Higher income ceilings won't hit flat supply

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Those applying for new Housing Board flats need not worry about greater competition with the latest increase in income ceilings to buy new flats, as supply can be adjusted when necessary, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

"We have leverage over the supply, and we can always adjust the supply - expand and reduce as necessary," he said.

He was speaking to reporters at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh and responding to concerns on whether the latest income ceiling increase would attract more buyers to apply for Build-to-Order flats and executive condominiums.

From yesterday, the income ceilings for citizen households to buy new HDB flats and executive condominiums were raised by $2,000, to $12,000 and $14,000 respectively.

Mr Khaw said: "I was not able to do this adjustment, say, three years ago, because that time, we were still clearing the queue for the Build-to-Order flats. But now that we've (largely) cleared the queue, I think it's as good a time."

The minister also dismissed notions that the latest changes to housing policies were timed just ahead of the coming general election (GE).

"If you have been watching what we've been doing since I entered MND (Ministry of National Development) more than four years ago, we've been making adjustments, practically every year, because my objectives are quite clear: that home ownership is a very important part of the governance of Singapore.

"But as society evolves, salaries adjust, you need to adjust the policies as we go along," Mr Khaw said, adding that the focus shifts across different groups each time.

"So that is how I approach the problems. And has it got to do with GE? I could not care less when the GE is. But problems need to be resolved...We come up with the schemes, we announce them, we discuss them with Singaporeans first, and once I'm confident that those are practical schemes, I launch them as soon as we can do so."

He stressed that housing policies are "never at the expense of the lower-income group".

"Even as we extend upwards to (the) higher-income group, we are also improving or enhancing the subsidy for the low-income group. What it means is that, in totality, more Singaporeans get to benefit from housing subsidies. This has to do with (the) fundamental objective when I started, which was to make sure that HDB flats remain highly affordable."

He added that an upcoming scheme to help rental families buy their own flats again will require "a lot of thinking through".

The Fresh Start Housing Scheme, announced during the National Day Rally on Sunday, will target families with young children who used to own a flat, but sold it and now live in public rental units.

They will be offered two-room flats with shorter leases and stricter resale conditions, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Khaw said: "We are not ready for implementation yet, but it's something that I'm confident we'll be able to sort out for implementation over the next few months, which means probably next year."


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