Can't get a BTO flat after numerous tries? Shorter waiting times, more projects in non-mature estates, says HDB CEO

PHOTO: The Straits Times file

For young couples looking for a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat, the prospect of possibly receiving a string of rejection letters can be a daunting experience. 

And even if they manage to secure a new place, the lengthy waiting time to get the keys to your flat can be a nightmare for some.

Speaking to the media last Friday (Oct 28), Housing & Development Board's chief executive Tan Meng Dui said that public housing will remain affordable and accessible for first-time flat buyers.

For starters, the housing board is on track to launch up to 23,000 new flats this year and in 2023, which is 35 per cent more than in 2021.

What's more, they are also prepared to launch up to 100,000 flats in total from 2021 to 2025, if needed.

Tan said: "This means that potential buyers will not only be able to secure more BTO flats in a wider range of locations, but they will also be able to select from a larger pool of affordable flats.

"We will continue to prioritise first-timers for our new BTO flats, as we have done by increasing the new flat quota for first timers."

Tan was speaking on the sidelines of a briefing to local media outlets, where he shared HDB's Annual Report of the latest financial year. 

In addition, the number of BTO flats in non-mature estates will also increase – to around 12,800 flats this year, which is almost 40 per cent more than last year.

Shorter waiting times for BTO flats

With Covid-19 restrictions lifted and returning to pre-pandemic norms, Tan shared that HDB is "making good progress" in delivering BTO flats.

The median waiting time is down to between four and four-and-a-half years, from four to five years at the peak of the pandemic.

The proportion of delayed BTO projects has also come down from 80 per cent about a year ago, to the current 50 per cent under construction.

"We will continue to work hard to reduce the delays to BTO projects, without compromising safety and quality," Tan said.

The number of BTO projects delayed by six months or longer has also dropped to 58 this year from 74 in 2021, the Straits Times reported in May.

The delays were due to a range of reasons - from migrant workers testing positive for Covid-19, to a severe shortage of workers due to border closures, as well as issues with logistics.

HDB incurs record net deficit 

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The pandemic, which led to higher loss incurred in the development and sale of flats, is also one of the reasons why HDB incurred a record net deficit in the latest financial year that ended March 31, according to Tan.

At $4.367 billion, the deficit is 86 per cent higher than the $2.346 billion incurred in the previous financial year and the highest since the inception of public housing in Singapore in 1960.

Some of the reasons for this record deficit? 

There were more subsidies and housing grants given to flat owners, Tan said.

Some $849 million in CPF housing grants were disbursed to buyers of resale flats and Executive Condominiums (ECs) - compared to $791 million in the last financial year.

Another reason for the deficit was the higher expenditure on its upgrading programmes, which includes the Home Improvement Programme, Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Lift Upgrading Programme. 

HDB had incurred a deficit of $392 million for its upgrading programmes, an increase of more than 60 per cent compared with the $242 million deficit in the previous financial year.

"[HDB] constantly rejuvenates its towns and flats to provide residents with a better living environment and amenities, and bring the physical environment of older estates closer to those of newer towns," HDB said.

ALSO READ: BTO flats still affordable, but good locations command higher prices: Desmond Lee

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