Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bay Window, Planter Box Rule Change To Kick In Later

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 23, 2008


Grace period extended till Dec 31 to give firms more time to adjust

THE fate of the bay windows and planter boxes in private condominiums has been sealed, and homebuyers could see less of such features.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is standing by its decision to abolish the exemption of such features in gross floor area (GFA) calculation.

But a recent appeal by the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore

(Redas) has prompted the agency to give property firms more time to adjust.

It has extended the grace period until Dec31. The new guidelines were originally meant to take effect from Oct7. With the extension announced yesterday, any application made by developers before Jan 1 will still be considered under the old guidelines.

'We have received feedback from the industry that many projects are at advanced design stage using the (old) guidelines, and a longer grace period would be very useful,' said URA development control division director Han Yong Hoe.

Bay window and planter boxes, which often make up about 5 per cent of a condo's saleable area, used to be exempt from GFA calculations. But developers who provided such features could charge buyers for it as it was built as part of a unit.

The URA caught the industry by surprise on July 7 when it stated that the features would no longer be exempted from GFA calculations, starting from Oct 7. It was reported at the time that the move would close a 'loophole' that developers had been exploiting and profiting from.

Developers such as UOL Group and City Developments have since refuted suggestions that they have been getting free GFA, pointing out that the value of these features was calculated in the bidding and pricing of land.

Mr Han said yesterday that the URA's regular rules review found that the original objectives for GFA exemption were not being met.

The GFA exemption for bay windows was to give developers incentives to introduce desirable building features, and add 'articulation' to otherwise 'flat- or boring-looking' buildings.

But the URA said that even with the GFA exemption for such windows, building facades could still look plain.

It also said that bay windows were contributing to the air-conditioning load and making buildings less energy-efficient.

Planter boxes were introduced to provide greenery and visual relief to high-rise condominiums.

But the URA found that less than 10 per cent of planter boxes were actually used for greening purposes. And those not used created maintenance issues, including mosquito breeding. Many were also illegally converted into balcony space or living room extensions, said the URA.

Mr Han said the change might even encourage more unique residential projects, as architects were no longer obliged to include these features in all buildings.

On whether the new guidelines would affect future bidding prices for land - a possibility highlighted by some property analysts - Mr Han said land prices depended on many factors, and it was hard to say whether this factor alone would 'have an effect on the bid price'.

Redas executive director Chia Hock Jin said the association was discussing the latest development.

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