1 for both new applicants and existing PPHS tenants. Families will be able to save more than S$1,000 a month by selecting a PPHS flat instead of a one in the open market. The rents will be about or less than half of market rental rates.
"I hope that all these measures will make housing more affordable and accessible for young couples, and help them start their marriage and parenthood journey early," Wong said. "I encourage young couples to do your research and consider the different options. Be prudent and find a home that's within your budget and means," he added.