Saturday, September 13, 2008

Developers Appeal To Govt Over Bay Window Ruling

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 13, 2008

THEY might look innocuous, but bay windows and planter boxes have become a hot topic of discussion between property developers and the Government.

The talks centre on a controversial decision by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to include the area of such design features in gross floor area (GFA) calculations.

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 buyers paid developers for this area as it was provided with the unit.

The URA caught the industry by surprise on July 7 when it stated that the revised guidelines would take effect from Oct 7. It was reported at the time that the move would close a ‘loophole’ that developers had been exploiting.

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

However, the URA said feedback and its own investigations found extensive unauthorised conversions of planter boxes into balcony space or extensions of the living room - which defeated the original purpose.

This also led to the buildings being less energy efficient, said the URA.

But developers said yesterday it was a ‘misconception’ that they were profiting from it.

UOL Group chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin told The Straits Times that contrary to general perception, developers did not ‘have it free’.

‘There’s a reason why it’s there in the first place,’ he said. ‘It costs money to construct these features, and it is not given to us free.’

It is part of the ‘residual land value’ and developers factor this when bidding for a site, he said.

A Lianhe Zaobao report quoted market sources who suggested the change might lead developers to pay less for land.

It cited the sale of a site next to Tanah Merah MRT station that was awarded recently at $282 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr). This was 11 per cent less than the $318.50 psf ppr attained by a neighbouring site before the GFA change was announced.

The president of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas), Mr Simon Cheong, said he could not comment further because talks were ‘in process’.

Mr Cheong, who was speaking at Redas’ annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, said that developers were cautious in their short-term outlook due to high construction costs.

‘Hopefully in 12 months’ time, we’ll be in a better state than now,’ he said.

He cited Singapore’s low interest rates and upcoming events such as the Formula One race and Youth Olympics for his bullish outlook.

On the price of real estate, he said that ‘if it drops, it will not be much more’.

The replacement cost of apartments, including cost of construction, is very close to selling prices already, he added.

Mass market home prices are dependent on local demand and ‘this is subjective to how the economy is’.

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