Singapore cuts supply of new public flats to the fewest since 2021 as HDB fiddles with pipeline to ease housing prices

Singapore cuts supply of new public flats to the fewest since 2021 as HDB fiddles with pipeline to ease housing prices

Singapore cuts supply of new public flats to the fewest since 2021 as HDB fiddles with pipeline to ease housing prices

Singapore’s Housing & Development Board (HDB) has announced that it would launch about 19,600 new flats this year over three Build-To-Order (BTO) exercises.

This is the fewest number of new flats offered since 2021. For comparison, 17,100 flats were available in 2021; 23,200 flats in 2022; and 22,800 flats in 2023.

From 2024, HDB will conduct three BTO exercises and one Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) a year. From the October 2024 BTO sales exercise, HDB will implement the new classification of flats under the Standard, Plus and Prime categories.

Of the 19,600 flats to be launched this year, 2,800 are slated to be completed in less than three years. This is up from 732 flats in 2023 with a similar completion time. Moreover, 75 per cent of the BTO flats offered in 2024 are slated to be completed in four years or less, cutting the waiting time for BTO flats to pre-pandemic levels.

The reduction in the number of BTO launch exercises comes in response to the stabilisation of BTO application rates, the HDB said.

Overall BTO application rates have stabilised since October 2023, after HDB started enforcing a “tighter ruling” of BTO sales exercises, said Eugene Lim, key executive officer of ERA Realty, in a press release on Jan 8. In the event of the non-selection of a flat, HDB will cancel any existing applications by the same applicant for subsequent BTO/Sale of Balance Flat (SBF) exercise.

Previously, applicants could increase their chances of securing a BTO flat by applying in multiple sales launches. Under the current ruling, applicants can only select one town or estate and flat category at each BTO sales launch.

Sale launches for October and December 2023 saw the median application rates for first-time applicants for three-room or larger flats fall to 0.9 and 0.8 respectively. This was a drop compared to the February and May 2023 application rates of 1.9 and 2.3, when the ruling was not in effect.

A reduction in the number of BTO sales exercises may help applicants by providing “more flat options at each BTO sales launch, providing applicants ample choices of BTO flats,” Lim said.

Spacing out BTO sales launches will also reduce the extent of overlap between the selection exercises and provide greater certainty for homebuyers, HDB said. This will allow unsuccessful BTO applicants time to apply for the next sales launch.

HDB has successfully delivered about 80 per cent of pandemic-delayed projects, or a total of 73 projects from October 2020 to December 2023, it said. The remaining 19 delayed projects remain under construction with an estimated completion date of early 2025.

The next BTO sales exercise is scheduled for February. HDB will offer about 4,100 BTO flats in Bedok, Queenstown, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Punggol and Woodlands. Approximately 1,500 SBF flats will be launched across various towns and estates.

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