Thursday, April 30, 2009

市建局将开展计划 打造翠绿都市和空中绿意

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 30, 2009

新加坡寸土如金,高楼林立,为鼓励发展商开辟更多高楼绿色空间让人民享受,市区重建局将在刚出台的永续新加坡发展蓝图下,展开“打造翠绿都市和空中绿意”计划。

这项全新的“打造翠绿都市和空中绿意”(Landscaping for Urban Space and High Rises,简称LUSH)计划及永续蓝图的最终目标是,要在2030年前增添50公顷或相等于约一个碧山公园的空中花园,包括建屋发展局接下来三年在组屋区多层停车场屋顶上添设的九公顷公园,让每1000人可享有0.8公顷公园空间。

打造翠绿都市和空中绿意计划将使未来的滨海湾充满更多绿意。(市建局构想图)

新计划将推出两个崭新措施和两个修订措施,以进行更多高楼绿化的工作,进一步巩固我国花园城市的美誉,也朝建立“花园里的城市”的目标迈进。

从今年12月1日起,部分新建筑项目和重建项目的绿化面积,须等同于发展地段的大小。发展商可选择在地面楼层提供绿色空间,或在更高楼层开辟空中花园、植物槽等等。

更具体的说,所有在市区、滨海湾区、裕廊湖区和加冷河畔建起的新建筑物,都须有相等于建筑物总面积的空中花园和地面花园。2008年新加坡发展总蓝图重点之一的巴耶利峇中心,则不受这项新措施影响。

市建局城市规划与设计高级署长范秀玲昨天在记者会上宣布新计划后受访时说,当局将先在以上特定地方推行措施,然后进行检讨,才决定是否也要在其他地区推行。

市区乌节路建筑物 可获绿化屋顶津贴

此外,该局将从即日起,为市区和乌节路的现有建筑物业主提供绿化屋顶津贴。业主将享有多达50%屋顶面积或最多200平方公尺的额外可建筑面积,可用来开辟屋顶空中花园户外用餐区。

另一方面,为进一步推动绿化屋顶工程,国家公园局将在今年9月拨出800万元推出另一项实验性津贴计划,未来三年资助业主高达一半或最多每平方公尺75元的绿化屋顶费用。

绿化费用一般介于每平方公尺150元至180元。

除了上述新措施,市建局也修订现有两项措施,让新加坡的湛蓝天空挂上翠绿彩带。

自1997年起,有盖“天空廊道”(sky terrace)的楼面,可豁免纳入可建筑面积内。至今已有超过100个发展项目受惠。

不过,为鼓励发展商更积极地展开高楼绿化工作,市建局现在放宽建筑高度限制,允许发展商建更高的大楼。发展商所提呈的建筑蓝图,也须包括更多有关廊道绿化设计的细节。

市建局发展管制高级署长韩荣和指出,打从一开始就将绿化概念融入设计蓝图,可减少日后的建筑和技术问题,省时省事。

另外,市建局自2004年起让建筑业者在建筑底层建造“绿化层”(landscape deck)。所谓绿化层,是从地面凸起的平台,上面用来建造楼房或提供公共设施,下面是停车场。

在新计划下,市建局将加强绿化层的绿化工作。绿化层四周的至少60%面积,需有植物覆盖。

市建局局长蔡君炫说:“绿化新加坡的工程已见成效,我们正在通过展开高楼绿化工程以加快绿化步伐。我们希望更多居民,可享受一个绿意盎然的居住和工作环境。”

Expect False Starts And Slow Recovery

Source : The Straits Times, April 30, 2009

Flu crisis and sub-par growth worldwide add to economic risk: MAS

THE most intense phase of Singapore's recession may be over, but the economy is not going to bounce back to full health any time soon.

Instead, the recovery will be 'slow, gradual and fraught with uncertainties', unlike the quicker rebounds that followed previous downturns, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday.

Singapore, with its high dependence on external markets, is among the nations worst hit by the global downturn, with the economy expected to contract by between 6 per cent and 9 per cent this year. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The central bank said in its latest Macroeconomic Review, a twice-yearly survey of the economy, that the worst economic contractions probably took place in the last quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. The economy logged record quarter-on-quarter declines in both quarters, of 16.4 per cent and 19.7 per cent respectively.

But the MAS stopped short of saying that the worst is over or that the recession has bottomed out. Private-sector economists say that although the worst is likely behind us, the economy could continue to contract in the months ahead, although the declines will not be as severe.

The MAS warned yesterday that despite recent signs of a slight increase in economic activity around the world, the major economies are still 'mired in an extended period of sub-par growth' and Singapore's growth is likely to remain 'below potential' as long as that lasts.

The new scare over swine flu, which has eerie echoes of the economically painful Sars period, has also added 'a new dimension of risk to the outlook', it said.

Job losses are expected to rise further across most sectors as companies adjust to the new lower levels of demand. The MAS expects that by the end of the year, net unemployment excluding construction will likely surpass that recorded in the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2001 global tech bust. Compared to those recessions, the current downturn is the deepest and one of the longest, and stands out in being more broad-based than previous contractions, it said.

It added that while some green shoots have emerged in the form of new manufacturing orders and stock market rallies, these could turn out to be 'false starts'.

The purchasing managers' indexes in Singapore and around the world have indicated that manufacturing will pick up slightly, but this could simply be due to inventory restocking rather than a return of true demand, said the MAS.

Any rises in Singapore's stock market are also more likely to be 'bear rallies' rather than sustained recoveries.

Singapore, with its high dependence on external markets, is among the nations worst hit by the global downturn, with the economy expected to contract by between 6 per cent and 9 per cent this year. But the same openness will 'enable it to pick up strongly when the global recovery finally gets under way', said the MAS.

Citigroup economist Kit Wei Zheng said yesterday that the MAS' comments on the economy held 'no big surprises'.

'One of the things that came out quite clearly is that the recovery is going to be very slow and the economy will be going through a period of sub-par growth spanning a wide range of industries,' he said.

'The bottom line is: the worst of the labour market may not be over yet and we could see more unemployment pain in the months to come.'

But Credit Suisse economist Joseph Tan noted that there are some 'surprise factors' that could change the outlook for the economy. The main one is China, which is proving surprisingly resilient in its manufacturing, investment and retail sales numbers, he said. That could potentially help economies in the region do better than expected.

Singapore Is Asia's Most Liveable City

Source : The Straits Times, April 29, 2009

It also boasts best infrastructure in the world: Survey

SINGAPORE has risen six places in a global ranking of cities with the highest quality of living, overtaking cities such as Paris in France and Honolulu and San Francisco in the United States.

The other factor that contributed to Singapore's higher ranking is the presence of 'many good schools' in the city.

At 26th place, the Republic also surpassed all its Asian neighbours to be the region's best performer in the latest Worldwide Quality of Living Survey by human resource consultancy Mercer.

As the icing on the cake, Singapore also topped Mercer's list of cities with the best infrastructure in the world. It proved superior in various areas, including electricity and water supply, telephone and mail services, public transport, traffic congestion and range of international flights from local airports.

Although it is often taken for granted, infrastructure 'has a significant effect on the quality of living experienced by expatriates', said Ms Cathy Loose, Mercer's Asia Pacific global mobility leader.

The development of Marina Bay and Sentosa Cove as new waterfront living areas appear to have boosted Singapore's position in the rankings.

'Singapore already has excellent housing, but now its new ocean-front and seafront living options have allowed the ranking to move even higher,' said Mr Derrick Kon, Mercer's Singapore global mobility leader.

He added that the 'high-quality houses and apartments' that are available for rent and the 'excellent selection of appliances and furniture' for residents definitely helped elevate Singapore's quality of life.

The other factor that contributed to Singapore's higher ranking is the presence of 'many good schools' in the city, said Mr Kon.

'Singapore has always had a lot of good schools and international schools, but now there are also more private schools offering university degrees,' he said.

'If expatriates come here with their children, this is one area they would be looking at, and in Singapore they would have a lot of options, with international programmes and university programmes.'

Singapore's strong position in quality of life rankings such as these could stand the nation in good stead in the current financial crisis, said Mr Mark Ellwood, managing director of Robert Walters, another human resource consultancy.

With companies looking to cut costs, many are reducing the number of international assignments and localising their expat compensation packages where possible, which means not giving out the 'hardship' allowances or benefits that are offered to expats who have to live in cities with a lower quality of life.

'There is perhaps less of an argument these days that Singapore is a hardship posting, so you don't have to give many expat benefits in terms of additional bells and whistles,' said Mr Ellwood.

Singapore is the only Asian city on the top 100 list that managed to increase its ranking this year, with the rest largely maintaining their previous positions.

China's capital, Beijing, moved up three places from 116 to 113 due to public transport improvements stemming from the Olympic Games last year, but Bangkok in Thailand and Mumbai in India both dropped in the rankings amid worsened stability and security.

Globally, the Austrian city of Vienna overtook Switzerland's Zurich to boast the best quality of life this year. European cities continued to dominate the top positions in the ranking, amid a sprinkling of Canadian and American cities.

Mercer publishes this list annually to help multinational companies determine an appropriate amount of compensation for expatriates sent to work in difficult locations.

Huge Demand For Flats At The Peak

Source : The Straits Times, April 29, 2009

DEMAND for flats at The Peak @ Toa Payoh, a condo-like public housing, has been overwhelming.

When the developer closed its office at 6pm yesterday, there were already 2,900 applications for the 1,203-unit project.

This means there were roughly five applications for every two units. The final number might even be higher as electronic applications closed only at midnight last night.

The project at Lorong 1A Toa Payoh comes under the design, build and sell scheme (DBSS), and offers premium condo-like fittings.

This project by a Hoi Hup-led consortium is being sold by ballot. Unlike private condominiums, these projects do not have facilities such as swimming pools and gymnasiums.

Observers say the demand is surprising given that for the same price, buyers are spoilt for choice in the current lacklustre market.

URA, NParks Introduce Schemes To Promote More Sky Gardens In S'pore

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 April 2009

Singapore developers will enjoy new incentives to include skyrise greenery in their projects.

Highrise buildings at the financial district of Singapore

The government wants to see more sky terraces and rooftop gardens, as part of a multi-billion dollar sustainable development blueprint for Singapore for the next 20 years.

The initiative is known as Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-rises (LUSH).

Fun Siew Leng, group director of Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), said: "A lot of people place premium on having greenery at their doorstep. And it doesn't mean that by going high-rise you don't have access to greenery.

"So, one of these ways is to encourage and require more greenery to be built in the development itself, either at the ground level or even at the upper levels."

Come December 1 this year, new projects and re-developments within the central business district, Kallang Riverside and Jurong Gateway areas will be required to have green landscape at least equivalent in size to the development site area.

These can include ground floor landscape areas, as well as roof gardens and sky terraces. As a guide, 40 per cent of these areas are to consist of permanent planting.

Developers will also be given additional gross floor area of up to 200 square metres of roof space or 50 per cent, whichever is lower, for greening their rooftops for use such as outdoor refreshment areas.

This will be allowed over and above the Master Plan maximum allowable gross floor area for the site.

And it is not just new buildings that will stand to benefit from the initiative. NParks is introducing a pilot scheme later this year to encourage existing building owners to green-up their roof tops.

NParks is spending S$8 million over the next three years in cash incentives to co-fund up to half the cost of installing green roofs.

A green roof is defined as a lightweight growing system, which requires a proper selection of plant material for easy maintenance. The cost of installing a square metre of green roof typically ranges from S$150 to S$180.

"There are also benefits in reduction of heat as well. The green roof reduces the heat load going into the building as well as the ambient temperature of the roof itself," said Simon Longman, director of National Parks Board.

So far, there are more than 100 developments in Singapore with approved sky terraces.

NParks will start giving out the cash incentives in September 2009.

NParks plans to transform some 9 hectares of existing rooftops into green roofs over the next three years.

The URA is targeting to add 50 hectares of skyrise greenery by 2030. - CNA /ls

More 'Sky Gardens' Set To Blossom

Source : The Straits Times, April 30, 2009

New URA plan makes landscaping a must for new projects downtown

EXPECT to see more 'gardens in the sky' in Singapore, especially in areas like Orchard Road, Raffles Place and along the Singapore River.

A new plan launched yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) makes it a must for new developments coming up in several areas from December to have landscaping.

With the Lush programme, there will be more landscaping, such as sky terraces at the upcoming Marina Bay Station Square (left) and planter boxes like those at the Singapore Management University. -- PHOTOS: URA

This can take the form of rooftop gardens, planter boxes and sky terraces on the upper levels. Developers will also be encouraged to landscape their grounds.

The areas affected by this new ruling are the Downtown Core - which encompasses Raffles Place, Shenton Way, and Marina Centre - along the Kallang River, and Jurong Gateway, the upcoming commercial hub in the west.

Existing buildings will not be left out.

Those in Orchard Road and the business district will be allowed to open outdoor refreshment areas on their rooftops. To do this, they will be given additional gross floor area of half the roof area or up to 200 sq m.

With the Lush programme, there will be more landscaping, such as sky terraces at the upcoming Marina Bay Station Square and planter boxes like those at the Singapore Management University (left). -- PHOTOS: URA

This complements a programme launched on Monday by the Building Construction Authority (BCA) and URA. Under it, private buildings which are eco-friendly enough to achieve high standards under BCA's Green Mark scheme get additional gross floor area.

The new URA initiative, launched yesterday, is called Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush), and is part of a national sustainability blueprint launched by an inter-ministerial committee on Monday.

The blueprint sets national targets for pollution standards, energy usage and green areas over the next 20 years, and aims to create a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient nation.

In addition to the Lush programme, the National Parks Board also announced yesterday an $8 million fund that developers can tap to create rooftop gardens on existing buildings.

Newton Suites boasts extensive sky terraces and vertical greenery that are in line with the new URA initiative. -- PHOTO: PATRICK BINGHAM-HALL

To be launched in September, the fund will offset up to $75 per sq metre for landscaping costs - about half the $150 to $180 per sq m usually charged by gardening companies.

Landlords in the Orchard Road and downtown areas can apply to the fund.

In announcing the plans yesterday, the URA said that encouraging private developers to include greenery in their buildings is becoming increasingly important as Singapore becomes more built up.

Developers that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday welcomed the moves, but had suggestions to make the scheme more attractive as URA had said that the the usual development charges (DC) would apply.

The DC rate is pegged at 70 per cent of a building's enhanced land value.

Managing director of City Developments Kwek Leng Joo felt that while developers can make use of the additional area, they would have to grapple with the additional costs.

'We would suggest that the DC rate be pegged at the previous rate of 50 per cent instead of the current 70 per cent, which most developers find too high.

'This could make the incentive more attractive and effective to help the policy take off quickly,' he said.

US Q1 GDP Tumbles

Source : The Straits Times, April 29, 2009

# US economy shrinks more severely than forecast in Q1

# Inventories plummet by record amount, exports collapse

# Consumer spending recovers after sharp declines

WASHINGTON - THE US economy contracted at a surprisingly sharp 6.1 per cent rate in the first quarter as exports and business inventories plummeted.

The drop in gross domestic product, reported by the Commerce Department on Wednesday, was much steeper than the 4.9 per cent annual rate expected by economists and followed a 6.3 per cent decline in the fourth quarter.

US economy fell at a 6.1 per cent pace in the first quarter of 2009, signaling little improvement in a deep recession. -- PHOTO: AFP

GDP, which measures total goods and services output within US borders, has now dropped for three straight quarters for the first time since 1974-1975.

The data came as the Federal Reserve resumed a regular two-day meeting. The Fed, which has cut interest rates to almost zero and pumped about a trillion dollars into the economy to try and break its downward spiral, is expected to leave policy unchanged at the meeting.

US stock index futures pared gains after the GDP report, while government bond prices were little changed.

'There won't be positive growth until the second half of the year probably, but the fall in the second quarter, if it's negative at all, will be far smaller,' said Michael Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners in Greenwich Connecticut.

The advance report from the Commerce Department showed business inventories plunged by a record US$103.7 billion (S$154 billion) in the first quarter, as firms worked to reduce stocks of unsold goods in their warehouses. That sliced 2.79 percentage points from the overall GDP figure. Excluding inventories, GDP contracted 3.4 per cent.

Plummeting inventories good news
But the sharp drawdown in inventories is good news as it suggests that manufacturers and retailers have reduced the stock of unsold merchandise to manageable levels and could be instrumental in pulling the economy out of recession.

Recent manufacturing surveys by the regional Federal Reserve Banks have shown an improvement in new orders.

'We should see a diminishing effect from inventory on GDP going forward,' said Keith Hembre, chief economist at FAF Advisors in Minneapolis. -- REUTERS


Exports collapsed
EXPORTS collapsed 30 per cent, the biggest decline since 1969, after dropping 23.6 per cent in the fourth quarter. The decline in exports knocked off a record 4.06 percentage points from GDP.

Investment by businesses tumbled a record 37.9 per cent in the first quarter, while residential investment dived 38 per cent, the biggest decline since the second quarter of 1980.

However, there were some bright spots in the report. Consumer spending, which accounts for over two-thirds of US economic activity, rose 2.2 per cent, after collapsing in the second half of last year.

Consumer spending was boosted by a 9.4 per cent jump in purchases of durable goods, the first advance after four quarters of decline.

The Commerce Department said the government's US$787 billion (S$1.2 billion) rescue package of spending and tax cuts, approved in February, had little impact on first-quarter GDP.

Part of the stimulus package is designed to bolster state and local and government spending, which fell at a 3.9 per cent rate in the first quarter, the largest decline since the second quarter of 1981.

A separate report showed US home loan applications fell last week to the lowest level since mid-March, even as mortgage rates clung to record lows.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its mortgage applications index, which reflects demand for both purchase loans and refinancings, fell 18.1 per cent. -- REUTERS

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between April 13th - 18th, 2009

Rooftop Landscaping Gets $8m Boost

Source : The Business Times, April 30, 2009

NParks launches 3-year co-funding scheme; URA starts landscaping for urban spaces plan

Hot on the heels of a sustainable development blueprint released on Monday, the National Parks Board (NParks) yesterday announced a three-year $8 million scheme to co-fund rooftop landscaping in the city.

Lush living: Artist's impression of Marina Bay Station Square; MrSteed envisions it will ultimately be possible for all roofs to have green features

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) also launched its landscaping for urban spaces and high-rises (Lush) programme to help meet the blueprint's goal of creating another 50 hectares of 'sky-rise' greenery by 2030.

'Despite Singapore being land scarce, greenery can be pervasive in our urban spaces,' said URA chief executive Cheong Koon Hean. From September this year, NParks will give cash incentives to owners who install green roofs on existing buildings in the downtown and Orchard planning areas. The scheme will first target low- to mid-rise developments that are highly visible, and those surrounded by little street-level greenery.

NParks hopes to create nine hectares of green roofs over the next three years. The incentives will cover up to half of installation costs, capped at $75 per sq m. According to the agency, the typical cost of installing a green roof ranges from $150-$180 per sq m.

Gardens on the roof cost more than those on the ground for every square metre, said Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects' president Henry Steed. 'But once you have built it, the asset is there and the land usable, whereas a plain roof is not.'

In conjunction with NParks' scheme, URA will offer owners who install green roofs bonus gross floor area (GFA) above the master plan permissible intensity. The additional space - limited to half of the roof area or 200 sq m, whichever is lower - can be used for outdoor refreshment areas.

Developers will have to pay a development charge (DC) or differential premium, but URA believes the bonus GFA offer is sufficiently attractive.

The current DC calculation formula creams off 70 per cent of the enhancement in land value, but 'there's still a 30 per cent gain for developers,' said URA's urban design deputy director Cheng Hsing Yao.

The GFA incentive scheme is part of URA's Lush programme, which includes other existing and revised measures to enhance the urban landscape.

For instance, developers applying to exclude sky terraces from GFA computations now have to submit detailed plans on landscaping and communal facilities at the terraces.

Developers housing car parks within raised decks must also put up earth berms for plants on at least 60 per cent of each side of the deck wall, and should surround the area with see-through fences rather than solid walls.

In the strategic areas of the Downtown Core, including Marina Bay, Kallang Riverside and Jurong Gateway, new developments also have to put in place 'sky-rise' greenery or ground-level landscaping equivalent to the site area in size.

For very small plots where buildings have to be tall to maximise the plot ratio, 'replacement is typically not too difficult,' said Singapore Institute of Architects immediate past-president Tai Lee Siang.

Both Mr Steed and Mr Tai believe more can be done to promote urban greenery.

Mr Steed, for instance, envisions it will ultimately be possible for all roofs to have green features ranging from gardens, water catchment areas and even mini-farms.

Will DC Complicate The Green Push?

Source : The Business Times, April 30, 2009

Reverting to the 50% formula might be timely

NEW incentives rolled out this week to support the greening of Singapore's buildings have once again put the spotlight on the formula for calculating development charges (DC).

For instance, the Building and Construction Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority will offer bonus Gross Floor Area (GFA) of up to one per cent of total GFA capped at 2,500 square metres to developers that construct new buildings which attain Green Mark Gold Plus rating.

For new projects that achieve the top Platinum rating, a higher bonus GFA of up to 2 per cent capped at 5,000 sq m will be granted as incentive.

The bonus GFA is not free; DC is payable.

URA has also announced a new incentive to promote skyrise greenery. It will allow additional GFA for existing buildings within key activity corridors in the Orchard and Downtown Core planning areas.

The additional space can be used for outdoor refreshment areas on the rooftop level if owners provide rooftop landscaping for their developments. Again, DC is payable for this bonus GFA.

Unfortunately the way DC has been calculated since a formula change in July 2007 could diminish the attactiveness of these incentives. The current DC formula creams off 70 per cent of the appreciation in land value that arises from changing the use of a site or putting more GFA on it.

The previous DC formula, which was effective between 1985 and July 2007, creamed off 50 per cent of the enhancement in land value. A point to note is that prior to 1985, DC rates had also been based on the 70 per cent formula, until they were adjusted to 50 per cent during the 1985 recession.

With Singapore in the throes of a slump currently, many property industry players have called on the government to reinstate the 50 per cent formula.

After all, in 1985, the authorities deemed it fit to cut the DC rate to 50 per cent because of the recession and the same should apply now as Singapore is going through its worst recession.

Another reason to argue for a restoration of the 50 per cent DC formula is that sharing the appreciation in land value equally between government and private land owner - instead of developers being forced to surrender 70 per cent of the enhancement to the state - would be a fairer policy. Developers have to be given sufficient incentive to bear the risk of development.

Now, there's an extra reason why it would be timely for the government to reinstate the previous DC formula: to spur developers to attain higher Green Mark ratings for their buildings and promote skyrise greenery on the island. According to BCA data, it costs 2-8 per cent more to develop a building to attain the top Platinum standard and the payback period for this is between two and eight years.

For developments built to the second-highest Green Mark standard of Gold Plus, the green cost premium is 1-3 per cent and the payback period is 2-6 years.

Having to pay a lower DC rate on the bonus GFA would lessen the cost burden to developers keen on building new projects that attain the top two Green Mark ratings.

Some observers have suggested that even if the government refuses to restore the old 50 per cent DC formula, it should at least consider using this formula for computing DC for the bonus GFA under the new schemes announced this week.

But having different DC rates for different purposes may complicate things. Retaining the current uniform DC rate would be desirable but a reversion to the old 50 per cent formula would be a timely move for the government to give developers more bang for their buck to invest in green buildings.

It will also allow the government to get maximum effect from its newly minted schemes to promote Sustainable Development in Singapore.

6.1% GDP Plunge Dashes Economy Hopes

Source : The Business Times, April 30, 2009

LATEST US DATA

Consumer rebound in Q1 swamped by cutbacks elsewhere

(WASHINGTON) The US economy shrank at a worse than expected 6.1 per cent pace at the start of this year as sharp cutbacks by businesses and the biggest drop in US exports in 40 years overwhelmed a rebound in consumer spending.

The Commerce Department's report, released yesterday, dashed hopes that the recession's grip on the country loosened in the first quarter. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 5 per cent annualised decline.

Instead, the economy ended up performing nearly as bad as it had in the final three months of last year when it logged the worst slide in a quarter- century, contracting at a 6.3 per cent pace.

Nervous consumers played a prominent role in that dismal showing as they ratcheted back spending in the face of rising unemployment, falling home values and shrinking nest eggs.

In the January-March quarter, however, consumers came back to life, boosting their spending after two straight quarters of reductions. The 2.2 per cent growth rate was the strongest in two years.

Still, the consumer rebound was swamped by heavy spending cuts in virtually every other area.

Businesses cut spending on home building, commercial construction, equipment and software, and inventories of goods.

Sales of US goods to foreign buyers plunged as they retrenched in the face of economic troubles in their own countries. Even the government trimmed spending. It was the first time that happened since the end of 2005.

The sharp cuts underscore the toll that the housing, credit and financial crises - the worst since the 1930s - are having on the country. The recession, which began in December 2007, has taken a big bite out of national economic activity and snatched 5.1 million jobs.

To cushion the impact of the downturn, the Federal Reserve has slashed a key bank lending rate to a record low near zero and rolled out a string of radical programmes to spur lending. The Fed at the end of its two-day meeting yesterday is expected to keep its key rate near zero and probably hold it there well into next year.

President Barack Obama is counting on his US$787 billion stimulus of tax cuts and increased government spending on big public works projects to help bolster economic activity later this year.

The administration has also put forward programmes to rescue banks and curb home foreclosures - big negative forces weighing on the economy.

Before yesterday's weaker-than-expected report, many analysts were predicting that the economy would shrink less in the current April-June period - at a pace of one to 2.5 per cent - as Mr Obama's stimulus begins to take hold. Analysts also were hoping that the economy would start to grow again in the final quarter of this year.

However, the recent outbreak of the swine flu, which started out in Mexico and has spread to the US and elsewhere, poses a new potential danger. If the flu stifles trade and forces consumers to cut back further, those negative forces would worsen the recession.

Before the flu outbreak, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said that the recession could end this year if the government succeeds in stabilising the shaky financial system and getting banks to lend again. -- AP

MAS Sees A Long, Painful Trek Ahead

Source : The Business Times, April 30, 2009

Swine flu adds new twist as S'pore prepares for extended period of sub-trend growth

The worst is probably over for Singapore in the downturn, but recovery - when it comes - will be prolonged and painful, with many sectors in for an extended period of sub-trend growth, says the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Plus, the swine flu outbreak has added a new spin to an outlook already fraught with uncertainties, it notes in its latest biannual macroeconomic review published yesterday.

With almost 60 per cent of Singapore's exports headed for economies 'expected to be in outright recession in 2009', GDP here fell sharply in the last two quarters.

'Barring further significant external shocks, the most intense phase of this downturn for Singapore may have already occurred,' MAS says, adding though that a decisive rebound is not expected this year.

Instead, the climb out of recession will likely be slow, gradual and possibly 'marked by several false starts', as weak global demand and structural strains continue to weigh on the domestic sectors.

With the economy having lost almost 12 per cent in Q1 from its year-ago peak, the official projection of 6-9 per cent GDP contraction for 2009 means that the quarterly sequential expansion for the remaining three quarters of the year would be significantly less than the 9.5 per cent average (seasonally adjusted and annualised) in previous recessions, the MAS review says.

Indeed, in all three previous downturns - in 1985, 1998 and 2001 - the Singapore economy rebounded from the trough and returned to its previous peak within three quarters, the report notes. 'In this downturn, however, it will probably take longer to return to its previous peak.'

MAS expects the job market will likely weaken further, 'although prospects vary across industries', and reckons that net employment (excluding construction) by Q4 2009 could shrink by more than the net job loss recorded during the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2001 global IT downturn.

The manufacturing, financial and trade-related industries, in particular, may see severe job losses. Nominal wage increases will also likely be 'relatively muted' this year, compared with the 5.4 per cent rise seen in 2008.

The central bank maintains, however, that there is 'little likelihood at this point in time of a persistent, broad-based and self- sustaining drop in consumer prices' - or debilitating deflation - even with the inflation rate expected to fall to zero, or possibly minus one per cent, this year.

On the newly-developing swine flu epidemic, MAS says it is not certain at this stage how the outbreak will impact global economic prospects, and the situation bears close watching. There could be repercussions for the domestic economy, notably the transport and travel-related industries, initially through the immediate and direct transmission channels.

The confluence of adverse factors depressing global growth will likely persist into the next few quarters, MAS says. 'Global demand is unlikely to rebound strongly, with the major economies mired in an extended period of sub-par growth. The stresses in the global financial system are expected to weigh on economic activity for some time.'

A vastly open economy like Singapore's would be particularly susceptible to the global headwinds, especially as external demand has grown 'markedly' over the last decade as a source of growth.

But the extreme openness of the Singapore economy should also enable it to pick up more strongly than other countries when the global recovery eventually gets underway, MAS says.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Lush Cityscape

Source : The Straits Times, April 29, 2009

SKYRISE greenery is set to grow lusher, with a new programme launched on Wednesday in support of the government's blueprint for sustainable development.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) LUSH programme will encourage developers to up the greenery factor on their buidlings. --PHOTO: URA

The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Lush programme, or Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises, will encourage developers to up the greenery factor on their buidlings.

New developments within the Downtown Core, Kallang Riverside and Jurong Gateway will have to provide a landscaping equivalent to to the area of the development site.

Also, existing buildings in Orchard and the Downtown Core will be allowed additional gross floor area above what is permissible for developing rooftop outdoor refreshment areas if rooftop landscaping is done

In tandem, the National Parks Board will throw in $8 million over the next three years to fund up to half the cost of setting up green roofs on existing buildings in these areas.

These cash incentives will be available from September.

Cheung Kong Looking To Invest In Singapore's Property Market

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 April 2009

Recession woes have not deterred Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing from seeking out investment opportunities in Singapore's property market.

Future skyline of Marina Bay - URA

The tycoon's Cheung Kong Holdings is aiming to increase its investments in the city-state.

Justin Chiu, executive director, Cheung Kong Holdings, said: "Actually there are ample opportunities in Singapore right now, so we are looking at various locations. We hope that we can invest in mass market developments, so that's why we are looking at various locations in the West Coast area."

But the timing of this investment depends on when the Singapore government releases land for tender.

Speaking on the sidelines of an industry event on Monday, Cheung Kong said it hopes to buy some land in the next six months, and it is looking for a large plot of at least half a million square feet.

The developer said its investments in Marina Bay and the potential West Coast project reflect its positive outlook for the Asian property market.

While it is hard to say when the Singapore and Asian markets will bottom out, Cheung Kong believes the longer term outlook for the next three to seven years remains bright. And it is especially bullish on the property markets of China, Hong Kong and Singapore. - CNA/yt

“永续蓝图”建宜居城市

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 28, 2009

“永续新加坡发展蓝图”总投入10亿元,勾勒出新加坡未来10年至20年的永续发展目标,确保新加坡的下一代继续享有高素质的居住环境。

新加坡未来20年将发展成为一个更具活力、环保,蓝色和绿色空间不断扩大的一座宜居城市。
























到了2030年,本地八成建筑物,包括组屋将达到最基本的绿色建筑水平;整体能源耗量减少35%;空气素质进一步获得改善;公园面积增加900公顷(相等于15个碧山公园);公园连道比目前增加两倍,达360公里;更多蓄水池和水道也将开放给公众进行消闲活动。

新加坡人的生活方式也会更趋环保,个人用水量到时将减少10%;全国废物再循环率提高至70%;脚踏车道网络将获得扩大,鼓励人们以脚踏车往返地铁站和住家。

经过一年多的筹划,收集和整理超过1300个来自各方的意见,由国家发展部长马宝山和环境及水源部长雅国博士联合领导的永续发展跨部门部长级委员会,昨天在园艺园林(Hort Park)举行记者会,公布总值10亿元的“永续新加坡发展蓝图”(Sustainable Singapore Blueprint)详情,勾勒出新加坡未来10年至20年的永续发展目标,确保新加坡的下一代继续享有高素质的居住环境。

除了马宝山和雅国,委员会成员:交通部长林双吉和贸工部兼教育部高级政务部长易华仁也出席记者会。委员会的另一名成员——财政部长尚达曼则因为身在国外而缺席。

在记者会上,马宝山首先说明新加坡未来面对的三大挑战,包括经济与人口不断增长、全球资源短缺与竞争加剧,以及应对气候变化带来的问题。

马宝山指出,新加坡要迎接未来的挑战,必须从现在起做准备,就像先辈们从40年前就开始注重绿化、保护环境,拒绝让污染工业在本地设厂一样,新加坡才得以享有目前清洁与绿化的环境。

他说:“我们在制定永续蓝图时也考虑到全球经济不景,所以决定采取柔性劝导方式,通过提供奖励、津贴和公共教育,而不是通过立法或制定税收来达到目标。确保新加坡继续取得永续发展是一项长期挑战,新加坡的资源有限,随着世界各国迅速城市化和工业化,资源竞争只会越来越激烈,因此无论经济好坏,永续发展必然是我们的优先课题。”

雅国说:“永续蓝图将从各方面给新加坡人带来冲击,人们必须改变现有的生活方式。如果我们成功,这不仅将成为新加坡的竞争优势,我们也将是第一个展示如何在经济发展和环保取得平衡的城市国。”

永续蓝图主要从四大方面:居住、交通、休闲和工作环境着手,通过推出不同措施,逐步提高新加坡的节能效率,以及加强居住环境素质。

委员会估计,如果节能措施能取得成功,每年可节省高达36亿元的能源开销。

针对10亿元是否足够用来推展永续蓝图中的多项措施,马宝山表示,10亿元只是政府未来五年的第一笔相关拨款,随着科技日新月异,以及世界局势演变,永续蓝图设定的目标和拨款每五年会检讨及调整。

永续新加坡发展蓝图 30组屋邻里实验太阳能计划

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 28, 2009

建屋局去年实验安装太阳能板节能计划,发现能满足两座组屋公共场所的电力需求,节省10%能源,成效令人鼓舞,于是决定展开历来最大规模的实验计划。估计全面推行后,各市镇理事会每年可节省3600万元,或相等于运作开支的8%。

实龙岗北是率先装置太阳能板的两个组屋邻里之一。一座组屋屋顶一般可安装约70块太阳能板。(曾坤顺摄)

在永续新加坡发展蓝图下,建屋发展局今年将展开历来最大规模的太阳能实验计划,未来六年投入3100万元在30个组屋邻里装置太阳能板,以研究全面推广这项科技的可行性,进一步减少组屋区的耗电量。

参与实验计划的组屋邻里,包括28个现有邻里和两个新邻里,它们的地点有待确定。计划将在2015年结束。

除了这些组屋邻里,预定后年建成的榜鹅“绿馨苑”(Treelodge@Punggol)绿色组屋,屋顶30%空间也将装置太阳能板,为走廊、楼梯和停车场等公共场所提供80%的照明。

建屋局说,超过80%新加坡人住在9000多座组屋,估计每年消耗12亿元能源,因此在组屋区推行节能措施,有助于节省开支。

其实,建屋局早在去年就与国家环境局和能源市场管理局展开节省能源计划(Energy SAVE Programme),率先在实龙岗北和三巴旺威灵顿圈两个邻里的14座组屋和两座多层停车场,安装超过1000个太阳能板,每天可发动440千瓦小时(kWh)电力,满足两座组屋公共场所的电力需求,节省10%能源。

据估计,节能计划全面推行后,各市镇理事会每年可节省3600万元,或相等于运作开支的8%。

建屋局因此认为,这项节能计划的成效令人鼓舞,于是决定展开更大型的实验计划,进一步探讨组屋地点及建筑结构如何影响太阳能发动电力。

将实时收集电力数据

由于现有组屋屋顶的设计并没有将安装太阳能板的可能性考虑在内,建屋局因此能通过实验计划,更好地掌握太阳能板的设计、研发、操作、维修、安装程序等技术资料。

建屋局位于兀兰的预制科技中心里的建筑监督处,也将实时收集相关电力数据,以评估太阳能板的能源效率。

如此一来,待这项科技的发电成本与购买现有电力的费用持平后,建屋局才能以最佳方式,在其他组屋邻里大量采用太阳能科技。建屋局也希望借此吸引国际制造商在本地设立研究基地,着重研发太阳能科技。

建屋局营建技术处副处长黄良兴受访时说,目前太阳能科技的发电成本太高,是太阳能一直无法在新加坡普及化的主要原因。

他说,一块长1.6公尺、宽0.8公尺的太阳能板售价800元,而且单在一个邻里的七座组屋装置太阳能板,就需要约25万元。

不过他估计,太阳能科技全面开发后,可在25到30年内回本,长远而言,可达到节能的最终目标。

建屋局局长郑锦宝指出:“组屋屋顶有不小的空间可装置太阳能板发动电力,我们已开始利用屋顶上的空间……让组屋变得更具能源效率。”

除了屋顶,建筑物其他地方也可安装太阳能板。黄良兴指出,太阳能科技多样化,实验计划将能让建屋局决定最适合个别建筑的太阳能板。

例如,建屋局正考虑今年内在一座多层停车场试装光伏建筑一体化(Building Integrated Photovoltaic,简称BIPV)太阳能板。这类太阳能板可装在外墙,也可融入窗口透明玻璃的表面吸收更多阳光,甚至能装在室内“捕捉”照入屋内的阳光。

除了太阳能板,在公共场所改用具高能源效率的灯泡,也可大大节省整座组屋的用电量,因为电灯占组屋总耗电量的40%。建屋局就在实龙岗北和威灵顿圈更换超过2300个灯泡,并装置近800个感应器,只有在居民走动时才提供照明。

Home In On Malaysia

Source : The Straits Times, April 28 2009

Market glut makes developments in prime locations in KL and Penang affordable.

An over-supply plus gloomy market sentiment are adding up to a rare buying opportunity for investors in Kuala Lumpur, particularly in the prime KL City Centre (KLCC) area.

TA Properties' Idaman Villas just outside Kuala Lumpur start from RM500 psf. -- PHOTO: TA PROPERTIES.

Dr Lee Ville, president of ERA Malaysia, said: 'In my personal view, the property market sentiment (of KL) is at its lowest since 2004.

'This sentiment has sparked a price drop in the KLCC and Mont Kiara locality.'

He gave an example of Kiaraville, a development in Mont Kiara.

'It was launched in 2005 at RM380 (S$158) per sq ft (psf) and today, there are some units being sold...as low as RM500 psf.'

At the peak, transactions of the property were in the region of RM600 psf, he said.

Mr Ivan Hoh, executive director of PropNex International, said: 'We are seeing a slowdown in property prices in KL's prime areas...we have seen a 15 per cent drop from last year.'

He added that 'many Singaporeans like to buy in areas like Bangsar, Damansara, Mont Kiara, Bukit Bintang and KLCC area'.

'As this is the capital city of Malaysia, rental yields are better than in other states.

'Yields in the current market are about 5 per cent to 7 per cent, depending on the selling price of the property,' Mr Hoh said.

TA Properties' Idaman Residence, a luxury condominium in KLCC priced from RM950 psf, has units for sale.

Prices for its Idaman Villas, double-storey semi-detached units in the Damansara region with a built-up area of 3,692 sq ft or more each, start from RM500 psf.

Dr Ville said: 'With current market sentiment, KL properties are at their most affordable and attractive.'

Penang market

Penang is a frequently overlooked but promising state for property investment. Its capital George Town, together with Malacca, received a Unesco World Heritage Site listing last year.

Mr See Kok Loong, director of Metro Homes, said home prices at Seberang Prai, which is on the mainland of Peninsular Malaysia, 'have been low for many years' due to ample land and lower purchasing power.

He said a standard terrace house on the mainland could cost between RM200,000 and RM250,000 whereas on the island, 'where the prime area' is, terrace houses could cost above RM500,000.

Dr Ville said: 'There are high-end luxury condominiums along Gurney Drive such as Silverton, Regency, Millennium and 11 Gurney.

'These fetch anywhere between RM450 psf and RM550 psf.'

Knight Frank Research said gross yields of upper-middle and high-end condominium units in Penang range between 4.5 and 6.5 per cent.

Property giant SP Setia is launching the third phase of Setia Vista - 29 two-storey terrace units with a built-up area of 1,700 sq ft each. Prices start from RM618,880.

Dr Ville said: 'It is a great place to live or retire. After all, prices remain relatively cheap compared to the rest of our Asian neighbours.'

Most Buildings To Go Green By 2030

Source : The Business Times, April 28, 2009

SUSTAINABLE SINGAPORE BLUEPRINT

Property owners can look forward to annual energy savings of $1.6b

IT'S a red-hot target in going green - the government hopes to put the Green Mark stamp on at least 80 per cent of buildings here by 2030, and has come up with a slew of new measures for building owners to help meet this goal.

Not only does the environment stand to gain, property owners can look forward to annual energy savings to the tune of $1.6 billion in the long run. More jobs dedicated to the development and care of green buildings may also emerge. The new target was revealed by the Inter-ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development yesterday, as part of its 10-to-20-year blueprint for Singapore's growth. In conjunction with the plan's launch, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) rolled out its second green building master plan to improve the environmental friendliness of buildings.

Existing buildings, in particular, came under the spotlight because they consume a third of national end-use electricity. To entice owners of some private non-residential developments to carry out retrofitting works, BCA will offer cash incentives through a $100 million Green Mark incentive scheme for existing buildings. The National Parks Board will also have a new 'sky-rise' greenery incentive scheme to encourage existing developments in the city centre to green up their roofs.

The government will play its part by requiring all large existing buildings owned by its agencies to attain the Green Mark gold plus standard by 2020, at an estimated retrofitting cost of about $500 million over the next 10 years. Gold plus is second to the top platinum rating, and ranks above the gold and certified ratings.

New buildings are also on BCA's radar, and the agency is working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to offer bonus gross floor area (GFA) for private developments. Those that attain the Green Mark platinum or gold plus rating can receive up to 2 per cent or one per cent more GFA beyond the URA master plan gross plot ratio control respectively.

The bonus GFA, however, is subject to caps and the payment of a development charge (DC) or differential premium. While City Developments managing director Kwek Leng Joo believes the additional GFA will help developers defray some investment costs in green technology and features, he suggests 'the DC rate be pegged at the previous rate of 50 per cent instead of the current 70 per cent' to 'make the incentive more attractive and effective'.

New buildings in strategic growth areas will come under greater scrutiny. Those in the Marina Bay and Downtown Core area will have to meet Green Mark platinum or gold plus standards as part of land sale conditions, while those in the Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central will have to attain the Green Mark gold plus rating.

For Marina Bay and Jurong Lake District in particular, URA will introduce a landscape replacement policy to make up for greenery lost from ground development. New projects have to put in place sky-rise greenery or ground-level landscaping equivalent to the site area in size.

The government has also set a high benchmark for new public sector buildings - all medium or large air-conditioned ones have to achieve the Green Mark platinum rating.

'BCA's second green building masterplan will not only result in more of our buildings being able to achieve substantial savings in energy costs, but also provides a boost to the green-collar job market,' said BCA CEO John Keung.

According to BCA, the masterplan will reduce energy costs by $1.6 billion a year when it is fully implemented. Some 18,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians may also be trained over the next 10 years in the development, design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings.

Most Buildings To Go Green By 2030

Source : The Straits Times, April 28 2009

Property owners can look forward to annual energy savings of $1.6b.

IT'S a red-hot target in going green - the government hopes to put the Green Mark stamp on at least 80 per cent of buildings here by 2030, and has come up with a slew of new measures for building owners to help meet this goal.

Not only does the environment stand to gain, property owners can look forward to annual energy savings to the tune of $1.6 billion in the long run. More jobs dedicated to the development and care of green buildings may also emerge. The new target was revealed by the Inter-ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development yesterday, as part of its 10-to-20-year blueprint for Singapore's growth. In conjunction with the plan's launch, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) rolled out its second green building master plan to improve the environmental friendliness of buildings.

Existing buildings, in particular, came under the spotlight because they consume a third of national end-use electricity. To entice owners of some private non-residential developments to carry out retrofitting works, BCA will offer cash incentives through a $100 million Green Mark incentive scheme for existing buildings. The National Parks Board will also have a new 'sky-rise' greenery incentive scheme to encourage existing developments in the city centre to green up their roofs.

The government will play its part by requiring all large existing buildings owned by its agencies to attain the Green Mark gold plus standard by 2020, at an estimated retrofitting cost of about $500 million over the next 10 years. Gold plus is second to the top platinum rating, and ranks above the gold and certified ratings.

New buildings are also on BCA's radar, and the agency is working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to offer bonus gross floor area (GFA) for private developments. Those that attain the Green Mark platinum or gold plus rating can receive up to 2 per cent or one per cent more GFA beyond the URA master plan gross plot ratio control respectively.

The bonus GFA, however, is subject to caps and the payment of a development charge (DC) or differential premium. While City Developments managing director Kwek Leng Joo believes the additional GFA will help developers defray some investment costs in green technology and features, he suggests 'the DC rate be pegged at the previous rate of 50 per cent instead of the current 70 per cent' to 'make the incentive more attractive and effective'.

New buildings in strategic growth areas will come under greater scrutiny. Those in the Marina Bay and Downtown Core area will have to meet Green Mark platinum or gold plus standards as part of land sale conditions, while those in the Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central will have to attain the Green Mark gold plus rating.

For Marina Bay and Jurong Lake District in particular, URA will introduce a landscape replacement policy to make up for greenery lost from ground development. New projects have to put in place sky-rise greenery or ground-level landscaping equivalent to the site area in size.

The government has also set a high benchmark for new public sector buildings - all medium or large air-conditioned ones have to achieve the Green Mark platinum rating.

'BCA's second green building masterplan will not only result in more of our buildings being able to achieve substantial savings in energy costs, but also provides a boost to the green-collar job market,' said BCA CEO John Keung.

According to BCA, the masterplan will reduce energy costs by $1.6 billion a year when it is fully implemented. Some 18,000 professionals, managers, executives and technicians may also be trained over the next 10 years in the development, design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings.

S Korea's Jeju Island Woos S'pore Investors

Source : The Business Times, April 29, 2009

Projects range from tourist port to healthcare town

HOWEVER you see it, Jeju is prime property on the world map. Just a two-hour flight from five other major Asian cities - Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo - the island is three times the size of Singapore and boasts three Unesco World Natural Heritage sites.

To top it off, Jeju is also Korea's only self-governing province - a special designation that allows it to offer visa-free entry to foreigners and tax exemptions to investors.

These pluses could spell intense investment competition for the likes of Singapore. But on the flip side, there can be enticing opportunities.

At an investment seminar here yesterday - hosted by members of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Jeju Free International City Development Center (JDC) and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency - representatives outlined many core investment prospects waiting to unfold on Jeju to an audience of Singapore companies.

Among six core projects is a 190-hectare theme park that encompasses a Water Park. Jeju island is also home to eight foreigner-only casinos, with more on the way.

'If you think of Universal Studios, you can easily imagine what Water Park is like,' said Rio Kim, project manager at JDC, a public corporation affiliated with Korea's Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs.

The other core projects include a healthcare town, a high-tech science complex, a tourist port, a global education city and a resort type residential complex.

Projected to cost a total of almost US$5 billion, the six projects will develop Jeju's tourism, education, medical and high-tech industries.

In particular, the US$1.8 billion resort-type residential complex, invested in by Malaysian conglomerate Berjaya, is the biggest single foreign investment in South Korea's tourism industry. Berjaya's investment in Jeju does not stand alone. Despite the global downturn, the island has secured a total of US$3 billion worth of investments in 20 months.

Part of Jeju's success can be attributed to an incentive-loaded investment package that applies equally to Korean and foreign investors.

Investments of more than US$5 million, for instance, can qualify for full corporate and income tax exemption for three to five years, depending on the investment scale, as well as shortened approval procedures by a one-stop administration service division.

Beyond tax incentives, Ko Sung Kyu, executive director of JDC, highlighted project quality and profitability as key elements attracting foreign investors. 'We can provide global standard tax incentives, but investors are more concerned about project concept and profitability,' he said.

To Singapore companies in the audience, 'strong government support for foreign investments is a plus factor', said Mr Kim.

Work Begins On S'pore's 10th Expressway

Source : The Business Times, April 29, 2009

Completion due 2013; it is first road tunnel under the sea

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) broke ground yesterday on the construction of Singapore's first road tunnel under the sea, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE).

The new expressway, slated for completion in 2013, will connect the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and the East Coast Parkway (ECP) to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

'The MCE underscores the government's commitment to continue investing in Singapore's road network,' Transport Minister Raymond Lim said at the ground-breaking ceremony.

'The MCE will be our 10th expressway, after the KPE which opened last year. We will continue to invest in road infrastructure for the future, within the constraints of our limited land space. By 2020, we will complete the North South Expressway (NSE), which will provide an additional route from the north to the city.'

The 5 km MCE is the most ambitious project undertaken by the LTA and involves the widest road tunnel in Singapore, with five lanes going in each direction.

A 420 m section of the expressway will be beneath the sea bed. At its deepest point, it will be about 20 m below mean sea level. Some 13.1 ha of land will be reclaimed for the project - 9.1 ha at Marina Wharf and 4 ha at Marina East.

Singapore's 10th expressway is also notable for another superlative - it will be the country's most expensive expressway, with the value of contracts awarded so far coming up to $4.1 billion.

Exceeding a budgeted figure of $2.5 billion, based on lower construction and engineering costs in 2006, the contracts awarded so far comprise six major civil contracts and four major system-wide contracts. One minor civil contract and three other system-wide contracts are still to be awarded.

In comparison, Singapore's second most expensive expressway, the KPE, cost $1.8 billion to build.

According to LTA, some of cost of the MCE may be recovered if the prices of materials fall, due to a price fluctuation clause in contracts.

Apart from higher tender prices, construction of the MCE in difficult ground and soil conditions, as well as additional safety requirements for the sub-sea tunnel, added to the overall cost.

Construction will take place in soft clay that runs as deep as 60 m in some places.

'Soft clay is not very good for construction,' said Chuah Han Leong, LTA's director of the MCE project. 'It is like working with toothpaste. So we have to conduct extensive ground improvement to enhance the safety of the excavation.'

Planning for the MCE was done with an eye on property values. To increase the development potential of prime land in Marina Bay, the section of the ECP that runs through Marina South will be realigned and downgraded to an arterial road.

'The MCE will add to the long-term growth of Singapore and increase accessibility to the Marina Bay downtown area,' said LTA chief executive Yam Ah Mee.

Vienna Tops In Living Quality, S'pore Improves Ranking

Source : The Business Times, April 29, 2009

Mercer has released the findings of its annual quality-of-living survey, showing Vienna, Zurich and Geneva to be the top three cities to live in.

Vienna managed to oust Zurich from the top spot in this year's survey, due in part to improvements in Austria's political and social environment.

The city also led Europe in a strong showing - the top 10 list was largely dominated by German and Swiss cities, with most of them retaining their rankings from the previous year.

The Asia-Pacific region also had its bright sparks.

Ranked at 26, Singapore led all Asian cities by a comfortable margin, with Tokyo being the next highest- ranked city at 35.

Up six places from the previous survey, Singapore was also Asia-Pacific's biggest mover.

This was attributed to the development of Singapore as a key financial centre as well as the many international and private schools available to the expatriate community.

Singapore's infrastructure was also deemed a cut above the rest. Factoring in essentials like electricity supply, water availability and traffic congestion, Singapore emerged at the top of this index, beating out Munich and Copenhagen.

Aimed at helping governments and major companies decide deployment destinations for employees, the survey could also help companies streamline costs, said Cathy Loose, Asia-Pacific global mobility leader with Mercer's information product solutions.

'As a result of the current financial crisis, multinational companies are looking to review their international assignment policies with a view to cutting costs,' said Ms Loose.

'Many companies plan to reduce the number of medium to long-term international assignments and localise their expatriate compensation packages where possible, although the hardship allowance, based on quality-of-living criteria, will remain an essential component of the package.'

Two hundred and fifteen cities were considered for this survey, with New York City being used as the base with an index score of 100.

Developers Meet Valuers In Search For Common Ground

Source : The Business Times, April 29, 2009

Finger pointed at banks as some buyers struggle to raise enough loans

Developers last week held a meeting with valuers amid recent complaints in some quarters that conservative valuations have derailed some home sale deals as potential buyers could not secure the required loan quantum from banks.

BT understands that the valuers disagreed with the developers that their valuations had been too conservative, and that it was the banks that were just not lending.

'Generally, if there are transactions, we'll match (with valuations). It's the banks that are more cautious about lending to certain profiles of borrowers like investors, especially if they are foreigners,' a valuer told BT.

The valuers also raised issues that they had been facing in recent months, such as a dearth of comparable transactions, and explained the methods that they use to arrive at valuations in such situations.

'We explained that some banks require valuers to look at three comparable transactions, and how we generally do not take into account outlier transactions that may perhaps reflect 'depressed' prices,' another valuer said.

Sources say that the meeting was amicable, drawing more than 20 valuers and heads of property consulting groups and the executive committee members of the Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore led by its president, Simon Cheong.

When contacted, a Redas spokesman said: 'We wanted to better understand issues that valuers may have in their day-to-day valuation and what else the profession may need from developers to enable them to give (as) updated and relevant (a) valuation as possible.

'The discussions were general in nature and discrepancies in valuations in some instances were highlighted and analysed. Valuers shared with us some of the constraints they are facing such as the lack of or insufficient comparable sales data and other issues.

'The session was fruitful as it helped us understand one another better and we agreed to look into areas where communication and interaction could be improved upon.'

A property consultant told BT that he found it odd that the same banks that were willing to give a 75 per cent or 80 per cent loan on a high-end residential unit when it was priced at $2,000 psf (thus assuming an exposure for about $1,500 to $1,600 psf) are now reluctant to give even 50 or 60 per cent loan when the property is going for a much lower price of $1,200 psf (which works out to $600-720 psf exposure for the bank).

'It's particularly difficult for foreign buyers, even PRs in some instances, to get loans for investment properties. Banks are more willing to lend to Singaporeans buying residential properties for owner occupation.

'Some of the bigger banks should take the lead and be more proactive in lending to property buyers, not just for entry-level but also luxury homes, given that spot prices have already come off about 40 per cent.'

Agreeing, another valuer said: 'We provide the valuations. It's up to the banks whether they want to lend, and how much. It's a commercial decision for them.'

Giving his take on the challenges facing the profession, a senior valuer said: 'We have to be as level headed as possible and (assign) a sensible value. Valuers play a very important role in the financial system and economy, as we're marking everybody's asset values.'

This was the first time Redas has met valuers as a group, at least in recent years, and this follows its maiden meeting in November with analysts in stockbroking research houses covering the sector.

Redas also holds regular dialogues with government agencies such as Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Building and Construction Authority. 'Such dialogues provide learning opportunities for Redas and promote better understanding across the industry leading to a healthy property market,' the association's spokesman added.

UK Home Prices Fall 10.1% In April

Source : The Business Times, April 28, 2009

(LONDON) House prices in England and Wales fell by 10.1 per cent in April compared with a year ago, while prices declined at their slowest monthly pace for a year, property data company Hometrack said yesterday.

April's annual fall is a modest improvement from the 10.3 per cent decline recorded in March, which was a survey low, and leaves the achievable price of a home at £155,600, it said.

Hometrack said the slowdown in the monthly rate of decline to 0.3 per cent from 0.6 per cent in March reflected an increase in optimism from estate agents driven by increased levels of market activity.

However, it said it was too early to call a revival of the housing market, and warned the improvements in April's survey may be seasonal.

Recent housing market data have been mixed: official figures suggest that approvals for home loans have edged up from record lows, but surveys from mortgage lenders Nationwide and Halifax sent opposing signals on house prices last month.

Analysts reckon the housing market will remain under pressure for some time yet as rising unemployment and tough borrowing conditions deter people from entering the property market.

'Only when first-time buyers feel confident to enter the market in significant numbers can we really start to claim any 'real' green shoots of recovery,' said Hometrack director of research Richard Donnell.

'This suggests to us that the recent pick-up in demand is largely seasonal and unlikely to be sustained over the rest of the year.' Still, the survey did show improvement in a number of indicators.

The number of sales agreed in April rose by nearly 15 per cent after a rise of 18.6 per cent in March, while the number of prospective buyers registering with estate agents rose by 6 per cent in April after an 8.5 per cent rise in March.

'The increase in demand, together with a move to more realistic pricing, has supported a growth in the number of sales,' according to the survey. -- Reuters

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Australia Beckons

Source : The Straits Times, April 26 2009

Homes are looking more affordable Down Under given the weaker Aussie dollar.

Australia is reappearing on investors' radar screens, with homes there looking more affordable to overseas investors now that the Aussie dollar has weakened from a year ago.

The Avondale, a 34-unit development in Pymble, Sydney is selling apartments from A$450,000 to A$750,000. -- PHOTO: IP GLOBAL.

'Australia's banks are still well capitalised and in a global economy with a lot of high-risk investments, the Australian market is comparatively low-risk, which is what many investors are looking for right now,' said IP Global managing director and founder Tim Murphy.

But the window of opportunity may not last. After Lehman Brothers collapsed, the Aussie dollar fell to below par against the Singapore dollar, fetching about 92 Singapore cents. One Aussie dollar now fetches some S$1.065, compared with S$1.27 a year ago.

'Analysts are predicting the Australian dollar will become stronger as investor risk appetite returns, making it important to borrow in the currency you are buying in and let the rental service the mortgage payments,' said Mr Murphy.

MLG Australia managing director Marcus Gilmore said there has been a major influx of activity this year and mostly in the lower end of the property market, thanks largely to first-time home buyers' grants. (The high-end market has slowed considerably.)

'Any product under A$500,000 (S$530,750) in Sydney should be seen as good value. One-bedroom apartments are great value under A$400,000 but rare...In the fringe and outer suburbs, you should be looking at between A$375,000 and A$450,000,' he said.

Experts cautioned that foreigners - who are allowed to buy only new properties directly from developers - should buy only properties that have a resale market.

Mr Gilmore reckoned that investors should always look for re-development zones, particularly as the Australian government is now encouraging infrastructure spending. 'Investments in early stages of re-development zones always see great rewards in the long term.'

Better rental yields

Investors may also want to consider buying smaller units as these offer better rental yields and are easier to resell, said Colliers International associate director for international projects Edwin Layson.

What they should be cautious about, said Mr Gilmore, are the tourism markets, as the resale markets are flooded with properties, and bank funding for these markets is hard to obtain at the moment.

Savills Western Australia managing director Paul Craig said the Western Australia market remains attractive due to record low interest rates, tight rental vacancies, rental growth, government stimulus and home buyer grants, against a backdrop of Western Australia's strong economic links to China.

Said the firm's residential sales and investments manager Shane Smedley: 'Potential investors should be focused more on rental yields than capital growth in the current market as the days of high capital growth are behind us for the moment.'

Although the Western Australian economy may contract this year, Mr Craig said Savills expects it to be short-lived. 'The long-term outlook for our property market remains prosperous given our strong links with China.'

Mr Murphy, though, is keen on Sydney and Melbourne as these cities continually have limited new supply of homes and high occupancy rates. For instance, the rents in Sydney rose by 15.4 per cent year on year in 2008 according to Australian Property Monitors data, he said.

The data also shows that Sydney apartment prices fell by 3.8 per cent last year, although they had remained relatively flat in the fourth quarter of the year. In Melbourne, apartment prices fell 1.5 per cent last year.

Investors should know that property prices have not come off as much as that in other markets when buying prime location properties in Sydney and Melbourne. Also, borrowing costs will more than likely rise in the medium term, said Mr Murphy.

'However, one must also take into account that the currency depreciation and low borrowing costs mean real prices are much lower than they were 12 months ago.'

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sentosa Cove Homes On Schedule

Source : The Straits Times, April 25, 2009

Despite the recession, Sentosa Cove is fast taking shape as a prime residential haven.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SENTOSA COVE RESORT MANAGEMENT

Building at the 117ha site is on schedule, although some developers have asked for extensions. A 12-month extension has been granted to one developer.

By the end of the year, 85 per cent of the projects in North Cove will be ready, while the South Cove, where land sales were completed only last year, will be fully developed by 2014.

There are 1,700 residents in Sentosa Cove but this will rise to about 3,000 by the end of the year.

Property Market 'Still Weak'

Source : The Straits Times, April 25, 2009

HO CHI MINH CITY: Singapore's property market is still 'pretty weak' and the Government will not lift its suspension on land sales to developers until at least June, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

The city-state said last October that it will suspend its land sales, putting on hold sites for residential, office and hotel developmentsas the economy deteriorated.

The city's Private home prices fell 14 per cent in the first quarter, the Government said yesterdayy. Rents of offices, retail and industrial properties also retreated.

'At the moment, things are still pretty slow,' Mah said in an interview. 'Property really depends on the economy, and the economy around the world and in Singapore still looks pretty weak,' Mr Mah said.

Singapore's economy may contract by as much as 9 per cent this year as the global recession saps demand for the island's exports, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has predicted. The slowdown has pushed residential prices lower for three straight quarters, halting a four-year rally.

'The Government will continue to invest in infrastructure, but the land sales programme will be suspended for the time being,' Mr Mah said. The existingsuspension will last till June and the Government will evaluate and make a decision 'some time in the next month'. he added.

CapitaLand Ltd, Southeast Asia's biggest developer, said first-quarter income slumped 83 percent due to lower sales from development projects and a drop in rents from commercial properties and serviced residences.

Net profit for the three months ended March 31 fell to S$42.9 million ($28.6 million) from S$247.5 million in the same period last year, the Singapore-based company said in a statement to the local exchange today.

Keppel Land Ltd., a developer building Singapore's largest office complex, said today it plans to sell S$712.3 million of stock to existing shareholders to bolster its balance sheet and fund acquisitions.

HDB Resale Flat Buyers Pay Less Cash Upfront

Source : The Straits Times, April 25, 2009

Fall in HDB resale prices not expected to dent upgraders’ demand for private homes.

BUYERS of resale HDB flats now tend to need much less cash upfront to secure a home - and those looking at bigger flats may need none at all.

Data released yesterday by the HDB showed first-quarter median cash-over-valuation levels fell substantially to $4,000 in the first quarter, from $15,000 in the previous quarter.

This refers to the sum that flat buyers pay above a valuation set by HDB-appointed private valuers. Buyers can use Central Provident Fund money for any sum up to this level but need cash for any more.

The significant fall is attributable to twin factors - falling resale flat prices in a deteriorating economy and higher valuation levels, after a run-up in prices over the past year or so before recent falls.

HDB resale flats fell 0.8 per cent in the first quarter, just over the initial estimate of 0.6 per cent, after prices peaked late last year. However, resale prices are still at healthy levels, about 2 per cent above the 1996 peak, said Knight Frank's director of consultancy and research Nicholas Mak.

Higher HDB valuations are why resale HDB prices dipped only slightly despite a far lower cash portion, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail. 'It is evident that public housing remains resilient in this gloomy economy, thanks to continued strong demand for resale flats. The alternatives, Build-To-Order and Design, Build and Sell Scheme projects, are still years away from completion.'

But things may change. 'Generally, though valuations are still high, banks are becoming more conservative and there have been cases where buyers are offered only 70 per cent loans instead of the usual 80 per cent,' said ERA Asia Pacific's associate director, Mr Eugene Lim. That means more higher-value HDB resale flats are now being sold below valuation - in some cases, perhaps, up to $30,000 to $50,000 below, he said.

'For larger flats, the days of transactions with cash-over-valuation are over,' adds Mr Lim.

ERA's first-quarter resale HDB deals show 21 per cent of flats sold below valuation, 19 per cent at valuation. Of the rest, most fetched no more than $15,000 cash, said Mr Lim.

First-quarter median sublet rents were unchanged for the smaller flats, and down $100 to $200 for the four-room and larger flats.

In the first quarter, more people bought smaller three- to four-room flats. Their prices fell a little.

The larger flats saw a slightly bigger price fall of up to 2.8 per cent for executive flats, said Mr Mak. These larger flats will continue to face stronger downward price pressure, property experts said.

They expect increased demand for smaller flats as home buyers exercise prudence. 'In the coming quarters, we are likely to see more and more larger flats sold at or below valuation as the harsh economic conditions hit home,' said Mr Lim.

The good news is that the fall in HDB resale prices is not expected to dent upgrader demand for private homes as the rate at which HDB resale flat prices are falling is still less than that of private homes, Mr Mak said.

Private Home Prices Spiral Further Downward

Source : The Straits Times, April 25, 2009

The first quarter sees a 14.1% fall; rents continue to slide as well, and at a faster rate

PRICES of private homes fell off a cliff in the first quarter, continuing a dramatic slide that has now wiped out the gains owners have made since 2007.

Values dived 14.1 per cent in the first three months this year - the biggest fall on record - and followed a 6.1 per cent slide in the last quarter of last year.























Figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday also point to pain in the residential rent market and in the office sector.

But the plight of the private home sector caught most attention. The first-quarter fall was worse than an initial URA estimate of 13.8 per cent, indicating the slide accelerated towards the end of the quarter.

The souring of the market has been fast and furious. Prices had been rising for four years and were still going north until as late as September of last year but then the rot set in.

Price declines have been registered in three consecutive quarters with the fall in the first three months of this year the worst since the URA began keeping data in 1975. Private homes on the city fringes suffered the most, with prices down 17 per cent, compared with 16.2 per cent in the city centre and 7.3 per cent for suburban residences.

The hefty gains over the past two years have been erased, so owners who bought after the first quarter of 2007 could see their home's valuation fall below the purchase price, said Colliers International's director for research and advisory, Ms Tay Huey Ying.

Rents for private homes also kept falling and at a faster rate. They plunged 8.5 per cent in the first quarter compared with a 5.3 per cent decline in the last three months of 2008. Rents of non-landed prime homes fell the most, at 10.3 per cent.

HDB resale flats showed more resilience with prices inching lower by just 0.8 per cent in the first quarter - the first fall since the third quarter of 2006.

But there was a sliver of good news. Sales of new homes in the first quarter were a robust 2,596 units, driven by pent-up demand, price cuts and innovative product packaging, experts said.

The mass market sector was most active with upgraders picking up many units to help lessen the rate of price fall in suburban areas, said Knight Frank consultancy and research director Nicholas Mak. Developer sales in suburban areas reached 1,637 units in the first quarter, almost as many as were sold last year, he said.

But the prime market accounted for only a meagre 9.5 per cent of all developer sales. And sales in the resale and sub-sale markets remained weak.

'Property really depends on the economy, and the economy around the world and in Singapore still looks pretty weak.' National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told Bloomberg in Vietnam yesterday.

Mr Mak expects private home prices and rents to contract sharply in the first half of the year but the rate of decline will decelerate.

Singapore's office market also took a beating in the first quarter. Rents slid 10.7 per cent, the biggest fall since the first quarter of 1992, while prices fell 12 per cent. Take-up contracted for the second consecutive quarter and for the first time since late 2006, the islandwide vacancy rate hit 10 per cent.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Worst May Be Yet To Come

Source : The Business Times, April 25, 2009

All in all, the economy isn't shrinking as rapidly as it was. But so what? It's still shrinking

IS THE worst over? Investors seem to think it is. Confidence that the crisis is winding down has been mounting. But the right answer to the question depends on what 'worst' is meant. Appropriate replies include: probably, yes but so what, not yet, probably not, and let's hope so.

The worst of the credit squeeze is probably over. True, loan losses are still increasing. But the official aid is massive: minimal policy interest rates, ample liquidity supplies, capital injections and implicit loan guarantees.

The aid from above has helped push dollar interbank borrowing rates down in the last six weeks. The cost of insuring against corporate failure in the credit default swap market has also fallen by 0.5-0.7 percentage points to about 1.9 and 1.6 per cent annually for the main US and European investment grade CDS indexes. Improving bank credit has contributed to this trend. Better credit all round means more loans will be refinanced, so fewer companies will go under than would otherwise be the case.

The big official liquidity push also gives investors more cash to put into the markets. The additional buying power may account for some of the sharp increase in oil and equity prices. There have also been tentative signs of revival in the junk bond and IPO markets. To some extent, the mood is following the money.

It may be due to government help or it may just be the passage of time, but another worst that has probably passed is in the pace of economic decline. The huge sudden drop in activity after the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September has already become something of a business legend. If the decline had continued at that pace, economies would be back to the Stone Age in a few decades.

It's not going to be that bad. Globally, exports are down 30 per cent since last July, according to Lombard Street Research. But the pace of decline is moderating. Similarly, US housing starts, which have declined by 75 per cent since the 2006 peak, may have reached their low.

The balance of indicators still suggests GDP is falling in most developed economies, but at a much less dramatic rate than a few months ago. When the economy is only declining at a moderate pace, some measures typically suggest that growth is returning - the much talked-about 'green shoots' - but more show further decline. That seems to the case now.

Inventories complicate the picture. A sharp decline in global demand led to an even sharper reduction of inventories as retailers and manufacturers cut back. As the inventories are rebuilt, production will most likely pick up faster than consumption.

So yes, all in all the economy isn't shrinking as rapidly as it was. But so what? It's still shrinking. On that yardstick, therefore, the worst isn't yet over.

Now look at another measure of 'worst': unemployment. Even when growth does return, recovery is likely to be anaemic. It will take time to absorb the excesses built up during the credit boom, from houses in the US to too many Chinese factories making cheap goods.

What's more, it's not as if all that private-sector debt has gone away. The rise in savings rates in the US and elsewhere isn't going to be a one-quarter wonder. This means that the peak in unemployment could easily be two years away.

And will that then be the end of the pain? Probably not. The crisis will leave government balance sheets shot to pieces. The best case scenario is that the authorities manage to suck all their fiscal and monetary stimulus out of the economy safely once economic growth has bottomed out. Then all that the world will suffer is high taxes and slow growth.
But there is a risk that this outcome proves too unpopular and that the authorities instead take the current fad for 'quantitative easing' to the extreme - and just print money to finance their deficits. The outcome would then be inflation.

An inflationary outburst might even lead to another sort of financial crisis - a loss of confidence in key currencies. That could be worse than anything seen up to now.

Can such a dire outcome be avoided? Let's hope so.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

34年来最大跌幅 私宅价格 首季跌14.1%

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 25, 2009

发展商在上月底发动的促销攻势进一步加快楼价的崩跌,昨天出炉的市区重建局数据显示,今年第一季的私宅价格猛挫了14.1%,这比本月初初步数据显示的13.8%下跌更为严重。

这个跌幅是本地楼市近34年来的最大跌幅,甚至比1998年第三季、亚洲金融风暴冲击下的13.1%跌幅还要惨重。

经过连续三个季度的下跌,今年第一季的私宅价格指数已回落至139.9点,即2007年第一季的水平,累积跌幅达到21.2%。这意味,2007年之后进场买房子的人,大多已面对账面亏损。只有在2006年或之前进场的,还可能处于“安全水平”。

受访的房地产人士认为,接下来的私宅价格还会继续下滑,不过跌幅将逐渐放缓。他们指出,虽然最近的楼市买气转旺,但并不意味楼价已经见底,实际上目前的买气是发展商的削价措施带动的。

今年第一季卖得最好的项目包括水之轩(Caspian)、Double Bay Residences和新乐园(MiCasa),推出价格都比一年多前楼市最高峰时显著降低。

OrangeTee橙地产业执行董事陈道俊说:“第二季的私宅价格将下跌少于5%,带动2009年全年的跌幅控制在20%至25%以内。”

高力(Colliers)国际研究部主管郑惠匀也认为,发展商已经在今年第一季降价许多,所以接下来的下跌空间将减少。大众化私宅价格应该会在未来三个季度都平均下跌8%至12%,但中高档私宅价格的跌幅预料高达10%至15%。

在租金市场上,今年第一季的私宅租金也连续第三个季度下滑,虽然速度没有私宅价格急促,但也有加快的迹象。

今年第一季的私宅租金由下跌5.3%,加剧至下跌8.5%。这意味,本地私宅租金自2008年第二季以来,已经下跌14.1%,跌破2007年第三季的水平。

这主要是因为严峻的经济环境导致更多外国人因失去工作而离开新加坡。再加上今年也进入私宅项目的完工高峰期,单单第一季就有2230个单位完工。

办公楼和工业房地产市场的情况也在今年第一季加速恶化。今年第一季的办公楼租金由去年最后一季的下跌6.5%,加速至下跌10.7%;价格也由下跌4.9%加速至下跌12%。

工厂价格则在今年第一季下跌了10%,是1998年亚洲金融危机以来的最大跌幅。租金则下滑了6.1%。

第一太平戴维斯(Savills)研究部副董事森古塔指出,今年第一季的办公楼租金下跌了将近11%,是市建局自1990年发表租金数据以来,办公楼租金第一次跌破10%。在这之前的最大跌幅是1993年第三季的7.1%。

今年第一季的办公楼需求继续萎缩32万2920平方英尺,带动全岛的办公楼空置率自2006年底以来,第一次上升至10%以上。

郑惠匀透露,办公楼业主之间抢租户的情况相当激烈,一些业主把租金叫价调低25%至30%后,还提供租金假期,让租户可以暂时不需要支付任何租金。尽管如此,今年第一季的租用活动还是相当少,这是因为租户都尽量拖延更新租约的谈判工作,以便争取到更多的减租好处。

相比较之下,商店的价格和租金相对持稳,分别下滑了4.2%和3.3%。不过,在零售商的减租呼声下,业主已经通过各种租金优惠和租金假期来留住租户,商店租金预料还会继续走低。

共管公寓价格 市区跌幅

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 25, 2009

坐落在市区与市区边缘的中高档共管公寓价格,跌得比郊外大众化共管公寓来得惨重。市建局数据显示,位于核心中央商业区(CRC)和其他中央区(RCR)的共管公寓,今年第一季的价格猛挫了16%、17%,但是中央区以外(OCR)的共管公寓价格只下跌7.3%。

其中,又以Alexis、Nova 48、The Arte、The Mezzo、Domus、和iResidences等位于其他中央区、属于中档次的未完工共管公寓,价格跌得最厉害,高达18.4%。

相比较之下,像水之轩(Caspian)、莉雅苑(Livia)、新乐园(Mi Casa)等位于中央区以外、属于大众化档次的“楼花”,价格只下跌9.8%。已完工的大众化共管公寓价格跌幅更小,只有5.6%。

世邦魏理仕执行董事李晓和指出,这主要是因为大众化私宅价格得到组屋转售市场的扶持。由于组屋转售价格仍然处于高水平,一直到今年第一季才刚刚稍微下跌0.8%,而大众化私宅价格却已经在过去三个季度下滑大约17%,两者之间的价差缩小,所以人们纷纷趁此“窗口期”提升。

莱坊(KnightFrank)研究部主管麦俊荣指出,这也是今年第一季中央区以外的新单位成交量激增至1637个的主要原因。这占了今年第一季所有新单位成交量的64%。

今年第一季,发展商直接卖出2596个新私宅单位,比去年第四季暴增6倍。这带动发展商仍扣在手中、未售出但已推出的“存货”,减少了3.6%至1万7601个新单位。

截至今年第一季,发展商已申请到销售准证,即初步推出资格的私宅单位共有4万3246个。其中将近一半,即2万1139个单位还没有找到买家。

今年内将完工,但还没有卖出去的新私宅单位有466个。明年完工的未售单位有1072个,至于在2011年和2012年完工的未售单位则多达1072和5387个。

今年第一季的市场交易还是集中在新私宅市场,二手成交量并没有随着激增。今年第一季,有356个私宅单位是买家才买不久,还没有等到房子完工就脱售的“楼花”,另外1005个单位则是已完工单位的二手交易。相比较之下,去年第四季的二手“楼花”转售量为265个单位,已完工单位的转售量为965个。

市建局数据显示,今年第一季的共管公寓价格也比有地房地产跌得重。整体共管公寓价格下跌了大约15%,但有地住宅价格却下跌9.2%。

在租金方面,有地住宅与共管公寓的跌幅则没有太大的差别,都在7%、8%的范围内。唯一比较显著的,是位于核心中央商业区内、属于高档次共管公寓的租金,在今年第一季下滑了10.3%。其他中央区和中央区以外的租金,分别在今年第一季下跌了7.2%和6.5%。

指数下降0.8% 连涨两年后 组屋转售价今年首季下滑

Source : 《联合早报》Apr 25, 2009

持续不明朗的经济前景不只导致私宅、办公楼及工业厂房价格全面下滑,作为房地产市场最后一道防线的公共住屋也无法抵挡跌势,转售价经过连续两年多涨势后开始下跌,今年首季的组屋转售价指数下降0.8%,是2006年以来首次下滑。

这个跌幅比本月初步预估的0.6%还要大,也比2006年第三季滑落的0.2%来得高。

建屋发展局昨天公布的今年第一季组屋转售市场数据显示,组屋转售价指数一反去年第四季的1.4%涨幅,首次滑落至138.3点,显示组屋转售市场终于受到经济衰退影响。

涨幅自去年第二季渐缩小

其实,组屋转售价指数的涨幅自去年第二季开始慢慢缩小,去年第四季的1.4%涨幅是之前七个季度以来最低,因此这次转售价指数虽然首次下滑,但在市场预料之内。

ERA房地产公司助理副总裁林东荣受访时说:“组屋转售价自2007年首季上升33%后不断上升,去年第四季达到颠峰,因此现在屋价微跌,其实是意料中事,说明转售价随着经济和失业情况恶化而下滑。”

林东荣估计,整年的组屋转售价会下跌5%至10%。

博纳集团(PropNex)总裁伊斯迈则比较乐观,预料转售价将只下跌5%左右。

他说:“让人欣慰的是,虽然组屋转售价指数跌至138.3点,但仍未跌破1996年第四季房屋市场红火时的136.9点高峰。”

伊斯迈说:“很明显的,公共住屋市场在经济阴霾中仍具有‘顽抗力’(resilient),因为人们对转售组屋的需求持续强劲。其他住屋选择如预购组屋(BTO)及由私人发展商设计、兴建和销售的私人组屋(DBSS),需要几年时间竣工。”

越来越多买家也趁现在屋价下跌时购买转售组屋。第一季组屋转售交易量就上升了4.2%,共有6446间组屋完成交易,比上季度多了260宗。

林东荣说,1998年经济危机时也同样出现组屋转售交易量上升现象,这次也没例外。他认为,需求主要来自永久居民、大屋换小屋者及私宅“降级者”。