Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HDB Revamps Home Office Scheme To Keep Things Hassle-Free

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008


LICENSING schemes for small-scale business at home and the use of telecommunications equipment have been more hassle-free, as the government moves to extend the tenure period under both regulations.

For example, the Housing Development Board has changed the approval period of all new and renewal applications under the Home Office Scheme (HOS) from three years to five years, even though the administrative fee has been kept at $20.

HOS allows budding entrepreneurs conduct small-scale business from HDB and private residential property. More than than 20,600 applications have been approved so far - most of them for IT consultancy, web design, real estate services and advertising.

HDB agency changed the approval periods to provide greater convenience to home office operators, such as allowing them leeway to formulate longer-term business plans.

HDB's deputy director of branch operations Foo-Ho Yoke Ming says the benefits have of HOS been manifold. 'Besides saving on rental of office space and enjoying lower start-up costs, users also save on travelling time and expenses to and from home and office. They also get to work from the comfort of their homes and spend more time with their families.'

HOS has drawn 19,000 applications so far from HDB flat owners. 'The feedback has been very positive,' says Mrs Foo-Ho. 'Some HO users have expanded beyond the scope of the Scheme and moved on to formal business premises. HDB will continue to work with home office users, listen to their feedback and see how much further the scheme can be taken while maintaining the residential character and amenities of our housing estates.'

Mr Kenneth Yeo, of home-run business COADXIST, says of the latest change: 'It shows that the government is supporting and encouraging the local business community.'

In a similar vein, the licence period for operating radio-communications equipment on board Singapore ships and aircraft has been extended from one year to five years at a revised fee of $100, up from $50 per annum previously.

According to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), frequency spectrum resources under the licensing scheme are fixed internationally and restricted to ship and aircraft use. which requires minimal intervention by IDA. Hence, improvements could be made to the licensing process. Besides the extended licence period, a licence can now be transferred when a ship or aircraft is sold.

Audrey Lee, director, competition and market access at IDA, says: 'IDA reviews its rules regularly to ensure that where possible, licensing processes are simplified and streamlined. Such reviews will keep our licensing schemes robust yet adaptable to the market.

The Pro-Enterprise Panel was set up in 2000 to solicit feedback from businesses on how government rules and regulations can be improved to create a more pro-enterprise environment. The PEP is chaired by Civil Service Head Peter Ho and consists of mainly private-sector business leaders.

Britain Faces Shallow Recession In H2

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008

(LONDON) Britain is heading for a shallow recession in the second half of this year and next year's economic growth will be the weakest since 1992, the Confederation of British Industry said yesterday.

Slowdown: The CBI cut its growth forecast for this year to 1.1% from 1.7% and slashed its 2009 forecast to 0.3% growth from 1.3%

The CBI cut its growth forecast for this year to 1.1 per cent from 1.7 per cent and slashed its 2009 forecast to 0.3 per cent growth from 1.3 per cent, urging the Bank of England (BOE) to cut interest rates to 4.5 per cent from 5 per cent in November.

The CBI expects GDP to contract 0.2 per cent on the quarter in the three months between July and September and 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter, with contraction spilling over into next year before the economy starts to recover.

'Having experienced a rapid loss of momentum in the economy over the first half of 2008, the UK may have entered a mild recession that will hopefully prove short lived,' the CBI's director-general, Richard Lambert said.

'This is not a return to the 1990s, when job cuts and a slump in demand were far more prolonged. Although the credit crunch will be with us for some time, conditions are set to improve later in 2009. The bank should have leeway to cut interest rates.'

Easing commodity prices and a weaker economy mean that inflation will fall back quite rapidly over 2009 and near the BOE's 2 per cent target in the fourth quarter of 2009 after peaking at around 4.8 per cent this year, the CBI said.

Inflation could then undershoot the Bank of England's target in 2010, making room for rates to be cut to 4 per cent by next spring, it said.

'The Bank of England's hands have been tied in recent months by the relentless rise in inflation,' said Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser.

'But with oil prices heading lower, very weak economic activity for a number of quarters, and little evidence of wage pressure, interest rates cuts will soon be justified,' Mr McCafferty said.

The CBI forecasts showed unemployment breaching the 2 million mark in 2009, with a jobless rate of about 6.5 per cent. -- Reuters

CapitaLand's One-North Investment Costs More

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008

It cites construction costs; projected return still on track

CAPITALAND yesterday said that its investment in one-north hub will now cost $476.8 million - up from $380 million announced in September 2007 - because of rising construction costs.

CapitaLand will own and manage a retail and entertainment zone called the hub at Vista Xchange at JTC's one-north.

Partner New Creation Church's Rock Productions, which will own and manage a civic and cultural zone, will invest $499.5 million in that project - up from $280 million announced last year.

Rock's increase is partly due to a planned increase in gross floor area (GFA) at the civic and cultural zone.

The zone will now have a GFA of 38,000 square metres, up from 'over 30,000' sq m announced previously.

The new investment figures mean that the hub will now cost $976.3 million, up from $660 million announced in September 2007.

CapitaLand and Rock yesterday said that they have awarded a $633 million contract for construction of the hub to Hexacon Construction Pte Ltd.

The project is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

CapitaLand said that despite the higher cost, its projected return will remain the same.

'We have enhanced our asset plan and are thus still able to achieve our target rate of return,' a spokesman told BT.

Shares of CapitaLand, Singapore's largest developer, continued to take a beating yesterday on various concerns - news of the increased investment, worry over the developer's exposure to China and a plunge in the Singapore stock market.

CapitaLand lost as much as 28 cents or 6.5 per cent. It ended the day 26 cents down at a one-year low of $4.03.

Like other developers, CapitaLand has seen its stock price sink as warnings about China's property market emerged over the past few weeks.

China's market could be headed for a 'meltdown' as home prices and sales slump, Morgan Stanley analysts said on Sept 12.

Developers including China Vanke, the nation's biggest publicly traded real estate developer, and Poly Real Estate Group have reported falling sales amid government lending curbs.

'Investors are a bit jittery about the forecasts,' CIMB property analyst Donald Chua said yesterday.

CapitaLand's shares have fallen 8 per cent since end-August, while Keppel Land's stock has fallen 16.2 per cent in the same period.

Keppel Land lost as much as 28 cents or 8.1 per cent yesterday. The stock closed 19 cents down at $3.25 - also a 52-week low.

China's August Property Prices Rise 5.3%

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008

BEIJING - China's urban property prices in August rose 5.3 per cent from a year earlier, down from a rise of 7.0 per cent in July, extending a trend of sagging property inflation that began early this year.

Average property prices across 70 large- and medium-sized cities dropped 0.1 per cent in August compared with July, the National Development and Reform Commission said on its website on Tuesday.

It compiles the figures together with the National Bureau of Statistics.

Price rises in some cities remain steep, while a couple top cities showed declines.

Average housing prices in Beijing in August were still 8.9 per cent higher than a year earlier. The annual property price rise in Hefei, capital of the Anhui province, was even higher, at 9.7 per cent.

Prices grew the fastest in Haikou, capital of China's most southern province, at an annual pace of 11.4 per cent.

The southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou were the only cities to experience price declines, of 6.4 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively. -- REUTERS

Restored Katong House Wins Unesco Award

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008

Project shows good conservation with innovative solutions for additional space

A RESTORED house at 733 Mountbatten Road built in the 1920s has been recognised with a Unesco award for innovation.

Village living: Built in the 1920s and restored with an extension, 733 Mountbatten Road is the first residential property here to receive the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award

It is the first residential property here to receive such an honour - the 2008 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation Jury Commendation for Innovation.

The house, the family residence of the Ang family, was restored with an extension added by Ang Gin Wah of Gin + Design Workshop.

In its citation, the jury, comprising 12 international experts, said that the contemporary addition to 733 Mountbatten Road had successfully added floor space while retaining and conserving the original building. The spatial arrangement and the massing of the new building in relation to the historic bungalow also creates an appropriate 'balance between the old and new'.

Balance of old and new: The original main house was conserved in totality. The interface between the old house and the new extensions were fused with glass to create 'a dialogue between the two'. Photos show two interior views

'This project, which demonstrates good conservation practice in combination with innovative solutions for providing additional space, sets a worthy model for re-use of heritage buildings in Singapore,' it added.

Mr Ang, who has an honours degree in architecture from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, reveals that the process of conservation and addition took almost three-and-a- half years to complete.

His parents had acquired the house in 1999 and wanted to build a multi-generational home consisting of three separate wings and a common family wing.

Photos show two interior views

Mr Ang said that the concept of 'village living' was the basis for the restoration.

'During the design process, it was decided that the added new wings would not mimic the main house in style as this would detract from the value of the old architectural fabric,' he said.

Instead, the new additions were sensitively designed with contemporary elements to 'create a degree of harmony'.

The original main house was conserved in totality. The interface between the old house and the new extensions were 'fused' with glass to create 'a dialogue between the two'.

The main house was left for many years in neglect. Initial visual inspections revealed structural cracks on the main beams supporting the timber floors and the walls. These were then pressure grouted to improve the structural strength.

All timber windows, doors and louvre panels were painstakingly dismantled piece by piece, labelled and stripped of the old paint then sanded before re-assembly. Mr Ang said that each window had about 40 parts.

The coloured glass panels at the windows were removed and washed before re-assembly. Broken panes were replaced with glass specially sourced in Australia, as these were not available locally. An addition of a non-static acrylic strip was discreetly installed between the louvres of the window panels to reduce heat load in the event air-conditioning is used.

The architectural elements that could not be restored or replaced were ingeniously recreated. This included decorative plaster elements from the capitals of the Corinthian columns of the porte cochere which had broken off decades ago.

To restore the broken fragments of the capital, Mr Ang made plaster moulds of the existing capitals and recast fragments that were missing.

'With careful planning and strategies, such as maximum retention, recruiting and training tradesmen and craftsmen locally, we managed to not only reduce cost but also preserve a part of history,' says Mr Ang with much satisfaction.

733 Mountbatten Road was one of 45 entries from 13 countries received for the Unesco award.

The top three Awards of Distinction went to: the National Pass in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia; the Fujian Earth Buildings in Fujian Province, China; and Suffolk House in Penang, Malaysia.

In Singapore, Chijmes, the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, received the 2002 Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Merit Award.

August Home Sales Dive; Prices Steady

Source : The Business Times, September 16, 2008

Developers put off launches while buyers wait out Hungry Ghost month

SALES of new homes fell sharply in August as developers held back launches and buyers waited out the slow Hungry Ghost month amid global turmoil.

Some hope: In August, mass market homes continued to fare better. At Hong Realty's Livia (left), some 32 units were sold at a median price of $659 psf while in the upmarket Ritz-Carlton Residences (below)one unit transacted at above $3,500 psf

The number of new homes sold fell sharply to 320, down 64.3 per cent from the 897 homes sold in July this year. The number of home sales in August 2008 was also down 81.4 per cent from the peak of 1,720 units sold in August 2007 at the height of the property boom.

But interestingly, the number of purchases outstripped the number of units launched by developers for the first time since April. Developers launched just 194 units in August - the lowest number over the past one year. Even in February this year, when just 185 homes were sold, developers rolled out 343 new units.

Expecting lacklustre numbers for the Hungry Ghost month, developers held back their launches, noted one property insider. 'If more projects had been launched, sales would probably have been better,' he said.

The Hungry Ghost month, widely deemed to be an unlucky period for homebuying, fell in August this year. However, this taboo has been ignored in past years during property booms.

Developers could also have used the month as an opportunity to hold back launches as they wait for the market sentiment to improve, said Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

But most property analysts generally agreed that August's numbers were not as bad as feared.

'When you consider that there was a lack of launches and a lack of advertising, the sale numbers were not that bad,' said DBS Vickers' property analyst Adrian Chua. 'I was pleasantly surprised.'

Prices also appear to be holding steady - for now.

'Surprisingly, prices are still holding up,' said CIMB analyst Donald Chua. 'But if volumes continue to be so thin, I wouldn't be surprised if there are some price cuts.'

Volumes continued to be low, especially in the high-end segment. In August, just three units were transacted at above $3,500 per square foot (psf) - two units from Nassim Park Residences and one from The Ritz-Carlton Residences Singapore Cairnhill. Another five units were sold for between $3,000-$3,500 psf.

Mass market homes continued to fare better. 'Despite having no new launches in this month, the outside central region (OCR) recorded a total transaction of 89 units,' pointed out Chua Yang Liang, head of research for South-east Asia at Jones Lang LaSalle.

At Hong Realty's Livia, for example, some 32 units were sold at a median price of $659 psf. Another 15 units were sold in Guoco- Land's The Quartz at a median price of $725 psf.

Looking ahead, a slight increase in sales volume is anticipated for September. But market watchers should not expect a large pick-up in numbers, analysts warned. 'The stock market is still getting hammered,' noted Mr Mak. 'And it's the middle of September, but we haven't seen any major launches yet.'

Developers' cautious sentiment can be expected to continue into next year.

'As more bad news unfolds from the western financial institutions, we would expect developers to turn more cautious and perhaps delay launches further until clarity is improved in the first half of 2009,' said Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

Echoed Li Hiaw Ho, executive director at CBRE Research: 'For the rest of the year, the mood of the market is likely to maintain the status quo as the market remains wary of a weakening in the global economic environment.'

Ghost Month Pulls Down Home Sales

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 16, 2008

Some link low sales figure of 320 units to the financial turmoil in US

SALES of new private homes took a big hit in August as the Hungry Ghost month - considered by some an inauspicious time for big decisions - weighed on sentiment already dragged down by global economic uncertainty.


Property developers sold only 320 units, a third of what they sold in July and the smallest number since April, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday. This sharply reversed three months of rising home sales and stemmed partly from the absence of new launches.

But some property consultants said sales beat their expectations as they had predicted an even poorer performance in the Hungry Ghost period. Last month was only the second month this year when units sold outpaced units launched, said DBS Vickers analyst Adrian Chua.

Kovan Residences

Some projects proved 'noteworthy successes' in the month, including boutique condominium Urban Lofts at Rangoon Road, which sold out all 46 units, said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research.

Higher-end projects Martin No. 38, Belle Vue Residences and Reflections at Keppel Bay all sold units at above $2,000 per sq ft (psf), while luxury development Nassim Park Residences sold eight units at a median $3,349 psf - 13 per cent higher than its median price in July.

Nassim Park Residences

Consultants expect sales to pick up now as more projects come on the market. Already, buyers are understood to have bought about 60 units at Concourse Skyline in Beach Road during the soft launch over the weekend, at prices ranging from $1,500 to $1,800 psf, developer Hong Fok said.

Far East Organization is also understood to have started sales at its Silversea condo in Amber Road, with about 13 units sold since Wednesday at prices averaging $1,500 psf, sources said.

Last month, developers put up just 194 new homes for sale, a fraction of the 1,322 units they released for sale in July and the least since monthly figures were made public last year. No new units were launched in suburban areas, possibly as buyers there are more superstitious, said Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research at Jones Lang LaSalle.

He expects sales and launches to recover this month and home prices to remain stable, as 'most developers are releasing in phases to avoid flooding the market'.

But other consultants believe the financial turmoil in the United States continues to take its toll on home buying sentiment here and may put more pressure on home sales and prices in coming months.

'It's convenient to blame the ghosts for the low sales in August, but I think this is more than just the Hungry Ghost effect,' said Mr Colin Tan, associate director at property consultancy Chesterton International.

'As more bad news unfolds from the US banks and other Western financial institutions, we would expect developers to turn more cautious and delay launches further, perhaps until the situation becomes clearer in the first half of next year,' added Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of business development and marketing at Savills Singapore.

He said last month's figures looked especially bad next to those in June and July because developers had tried to push units out before the Hungry Ghost month, boosting sales in those two months. Developers launched more than 1,000 units in June and July and sold more than 800 each month.

'Given that there were almost no new launches last month, selling 320 units is already quite good,' said Mr Ku. He noted that monthly sales in the last 12 months have hovered at about 320 units three times - in December, January and March - dipping below that in February and April.

But Mr Tan had a bleaker view. 'Sales cannot be zero, but at 320 homes sold I would describe the market as dead, there's no two ways about it,' he said.


'It's convenient to blame the ghosts for the low sales in August, but I think this is more than just the Hungry Ghost effect.'

Mr Colin Tan, Chesterton International associate director, who believes the financial turmoil in the US has also played a part in dipping property sales here

Sales Of New Private Residential Homes Fall By 64% In August

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 15 September 2008

Sales of new private residential homes slipped 64 per cent to 320 units in August, as compared to over 890 units sold in July. Market watchers say this is the weakest transaction volume since April 2008.

At the peak of the property boom in August 2007, over 1,700 units of private homes were sold, and the 320 units sold in August 2008 was 81 per cent lower year-on-year.

However, the low take-up was not unexpected as the Hungry Ghosts' Festival fell during that month - a season typically marked by sluggish demand.

Supply was also tight, with only 194 new units launched by developers in August, mainly in the central regions.

Head of research & consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle, Dr Chua Yang Liang, said: "There is a latent demand out there which we estimate is between 350 to 400 units per month.

"The number of launches are incidentally quite good in the rest of central and the core central regions as these are largely foreign-based markets, so there is a lot more transactions there."

Industry watchers are predicting more mass market projects to be launched in the fourth quarter, with some good quality units and attractive prices expected.

The recent reduction in development charges by the government could also rally the property sector.

Managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, Donald Han, said: "In the next six months, we probably expect some of the land (the) government tenders to be able to record lower prices.

"That may help developers to start creeping into the market on the basis of slight savings of land prices, (and it) may go a long way in subsidising the increase in terms of your construction cost."

Price-wise, observers say the numbers have remained fairly stable in August. Moving forward, they project a slight downward correction in overall home prices of between 3 and 8 per cent.

Analysts say the weakening global financial markets and inflation have cast a shadow over consumer confidence. Still, they expect the current market trend to hold, over the next few months.

Although the credit and housing troubles in the US show no sign of bottoming out, observers say Singapore's property sector will be able to weather the storm in the near term. -CNA/yt

Sale Of Executive Condominium Housing Site In Punggol

Source : AsiaOne, Tue, Sep 16, 2008

An Executive Condominium (EC) housing site at Punggol Field/Punggol Road has been put up for tender by the Housing & Development Board (HDB), on behalf of the Government. The tender will close on Tuesday, 11 Nov 08.

The land area is 22 497.3 square metres.

The project completion period is 48 months from the date of acceptance of tender, with a lease term of 99 years.

Nearby facilities include the Punggol MRT station, the Cove LRT station and the future Punggol Town Centre.

Additional facilities within walking distance comprise schools, shops and common green areas.

First time families with household incomes of up to $10 000 are eligible to purchase new ECs. Those eligible are entitled to a $30 000 EC Housing Grant.

For enquiries, tenderers can email to hdblandsales@hdb.gov.sg, call 64903037 or 64903034, fax to 64903005 or via the enquiry form in HDB InfoWEB http://www.hdb.gov.sg/hdblandsales

'New Uncertainties' For S'pore

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 16, 2008

TRADE and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said in Parliament on Tuesday that the meltdown in the US financial market is causing 'new uncertainties' for Singapore.

'The dramatic developments in the US financial industry in the past few days have created new uncertainties,' Mr Lim said. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

'The dramatic developments in the US financial industry in the past few days have created new uncertainties,' Mr Lim said. 'We are closely monitoring these latest developments in the external environment and assessing their impact on our economy.'

US investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was forced into bankruptcy on Monday as British bank Barclays, and Bank of America abandoned takeover talks amid the subprime mortgage crisis that has generated losses of more than US$514 billion (S$736.3 billion) worldwide.

In his National Day Rally speech on Aug 8, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore's economy will expand between 4 per cent and 5 per cent, less than a previous estimate of 4 per cent to 6 per cent.

According to a Bloomberg News report on Tuesday, as the US housing recession roils financial markets and affects demand for Asian-made products, Singapore's growth will slow from 2007's pace of 7.7 per cent.

New Promenade At Marina

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 16, 2008

BY END of next year year, visitors to Marina Bay will be able to enjoy an uninterrupted stroll along the 3.5km promenade, linking up the necklace of attractions around the bay.

Attractions that will form part of the $35 million waterfront promenade include a 300-m long steel structure, water features and a shaded tropical walk.

When completed, the 3.5km waterfront promenade will form part of the longer 11.7km waterfront route around Marina Reservoir, which will link up the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Barrage and the new Sports Hub. -- PHOTO: URA

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Tuesday announced the new waterfront features which will link up the Marina Centre, Collyer Quay and Bayfront areas.

The promenade is designed by an international design team led by Australian architects, The Cox Group, in collaboration with local firm Architects 61.

Among the attractions visitors can look forward to is the Bayfront promenade, which stretches in front of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort development.

It is planned as a two-tier promenade comprising a granite-paved upper-level promenade and a lower-level timber boardwalk.

The upper level includes lushly landscaped shady areas and paved areas for people to stroll or jog, as well as for the3 staging of events.

The lower-level timber boardwalk will incorporate water-taxi landing points and berthing points for boats. It will also be an extension of the Event Plaza and provide direct access to the two floating Crystal Pavilions that form part of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort.

This stretch will boast a number of unique design features, including a 300m-long sculptural, tubular stainless steel structure. It includes night lighting, power points and audio speakers, providing an integrated light-and-sound experience, as well as fine spray misters.

The lower-level boardwalk will include a generous expanse of tiered-seating and steps that allow visitors to go right down to the water's edge, and double up as seats for watching events and activities taking place within the Bay.

At the southern corner of the Bay, the promenade will widen to create a family-oriented public open space, with a series of linear water features, that will include dancing water jets.

The stretch of the waterfront promenade along Marina Boulevard will be a shaded tropical walk with flowering shrubs and shade trees to create a lush and delightful experience.

Continuous Loop
The Marina Boulevard stretch will connect to the stretch along Collyer Quay, which is being constructed as part of the new Fullerton Heritage development.

It will include parts of the historic pier structures at the Former Clifford Pier and Customs Harbour Branch buildings, as well as new decks over the water.

It will connect to the existing promenade at One Fullerton - currently being refurbished with a wider pedestrian walkway, water features and al fresco dining areas - and on to the Merlion Park.

At the other end, the promenade will connect to the new double-helix pedestrian bridge linking visitors from Bayfront to Marina Centre, thus completing an uninterrupted walking route around the Bay.

When completed, the 3.5km waterfront promenade will form part of the longer 11.7km waterfront route around Marina Reservoir, which will link up the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Barrage and the new Sports Hub.

建新的同时改旧的 当局双管齐下增加租赁组屋

Source : 《联合早报》September 16, 2008












此外,为确保低收入者有能力购买小型组屋,建屋局现有的组屋转售抽润(resale levy)政策也有助于控制屋价。