OUR SINGAPORE CONVERSATION
THE future of executive condominiums (ECs) took centre stage at an Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) session on Wednesday.
Around half of the 55 participants, who were mostly current or future Housing Board home owners, called for the scheme to be scrapped entirely. An equal number defended it.
But Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman said any housing policy change will have to take into account the fact that many Singaporeans are already home owners.
"We can't view property void of the reality of hundreds of thousands of Singaporeans owning their own homes," he said.
"How we manage the property market will have an impact on current home owners too, and we should not forget that."
ECs have been in the news recently after National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan raised the issue that EC owners, who receive government subsidies, make a bigger profit in the resale market than the average flat owner.
One participant at the session said this was unfair. Another added that ECs widened the rich-poor divide by "helping the rich get richer".
The EC scheme, which was launched in 1996, targets home buyers who cannot afford private property. Households whose incomes are below $10,000 can buy a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat. For ECs, the income ceiling is $12,000.
Property expert Chris Koh, a participant at Wednesday's session, said an unintended consequence of ECs had been to push private property prices upwards.
"People started using ECs as benchmarks. So they would say, if an EC can sell at $800 psf, therefore my condo can sell at $1,000 psf," said Mr Koh, director of Chris International.
He proposed keeping the EC scheme but removing the grant of up to $30,000 given to first-time buyers, or imposing levies on those upgrading from an HDB flat.