SINGAPORE - Look up.
On any road in Singapore, you can't miss the towering blocks of public housing, a manifestation of the Singapore miracle.
Housing is something Singapore can be proud of. It has spurred us to work together, and work harder.
And it will continue to be an important way to share the fruits of progress with all Singaporeans, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday night.
Still, Singaporeans worry. More so with the pace of change in the world.
Sharing concerns that emerged during the year-long Our Singapore Conversation, Mr Lee said that many Singaporeans want to ensure that their children can afford homes.
They also want their properties to appreciate in value.
To allay their concerns, Mr Lee announced key measures to make housing available and more affordable.
For one, the Government will keep build-to-order (BTO) flat prices stable, while increasing support for lower- and middle-income families, he added.
Outlining the changes to the housing policy, Mr Lee said the Special Housing Grant (SHG) will be extended to include middle-income families hoping to buy a four-room flat for the first time.
Previously, the SHG was only for those buying two- or three-room flats.
With the changes, a middle-income household can get subsidies of up to $20,000 or more if they buy a four-room flat. (See charts below.)
Families who opt for two-room flats and wish to upgrade to a three-room flat later can qualify for a Step-Up Housing Grant, which will help them pay some of the upgrading costs.
Said Mr Lee: "A family today, if you are earning $1,000, you should be able to afford a two-room flat.
"If you're earning $2,000, you should be able to afford a three-room flat.
"If you are earning $4,000, you should be able to afford a four-room flat.
"And when I say afford, I mean use your CPF mostly and have a 25-year loan, not a 30-year loan, and then in your later years, your income can be used to beef up your retirement savings," he added.
Bringing down BTO flat prices, noted Mr Lee, is not the answer because "after a while, (we) will bring down all the resale market and everybody who owns a flat in Singapore will be hurt".
He also reiterated that the HDB programme is more than just a roof over our heads or a valuable nest egg, it is about "a home where we sink roots, where we raise families, where we build ties, friendships, emotional ties with our fellow Singaporeans".
Over the past two years, HDB had built a record number of flats to clear first-timer backlog.
It has also eased the housing situation, for example, by de-linking new flat prices from resale prices to stabilise BTO flat prices while raising income ceilings to relieve the "sandwich class".
"We will monitor closely how well people can afford housing in Singapore and over time as it becomes necessary, we will do more to help the lower- and the middle-income Singaporeans own their homes," said Mr Lee.
"We will always make sure that an HDB flat is always within reach, affordable and available to Singaporeans."
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