Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Higher ERP Rates And New Gantries From July 7

Source : The Straits Times, June 18, 2008

Changes are aimed at making city traffic flow smoothly in the evenings

TOP up that CashCard. Driving into the city is going to cost more.
Five new gantries along the banks of the Singapore River go live from July 7, bringing the total number islandwide to 65.

Gantries in the business district will stay on an extra hour, to 8pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays, Orchard Road gantries will start an hour earlier, at 11am.

Higher Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges kick in, too. Motorists will pay up to $2 more in the most extensive review of tolls since the first gantry went up 10 years ago.

The focus of this review is to speed up city traffic, especially from 6pm to 8pm.

Average speeds along North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road have dropped from about 25kmh in 2002 to 19kmh last month.

To speed things up, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is making three changes, starting with how ERP is charged.

'When a motorist has paid whatever the going rate is to use the road, we want him to be able to have a smooth journey. The problem now with the average speed measurement is that the majority of people who pay do not get that experience,' said an LTA spokesman.

From July 7, motorists will get to travel at speeds above 20kmh on arterial roads and at least 45kmh on expressways, at least 85 per cent of the time, up from just half the time now.

The new criteria will be used in the city centre first, before being extended to other gantries over the next seven months.

Another change being made affects the actual ERP charges. All new gantries will start with $2 deductions and as speeds deteriorate, each jump will be $1.

Over the last 10 years, it has become increasingly more difficult to deter motorists with 50-cent jumps. In 2006, it took nine rate hikes to do the job. Last year, 25 adjustments were needed, said LTA.

The last change - adding five new gantries along the Singapore River - is aimed at discouraging motorists from using city roads as a short cut.

These initiatives were first mentioned in January as part of a new transport masterplan aimed at getting more people onto public transport.

Since then, extra train and bus services and higher fuel prices have helped move some motorists off the roads.

Public transport ridership hit a record 4.78 million rides a day in the first three months of this year.

But this is not enough to postpone ERP rate hikes, said LTA. Average speeds along Bras Basah Road, for example, are down from about 30kmh in 2002 to about 22kmh last month.

Higher inflation is also not a reason to put it off.

Mr Cedric Foo, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, said: 'We should not mix up road usage measures like ERP with means to cope with general inflation.'

LTA added that holding off the ERP changes can lead to bigger economic problems due to congestion.

Motorists will get some relief in the form of lower road tax from next month. Vehicle registration fees were also lowered in March.

Mr Ong Kian Min, deputy chairman, GPC (Transport), added: 'With the change in how ERP charges are determined, motorists are given the Government's assurance that if you pay to use the road, you can enjoy a smooth ride.'

ERP Rates In CBD To Go Up, 5 New Gantries Added

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 June 2008

About half of existing ERP gantries islandwide will see their rates increase from July 7.

The electronic road pricing (ERP) rates for 32 of 65 gantries will increase by between 50 cents and S$2.00. The gantries are primarily in the Central Business District (CBD) and Orchard Road.

Five new ERP gantries along the Singapore River will also be activated on July 7.

Traffic in the CBD is slowing down, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). So in January, as part of its Master Plan, the LTA came up with a new way to measure speed.

It is called the 85th percentile method - this is when motorists experience smooth traffic at least 85 percent of the time on roads that have ERP gantries.

Related Video :-

Another new LTA initiative is for bigger ERP rate increases because, LTA said, motorists are less sensitive to the existing rate structure.

In addition, ERP operating hours in the CBD will be extended by one hour on weekdays - from 7pm to 8pm - while gantries in the Orchard Road cordon will start an hour earlier on Saturdays, at 11am.

To reduce congestion further, LTA is putting in five new gantries along the Singapore River.

This essentially divides the CBD into two parts - the predominantly shopping-commercial district around the Bugis-Marina area and the office-based areas in Robinson Road.

LTA hopes that these gantries, which run from Eu Tong Sen Street to Fullerton Road, will cut down on what they call "through traffic".

LTA's chief engineer for transportation, Dr Chin Kian Keong, said: "The gantries along the Singapore River will deal with traffic passing through. They (some motorists using the roads) are not destined for that part of the city, but merely passing through to get to other parts of Singapore. If we can discourage some of these trips from city roads, traffic levels on these roads will become better."

Currently, a third of all traffic in the area is what LTA calls "through traffic" and LTA hopes to cut this by half, with the new ERP gantries.

Five of these gantries - at Fullerton Road, Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road and South Bridge Road - will operate on weekdays from 6pm to 8pm daily. Motorists will pay S$2.00 from 6pm to 7.30pm and S$1.00 from 7.30pm to 8pm.

Two of the gantries - at Fullerton Road and Eu Tong Sen Street - will also operate on Saturdays from 12.30pm to 8pm, and motorists will have to pay S$2.00.

More changes may be coming up. In November, LTA will again use its new criteria to review gantry rates within and up to the outer cordon. And in February next year, LTA will look at all other gantries islandwide.

The question many motorists may have is "why is the government increasing the ERP rates now?", considering that there is a freeze on all government fees till the end of the year.

The Transport Ministry said things like the ERP rates are excluded from the freeze and that traffic congestion, left unchecked, will have a negative effect on the economy. - CNA/ir

Most Expensive Flat In Asia Sold In Hong Kong

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 18 June 2008

HONG KONG: A luxury flat in Hong Kong has sold for 225 million Hong Kong dollars (28.8 million US), the most expensive apartment per square foot ever sold in Asia, a report said on Wednesday.

A view of Hong Kong island from the Peak

The 80th floor penthouse with a private swimming pool and spectacular view of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour sold for 41,000 dollars per square foot, a report in the Sing Tao Daily said, citing an unnamed real estate source.

The 5,497-square-foot (511-square-metre) flat, with its own roof-top terrace, is located in a new complex called The Arch, in Hong Kong's Kowloon area.

The Arch is close to a yet-to-be-completed office tower, the International Commerce Centre.

The new tower is attracting multinational firms away from the central business district, where rocketing property prices have scared away even the world's richest firms.

The flat's price beat the record of 39,800 Hong Kong dollars per square foot set last November for a larger apartment on Hong Kong island, according to the report.

Hong Kong's property market has boomed in recent years, following a major crash during the Asian financial crisis in the later 1990s. - AFP/ac

US May Housing Starts Fall To 17-Year Low

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 June 2008

WASHINGTON : US housing starts slid 3.3 percent in May to the slowest pace in 17 years amid a prolonged slump in the real-estate sector, government data showed on Tuesday.

Construction workers build a new home in North Aurora, Illinois.

May housing starts represented a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 975,000 units, the Commerce Department said, slightly below the consensus analyst forecast of 980,000 units.

That was the lowest level since 921,000 in March 1991.

On a 12-month basis, new housing construction in May plunged 32.1 percent from the revised May 2007 rate of 1,436,000 units.

Construction permits, an indicator of future activity in the housing sector, slipped 1.3 percent from April to a rate of 969,000 units and were 36.3 percent below the May 2007 level.

The May declines marked a return to a downward trend after a surprisingly strong jump in homebuilding in April.

The Commerce Department revised downward its initial estimate of April housing starts to 1.008 million units, from 1.032 million.

It raised its prior estimate on April permits to 982,000 units, from 978,000. - AFP/de

URA Launches Tampines Residential Site For Sale By Public Tender

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 June 2008

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has launched a residential site at Tampines Avenue 1/Avenue 10 for sale by public tender.

The land parcel is one of four new residential sites to be offered for sale as a confirmed site under the Government Land Sales Programme for the first half of this year.

The 99-year leasehold site spans about 3.2 hectares. It will have a maximum permissible gross floor area of 66,655 square metres.

The land also fronts the Bedok Reservoir, offering a panoramic view of the lake.

Consultants from real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis expect units in the new development to sell for around S$700 per square foot.

This will translate to a possible land price of around S$200-$230 per square foot per plot ratio for the site.

The tender will close at noon on August 12. - CNA/ir

Tampines Residential Site Up For Tender

Source : The Straits Times, June 18, 2008

Offer seen as acid test for property market after recent signs of upswing

A NEW home site on offer in Tampines, overlooking Bedok Reservoir, could shape up as an acid test for the property market after recent signs of a revival.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday invited developers to submit bids for the 3.2ha site at the junction of Tampines avenues 1 and 10.

Some property consultants said the 99-year leasehold site's suburban location meant completed homes could command prices of up to $700 per sq ft (psf), which is slightly higher than neighbouring condominiums.

They say the land could fetch anywhere between $107 million and $165 million.

The site, with a maximum gross floor area of 66,655 sq m, is next to The Tropica condo, where caveats show recent deals were done for between $547 psf and $622 psf, or $590,000 to $1.13 million.

Other nearby condos include Aquarius By The Park, The Clearwater and the recently completed Baywater, which fetched $600 psf to $680 psf.

Mr Leonard Tay, director of research at CBRE, said: 'Based on these comparables and taking into account higher construction costs, we expect that a new 99-year leasehold project in this location may fetch prices of around $700 psf.'

This would translate to a possible land price of $200 to $230 psf per plot ratio for the site, he added.

But some others expect a more cautious response, in view of the current fairly quiet market and the risk of falling prices.

On Monday, the URA released figures showing that private home sales had rebounded from the previous months' lows. But the sales were still way below last year's figures.

Consultants such as Ms Tay Huey Ying of Colliers International said the upswing in activity could be the result of developers testing the market with launches.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, Savills Singapore's director of business development and marketing, said bids for the Tampines plot could come in as low as $150 to $180 psf per plot ratio.

At this price, the successful developer could sell the apartments for $650 psf to $700 psf, he added.

Although the site fronts Bedok Reservoir, not all the apartments will have a view of the lake, said Mr Ku.

Mr Tay said that as the site is on the north-western boundary of Tampines New Town, it is about five to 10 minutes' drive from Tampines Central and Tampines MRT station.

Residents can also head for Tampines Retail Park on Tampines Avenue 10, where Giant, Ikea and Courts are located, he added.

The tender for the Tampines site will close on Aug 12.

It is a confirmed list site under the Government's land sales programme. These sites go on sale on specified dates.

The Government also sells land under a reserve list, in which sites are put up for sale only after developers have indicated interest by committing to a minimum bid.

This month, the Government is expected to announce its land sales programme for the second half of the year.


Some consultants expect the site to fetch prices of $200 to $230 psf per plot ratio. But others expect a more cautious response, saying bids could come in as low as $150 to $180 psf per plot ratio.

URA Plot Facing Bedok Reservoir Up For Sale

Source : The Business Times, June 18, 2008

Fairly good response seen with modest bids ranging from $200-$300 ppr

A 99-YEAR leasehold condo plot at Tampines Ave 1/10 fronting Bedok Reservoir, launched yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, is likely to draw modest bids ranging from $200 to $300 per sq ft of potential gross floor area, given tepid developer sales, property consultants say.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han reckoned that 'given Singaporeans' affinity for living near water, the site should see fairly good response from developers'. 'I would expect this site to fetch a fair number of bids, maybe about five,' he added.

On the other side of Bedok Reservoir, in a more choice spot, Frasers Centrepoint and Far East Organization are understood to have sold about 140 units at their Waterfront Waves condo. The average price is about $800 psf for reservoir-facing units and around $750 psf for pool-facing units.

'The Waterfront Waves project has better views all round whereas the URA site is kind of tucked in a corner,' Mr Han said.

Assuming a new condo on the latest plot can sell for about $750 psf on average, the land bids will come in at about $280-$300 psf. 'For developers to bid higher than this range, they must be confident of selling the project at above $750 psf or have a sense of controlling costs in a market where construction costs are spiralling upwards,' he added.

CB Richard Ellis director (research) Leonard Tay projected an even lower land price of around $200-$230 psf per plot ratio. He reckoned a new 99-year leasehold project on the site may fetch an average price of around $700 psf, citing resale prices for nearby completed condos, and factoring in higher construction costs.

'Current prices of units in The Tropica, Aquarius By The Park and The Clearwater are within $550 psf and $670 psf, while those at Baywater, a recently completed condominium, are around $600-$680 psf,' Mr Tay added.

Cushman's Mr Han reckoned the latest plot, which has a land area of 341,650 sq ft and a 2.1 plot ratio - the ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area - can accommodate a new condo with about 650 units averaging 1,100 sq ft.

URA's latest plot is next to The Tropica, developed by a Hong Leong Holdings unit and completed around 2000.

The tender for the plot closes on Aug 12. It is the penultimate plot to be launched under the first-half 2008 confirmed list of Ministry of National Development's Government Land Sales programme.

The 11th and final plot on the current confirmed list is a 'white' site at Ophir/Rochor roads. Slated for release by the end of this month, the 2.7 hectare plot will be sold with minimum office and hotel components stipulated. MND's H1 2008 GLS programme also includes 26 reserve list plots. Twenty-four of these have been available for application by developers - but not one has been triggered for sale.

The two remaining reserve plots - residential sites in Sengkang West Avenue and Sembawang Road - will be made available for application by month-end. All eyes in the property market are now on the GLS programme for H2 2008, which will be announced by the end of this month.

New Gantries To Beat Congestion In City Centre, ERP Rate Structure Revised

Source : The Business Times, June 18, 2008

Five new ERP gantries and increases in electronic road pricing rates from July 7 are aimed at easing congestion in the city centre.

The new gantries will run along the Singapore River from Clemenceau Avenue to Fullerton Road. They will separate commercial and shopping areas such as the Suntec City area from the office-based areas in Shenton Way and Robinson Road.

The aim is to cut the amount of through traffic using the city area for outbound trips in the evening. The concept is similar to that behind the Orchard Cordon, which discourages vehicles from using Orchard Road to get to other areas.

Since the Orchard Cordon was implemented, 'transit traffic has been reduced from 30 per cent to 20 per cent', according to Permanent Secretary for Transport Choi Shing Kwok.

The aim of the new gantries is to cut the current 6,000 car trips into the central business district by 17-18 per cent.

'Fuel price increases have not affected this group much,' says Mr Choi, after citing a 7 per cent jump in the public transport ridership in the first four months of the year - when petrol prices were soaring.

The five new gantries will operate from 6pm to 8pm on weekdays. Two of them - at Eu Tong Sen Street and Fullerton Road (towards Esplanade Drive) - will also operate on Saturdays from 12.30pm to 8pm. They will join 32 existing gantries in the CBD. With the five new ERP gantries, the island will have a total of 65.

The revision of the ERP rate structure involves increases in the base charge and increments. For cars, the incremental charge will be raised from 50 cents to $1. The base charge, which is the starting charge for a new ERP gantry point, will be raised from the current $1 to $2.

The Land Transport Authority said this is because motorists have become less sensitive to the current rate structure, which has remained unchanged since 1998.

According to LTA, the changes will improve the effectiveness of the ERP system, and each time ERP rates are adjusted, motorists who still choose to drive on these roads will see a visible improvement in traffic flow.

LTA allayed concerns about the possible effect on businesses by citing the experience of London and its congestion charge. It said that since the English capital started the scheme, traffic in the central charging zone has been cut by 21 per cent. But hotels, restaurants and retail businesses have not only registered stronger business performance but outperformed other areas of London.

Rising Construction Costs Put Squeeze On Builders

Source : The Business Times, June 18, 2008

Some manage to factor into contracts the higher risks of price fluctuations

Construction costs have risen across the board by at least about 13 per cent in Singapore in the six months to end-March. And for the residential/ condominium segment, costs have risen even faster, by as much as 16 per cent, according to a report by construction cost consultancy Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB).

The rise comes in the light of a 23 per cent increase in the Building and Construction Authority's tender price index in Q4 2007 on a year-on-year basis, making Singapore among the most expensive in the world.

At the top end in Q1 2008, the construction cost for a luxury condominium, a five-star hotel and a 55-storey office now comes to as much as $4,000-$5,500, $5,650-$7,680 and $4,960-$5,660 psm per gross floor area (GFA) respectively, according to RLB.

Says RLB managing partner Winston Hauw: 'High demand and competition for limited resources, the lack of tendering capacity among contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers, and volatile commodity prices have contributed significantly to building price escalation.'

RLB also found that the prices of crude oil, copper and aluminium have increased by 22-26 per cent between January and April.

According to RLB's 2007 data, Singapore ranks after Macau and Hong Kong on its tender price relativity matrix. Against this index with Hong Kong at 100, Singapore is 97 while Macau is 102. London is 144, New York is 140 and Sydney is 105.

RLB also has its own tender price index. At end Q4 2007, the index rose 26.3 per cent year on year and it expects this to rise a further 15-18 per cent in 2008. Property prices have eased but RLB believes this will have a limited impact on local construction demand in the short term due to the large existing project commitments on hand from both the public and private sectors.

These 'commitments', together with rising costs, are adding strain to the industry.

United Engineers Ltd (UEL), which has operations across Asia, agrees with the growing market sentiment that Singapore could actually be the most expensive in the world in building costs. But a UEL spokesman added: 'But it is likely to be a temporary phenomenon.'

To mitigate against rising costs, some construction companies have priced in the risk of price fluctuations at higher levels. A spokesman for a construction company said that in general, this could amount to 10-20 per cent of the construction package. Saying that this has increased by at least 10 per cent over the last three years, he added, 'In fact, three years ago you might still have had to mark down to increase competitiveness.'

Straits Construction Co director Wong Chee Herng, however, says that these risk factors are still very 'material specific'. And although such contractual clauses are becoming more common, Mr Wong said these are not always adopted.

Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers president Lim Lan Yuan believes the pricing-in of risks may have increased by as much as 10-15 per cent since 2007 simply because 'prices are so uncertain'.

The filter-down effect of rising costs is that more projects could be delayed. While private sector developers have stayed largely silent about the impact, it was recently reported that the completion of the Singapore Sports Hub could be pushed back to 2012. While it was only reported that the delays were due to the 'contract's financial and legal details', it is probably safe to assume that construction costs were a factor too.

A spokesman for City Developments Ltd told BT: 'There is a significant increase in demand for construction work over the past two years. However, we are fortunate to have a team of regular contractors who continue to build our projects over this difficult period.'

A spokesman for Kajima in Singapore says that delays are also not simply due to construction costs per se but also due to the 'inability to pay' for certain materials or services. Citing the cost of steel re-bars as an example, which have doubled in price since 2007, he says: 'It's an additional cost we have had to bear. Basically, if (a construction company) can't shoulder this, it will have to default.'

Reiterating the plight of construction companies, Singapore Contractors Association (Scal) executive director Simon Lee says: 'It is not true that Singapore construction companies are pricing in high-risk factors for all contracts. They only price in high-risk factors in the demanding and unreasonable contracts.'

He added: 'Some contracts are very unforgiving and expect construction companies to take on all unforeseen risks and absorb all cost increases.'

But Mr Lee believes that construction costs are still competitive here because 'labour cost is still kept at a reasonable level'.

He also says that while costs and shortages of materials can affect the progress of projects here, 'on a case-by-case basis, the construction company and the developer will discuss the best way to resolve these issues. The parties always prefer not to nullify contracts if such issues can be amicably settled'.

新私宅市场稍见“血色” 5月比4月多卖一半

Source : 《联合早报》June 17, 2008





今年4月,本地楼市再因为美国投资银行贝尔斯登(Bear Stearns)事件而再度回软,推出和售出的新私宅单位都减少。不过,进入5月后,由于局势较为稳定,所以吸引一些买家回流。

高力(Colliers)国际研究部主管郑惠匀认为,5月销售数字上升,可能是因为发展商推出市场来试探反应的项目传出捷报。例如Nassim Park Residences、Vutton、The Verve和Vogx都取得50%以上的销售率。






一些已安排在6月推出的项目,包括和美的Dakota Residences以及城市发展的Shelford Suites。消息指出,这两个项目的推出价格,应定得比目前的市价低5%至15%。


例如位于罗拔申码头的8 Rodyk就卖出了23个,即近半数的单位。它们的平均成交价格为每平方英尺1800元,比去年7月附近推出的Watermark还要高。

华业置地的Nassim Park Residences也在5月卖出了39个单位,即超过一半的推出单位,每平方英尺平均成交价格为2929元。这不但是今年市场推出的第一个豪宅项目,也比去年上市的Beaufort at Nassim的每平方英尺平均价格(2700元)高。

华业置地发言人昨天透露,Nassim Park Residences随后又以较高的价格卖出更多单位,目前的售出单位已超过50%,每平方英尺平均成交价约3300元。