System should be based on preferences, not luck
Chong Chee Kin & Teh Joo Lin
Sat, May 24, 2008
The Straits Times

I REFER to yesterday's front-page report about the refined application process for buying new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats.

While the refinement of the balloting system is overdue, it does not address the fundamental problem. The problem is that the system is based largely on luck when it should be based on expectations or preferences.

Let me illustrate: Whenever there is a new build-to-order (BTO) project, I would check out the sales brochure, and appraise the layout of the different blocks and units, the surrounding amenities and future development of the area.

In the case of Jade @ Yishun Phase I, I had envisioned myself living in a unit on a high floor - that is, eighth floor and above - sipping a cuppa and enjoying the view of the reservoir or Yishun park.

But I was never given a chance at the ballot as my queue number exceeded twice the number of flats available. Subsequently, I was invited to select a flat from among the ones that were rejected. But all the units were on the second floor.

It is true that many applicants are choosy. But it is also a fact that the system can be fine-tuned to accommodate the genuine preferences of applicants.

After all, we are choosing a home, not a shelter.

The HDB should allow applicants to state their preferences for floor levels and block or unit numbers.

The system can then categorise applicants into groups with different balloting numbers. This is not only fairer but also more practical and accurate.

The current balloting system penalises many.

For instance, an applicant who has no preferences and whose sole desire is to obtain a flat as soon as possible, may repeatedly obtain a ballot number that puts him at the tail end. His chances of obtaining a flat anywhere will not improve appreciably despite repeated attempts.

On the other hand, another applicant who has specific preferences may fail in his objective as well. His queue number for flat selection may put him so far back that when his turn comes, he is left with flats in blocks or on floors that are not worth his while shelling out so much money for.


Tan Ai Li (Miss)



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