Big incentive to build large EC units

Big incentive to build large EC units

SINGAPORE - Large executive condominium (EC) units have been making headlines recently with their record high prices.

The move by developers to build these spacious, often lavishly appointed units has proved controversial, especially given the public policy objectives of increasingly popular ECs.

ECs - a public-private housing hybrid - come with government subsidies and are intended to help households with a monthly income ceiling of $12,000 move into private housing.

Why, some ask, should the Government be subsidising large, swanky homes?

But there are many incentives for EC developers to build these larger units, so long as they are permitted to do so.

And if you take a closer look at some of these apparently enormous EC units, the liveable indoor space can prove to be significantly smaller than it first appears to be. A few of these penthouses come with a large roof terrace - a concept that is hardly new in private housing.

This feature is becoming increasingly common in ECs as developers build bigger homes to differentiate their projects.

Uncovered roof terraces are not part of a project's allowable gross floor area, but buyers pay for them even though they cost developers relatively little to build.

Building large penthouses is thus the easiest and most efficient way for developers to up the ante in the competitive EC landscape.

Sometimes, it is simply a marketing tool, allowing them to package a project as luxurious and higher-end while having to fork out minimal extra cost.

Take for instance the more than 4,300 sq ft "presidential" penthouse suite in EC project CityLife @ Tampines, which has a roof terrace of about 1,600 sq ft. Its $2.05 million price tag works out to about $470 per sq ft (psf) - which seems like a discount - but rises to $744 psf if only liveable space is counted. This is in line with the project's average price of $770 psf that the developer charged.

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