Over 50 per cent of households could get housing grant

PHOTO: Over 50 per cent of households could get housing grant

SINGAPORE - Over half of Singapore's households may now be able to get a Special Housing Grant of up to $20,000 when they buy a new four-room or smaller Housing Board flat.

With the grant being extended, a family taking home up to $5,000 a month can get the full $20,000, while those earning between $5,001 and $6,500 can get between $5,000 and $15,000.

The grant was previously only for families earning up to $2,250 who bought three-room or smaller flats in non-mature estates. HDB said over five in 10 resident households now come under the expanded income ceiling.

The median income of a family applying for a four-room flat in a non-mature estate is also $4,100 - well within the new limit.

Making the announcement yesterday, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: "We have always been very targeted at the lower-income... but today, I think, it's a major move. We are shifting beyond the lower-income to the middle-income."

Home buyers keen on four- room flats said the grant would make them more affordable.

Security officer Muhammed Helmi, 25, who with his fiancee makes about $2,000 a month in total, is eyeing a new four-room flat in Yishun costing about $290,000.

He said: "Based on my income, the loan I can get isn't that much, so this additional money will be a big help for me."

The broad policy changes were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally.

The new criteria apply from the most recent Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise last month.

Said accounts executive Felicia Lim, 25, who is waiting on her May BTO application: "I'm not entitled to the grant, but if I were, it would help me a bit. I could take a smaller loan, maybe 5 per cent less of the selling price."

The grants will likely lead some buyers to switch from a resale flat to a BTO flat, said SLP International head of research Nicholas Mak.

"But the number of these families depends on the number and attractiveness of BTO flats that the Government can supply in the near future," he added.

More singles will also qualify for the Special Housing Grant: Those who earn up to $3,250 a month can now get up to $10,000 when they apply for a two-room flat on their own. This is more than twice the previous monthly income cap of $1,125.

Some 3,000 families living in two-room units can also benefit from a new $15,000 Central Provident Fund subsidy called the "Step-Up Grant" when they upgrade to a bigger flat. Both old and new homes must be in non- mature estates.

Said Mr Khaw: "If you are low-income, don't rush into a three-room flat. Go into a two- room flat (first). After five years, probably that's when your family begins to enlarge... we will help you upgrade to three rooms."


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