TWO-ROOM flats and studio apartments will be unified into a single scheme by the next Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise in August, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
The two Housing Board schemes are currently different as they serve different clientele, he told The Straits Times.
Studio apartments, meant for elderly home owners using a previous flat to fund their retirement, have a 30-year lease and are for those aged at least 55.
Two-room flats with a 99-year lease are for families or singles.
Both flat types come in 36 sq m or 45 sq m sizes, but studio apartments are cheaper due to their shorter leases.
"While the differences are logical, they can be quite confusing for potential buyers," said Mr Khaw. "We will try to see if we can replace both schemes with a single scheme."
He added: "But to continue to accommodate the different needs of different buyers, we can allow the new scheme to come with different lease tenure and different sales terms."
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh welcomed the news, as he has called for shorter lease tenures for HDB flats since 2012. "Shorter leases may really help people who might not be able to afford flats otherwise," he said.
In response to MPs' calls, Mr Khaw first indicated that he would merge the two-room and studio apartment schemes in this year's Budget debate.
Yesterday, Mr Khaw said: "The details are being thought through. We will work towards launching the new unified scheme by the time of the next BTO exercise."
The next exercise in August will offer 2,710 flats in Punggol and 2,150 flats in Bidadari.
The flats in Punggol include two-room units and those in Bidadari include studio apartments. Mr Khaw's latest comments could mean the same unified flat type will be offered in both estates.
But property experts are worried about the resale implications.
"There will be two-room flats of various leases within the same blocks all over Singapore. This could cause complications in the market," said SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak.
With shorter leases, families may inherit flats with just a few years left, which would be hard to sell, said Century 21 chief executive officer Ku Swee Yong.
For Mr Gan, however, shorter leases provide a more accessible first rung on the property ladder. "People may not want to start with a heavy commitment."
They also suit home owners downsizing after their children leave the nest, said Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng, who has also called for shorter leases. "For most of us, we might think: It's my second flat, I really don't need such a long lease."
This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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