THE number of new Housing Board Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will be ramped up to 18,000 next year to provide for a rise in demand.
This is about 3,000 BTO flats more than the 15,100 units launched this year, revealed National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday.
He explained that the increase is a response to how recent policy changes, including enhanced housing grants and higher income ceilings, have led to more people being eligible for new flats.
Highlighting the warm response to last month's mega-launch of over 12,000 flats, which included the new Bidadari estate, Mr Wong said: "In response to this increased demand which we had been expecting, we are going to supply about 18,000 units next year.
"While we do this, I want to emphasise that we are still very mindful of ensuring a sustainable supply over the longer term."
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tampines Greenlace, a new BTO project, he added: "That's our first focus for the coming year - to ensure that the housing market remains in balance, remains stable and we provide sufficient homes for Singaporeans."
About 26,000 new HDB flats were completed this year.
Mr Wong said that next year's building programme, which will be spread over different flat types and "a good variety of locations", might be adjusted if needed. But even if this happens, he said he expects next year's supply to be larger than this year's.
From 2011 to 2013, BTO flat construction was ramped up to meet pent-up demand. More than 25,000 units were launched annually. But as demand was met, last year's flat supply was shaved from an initial 24,300 to 22,455. The HDB further cut this year's supply from a planned 16,900 to 15,100 because of a stabilising resale market.
Property analysts said first-time applicants stand to benefit most from next year's higher supply, as the bulk of new units is set aside for them. Mr Wong also said that many first-timers have been successful in applying for flats.
"The BTO application rate for first-timer families (applying for 3-room and bigger flats in non-mature estates) has stabilised to about 1.6 times," he wrote in a blog post. "This means that most of these families would have been able to book their flats in their first attempt."
The minister visited two families who had moved into their first new flat at Tampines Greenlace yesterday, including that of Muhammad Hilmi Abdul Hamid, who is living with his wife and one-year-old son.
The couple bought a five-roomer under the Married Child Priority Scheme, which sets aside a portion of new flats for parents and their married children who apply live near or with each other.
Mr Hilmi, a 24-year-old civil servant, said: "Our parents live in Pasir Ris and Tampines, so this is very convenient for us."
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