SINGAPORE - Nearly 100 couples made up of citizens married to a foreign spouse have applied for new two-room Housing Board (HDB) flats in the last Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise last month.
This was the first time they were able to do so after a change in the rules.
Previously, this group could buy only resale flats, which are typically more expensive and include a cash premium paid above the valuation price.
About 530 of such couples have been buying on the open market every year since 2008, said an HDB spokesman.
But an expansion of the Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme now gives these couples more flexibility in purchasing a public flat.
To qualify for a new two-roomer, Singaporeans - who need to be 35 years old or older - and their non-citizen partners cannot together earn more than $5,000 a month.
Depending on income level, they would also get the same housing grants as singles, which can be as much as $30,000.
The HDB spokesman added that these couples can subsequently apply for a top-up grant, if the spouse becomes a citizen or permanent resident, or if the couple has a child who is either of the two.
Property analysts say there are two possible reasons behind the tweaks.
One is that more Singaporeans are marrying non-citizens.
According to the population White Paper released earlier this year, these marriages make up about 40 per cent of marriages here annually. There were about 9,000 cases in 2011 alone.
The other, says Suntec Real Estate Consultants research head Colin Tan, is to give priority to Singaporeans.
"Currently, two permanent residents can also buy a flat from the resale market. So I think it's necessary to differentiate if one party is a Singaporean," he said.
About 20,000 applications were received for the 4,000 flats on offer last month, of which 8,500 came from singles.
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