Thursday, October 13, 2016

HDB Must Strike the Right Balance in Sale of Public Housing

Recently, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong made announcements on the sale of the Built-To-Order (BTO) flats.

The minister noted that the BTO launch in November has seen a good response due to the demand for such flats.  He added with changes in the public housing policy, the raising of the income ceilings allowed for more people to qualify for BTO flats, as well as enhanced grants. With the government’s effort to encourage more Singaporeans to get married, this is a healthy step as having a roof over one’s head is always a top priority for those who want to start a family.

But, despite the grants, the sale of public housing has soared.  How many couples fresh into the workforce will be able to meet the cost of their HDB flats – be it BTO or resale flats.

For example, my 3-room flat in Ang Mo Kio which my late wife and I purchased 30 years ago cost only $18,200.  Now this same flat can so easily be sold for more than $300,000.  And with the MRT system being built some 400 metres from my block, it likely that the flats in my area will fetch an even higher price.  The location is good, the rooms are spacious and with the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) just completed, there are people wanting to buy our homes.  Many property agents are seizing on the HIP and are often placing their flyers on our gates when they are unable to do so with the secured letters boxes which prevent junk mail from getting in.  

With the sale of property in popular areas in big demand that fetches top dollar, many homeowners are now doing away with the hiring of property agents and are taking the initiative to sell their homes by themselves. Normally, a property agent will take an attractive percentage from the sale of the home, with bungalows and condos reaping in larger commissions.   With this move, a sufficient number of property agents who are dependent on property sales to earn a living are likely to find it hard to put food on their table. 

There is talk that to prevent homeowners from profiteering, it is just a matter of time before the HDB acts to prevent owners in making a quick buck. People are worried sick that if they lose their jobs, they will be in dire straits so this could be one reason why they take this route. 

In yet another scenario, those who purchased condos or bigger HDB flats in prime areas may have had the means to do so in the past when they had a well-paying job or with dual incomes in the family. But what happens when they are retrenched or have lost their jobs due to restructuring?

When such residents approach their Member of Parliament (MP), they will be asked to downgrade. Personally, I am of the view that financial assistance could be offered by the MP to those who have lost their jobs rather than asking owners to sell their property because noise pollution becomes a real problem in us having to live in a healthy and peaceful environment. Moreover relocating can be very stressful for those who are suddenly out of work. Why the need to add more stress to families who are struggling to make ends meet?

To this end, it is important for the HDB to strike the right balance taking into consideration the factors on the sale of property, for although there will always be people who want to profit from property, there will also be those who have little or no choice but to sell their property to survive.

Raymond Anthony Fernando




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