Friday, December 19, 2008

4,000 Smaller HDB Flats Coming Up

Source : The Strait Times, Dec 19, 2008

SMALLER flats are making a comeback, with the Housing Board (HDB) ramping up supply to around 4,000 over the next two years to meet surging demand.

It marks a dramatic turnaround for a style of flat that had not been been built for about 20 years.

Next year 2,000 three-room and smaller flats will be built, almost double the amount put up this year, with a further 2000 earmarked for 2010.

The HDB move will mean a steady supply of smaller flats for lower income families and homeowners who need to downgrade amid grimmer economic times.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan flagged the strategy in Parliament last month.

HDB deputy chief executive Tan Poh Hong said yesterday that the board has revived smaller flats on a large scale as 'there are are more people who will need to downgrade, as well as first-timer families who would also like to start with smaller flats to be financially prudent'.

Analysts anticipate a good take-up as 'difficult economic conditions' encourage homebuyers to 'start small'.

Buyers like nurse Liu Li, 29, a home-hunter on the look-out for such affordable flats, said: 'A bigger pool of new, small flats will widen choices for first-timers like me.'

Prices will start from as low as $76,000 for the new small units.

The HDB stopped building two- and three-roomers in the 1980s as growing families fuelled demand for bigger flats.

But they were re-introduced in 2004 and two years ago, the HDB said it would resume building two-roomers to meet increasing demand.

Demand for smaller flats has been red hot recently. HDB sales have attracted over 10 times more applicants than homes available. An October sale of 150 small flats was swamped with 2,426 applications in just a week.

Mr Kelvin Wang, who recently bought a three-roomer in Tiong Bahru, said he had difficulty finding the home, his first, because there were so few small ones around.

'The increased supply will help ease demand for such homes,' said the 24-year-old engineer.

Some of the new smaller flats form part of a new standard project launched by the HDB yesterday.

Dew Spring @ Yishun at the junction of Yishun Ring Road and Yishun Street 41 offers 504 four-room, 216 three-roomers and 144 two-room units.

The build-to-order (BTO) project has the largest number of smaller flat types among HDB's BTO launches this year. BTO projects are built only when a certain level of demand is reached.

HDB's Ms Tan stressed that the homes will be kept affordable.

Two-roomers at Dew Spring start at $76,000 to $90,000; three-roomers go for between $120,000 and $146,000 with four-roomers at $197,000 to $238,000.

For the first time, the HDB has released comparable prices of resale flats in the same area to show the affordability of the new flats being launched.

Prices of 20-year-old three-roomers nearby of similar size, for example, are selling for $175,000 to $180,000 - higher than the launch price, the HDB said.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said that Dew Spring flats 'are priced very attractively. The smaller units are below $200 psf (per square foot), which is much lower than the median resale prices for that area in the last quarter'.

The HDB has launched 6,600 homes this year under its BTO scheme, of which 883, or 13 per cent, were two-room and three-room flats.

It plans to launch a further 1,180 units in the next two weeks, which will include 280 studio apartments, two-room and three-room homes.

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