Who should get priority for a flat?

Who should get priority for a flat?

Despite a ramping up of public housing supply, demand for new flats, particularly in choice locations, is still strong. How, then, does the Government decide who should be more deserving?

The new measures to help married couples with or expecting children are to correct an imbalance in the balloting process, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan. This is done by setting aside flats specifically for them.

He revealed earlier this year that couples who have yet to marry, or have applied for new flats under the fiance-fiancee scheme, make up more than half of first-time applicants.

Married couples without children, and those who had them, constituted 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Mr Khaw felt that this group of married couples has greater need for a flat, yet has a smaller probability of landing one as there are many applicants on the fiance-fiancee scheme.

Previously, balloting chances were decided by whether applicants had or had not previously enjoyed a housing subsidy.

This method of determining need began at the inception of the Housing Board's Build-To-Order system in 2001.

Then, 85 per cent of new flats were set aside for first-timers, in order for the HDB to achieve its overaching social mission of home ownership.

This increased to 90 per cent in 2007, and 95 per cent just two years later. As a result, Singapore enjoys one of the highest home ownership rates in the world.

During this time, another family-centric scheme had also been in force. The Third Child Priority scheme was introduced in 1987, and set aside just 5 per cent of new flats if the third child was a Singaporean.

But more drastic measures were taken earlier this year, in a bid to encourage couples to have children earlier, and to stem the falling birth rate.

The Parenthood Priority Scheme sets aside 30 per cent to 50 per cent of new flats for first- timer couples who have young children or are expecting one.

Demand was strong in the scheme's first outing in January.

In that BTO exercise, couples with young children met the quota for flats in non-mature estates, and exceeded it by about two times in mature ones.

But it is not just married couples that the Government has to look out for.

As Singapore progressed, and its population grew more savvy and distinct, the housing needs of other groups had to be addressed.

Demand had ratcheted up due to a slowdown in construction a decade earlier, which was itself a reaction to a period of overbuilding in the 1990s.

Between 2001 and 2008 for instance, the HDB constructed only about 8,000 new units per year. At present, it is pumping out flats in record numbers to tackle the shortage.

It is also recognising the needs of other groups, and dangling various carrots.

Singles, for instance, would be able to apply for new flats for the first time in July this year, although they would be restricted to two-roomers and must earn no more than $5,000. Divorcees and second-timers were also given higher quotas for new flats earlier this year.

With so many clamouring for new flats, is the priority for young couples enough to lure them into making babies?

While it is too early to tell, one thing is for sure. Housing, like quality of life and cost of living, is but one component in an equation that is growing more complex by the day.

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