By Lee U-Wen
SINGAPORE - The government would consider stepping in if the proportion of "shoebox" units in Singapore becomes too high, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.
While he acknowledged the fact that homes being built by private developers were getting smaller, he gave the assurance that HDB flats here were not shrinking despite public belief that it was.
Mr Khaw, who was speaking at the annual Reach Contributors Forum, shared that flat sizes in Singapore have remained the same for the last 15 years.
"There has been this misunderstanding that HDB has shrunk its units in recent years. We have not," he said in response to concerns about the growing numbers of such homes and the impact that this would have on family bonding.
"We continue to build smaller units and larger units and it is the choice of the consumers. We have 1.2 million housing units and some could be of that size because there would be people who find it comfortable for their purpose instead of having a big place and finding it very hard and costly to buy and maintain," said the minister.
"But if the percentage becomes too much, we may have to step in and say, 'Are you sure there will be demand for it?'" he added.
Shoebox units - which are tiny homes of 540 square feet or less, or about the size of four HDB carpark lots - have been popular with homebuyers in recent years.
According to latest figures, shoebox apartments comprised more than a quarter of private home sales in the first quarter of this year, up sharply from about 15 per cent in the final quarter of 2011.
Mr Khaw also noted that many Singaporeans were worried about soaring home prices but he described this as a temporary imbalance of supply and demand.
He shared how, in the last five years, the country's population was increasing at a rate that infrastructure could not match, resulting in the spike in prices.
"HDB has been aggressively pumping units into the market and although Singapore is not in the steady stage yet, there is some stabilisation," said Mr Khaw.
He added that the government was committed to build at least 100,000 new flats in the next five years if necessary.
Also present at yesterday's dialogue, held at the *Scape Park at Orchard Road, were Acting Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Chan Chun Sing and Reach chairman Amy Khor.
This article was first published in The Business Times.