Understanding URA’s Master Plan
Let’s say you’re planning to buy a new home; what would be the first thing you do? Most of us would turn to various property websites, or perhaps a friend of a friend who is in the property business. However, you can actually get much more in-depth information regarding the Singapore property scene by consulting the URA Master Plan.
What is the URA Master Plan?
From the URA’s website, the Master Plan is “a statutory land use plan that guides Singapore’s developments in the medium term over the next 10 to 15 years”. It details the allowable land use in Singapore, and the density of developments. You could think of it as the Singapore Master Plan, charting the country’s development for the future.
Every five years, the Master Plan is reviewed, and broad long-term strategies get translated into detailed plans to guide future developments. The latest version of the Plan can be accessed here.
By understanding the plan, property buyers can get an idea of what future developments may impact the quality of living, and the likely value of a property they are interested in.
Understanding the Master Plan
At first glance, the URA Master Plan is quite daunting – the plan is a large mass of colour-blocked areas, which may prove challenging for those who are looking at it for the first time. However, we can make sense of it by taking it one step at a time and focusing on each element individually.
You can zoom in on areas that catch your interest – but if you already know the exact address of the property you want, you can use the search bar to look it up instead. Take note of any empty plots of land, as they will affect the value and quality of living at the property. You’ll want to see what their zoning is, as it lets you know what to expect in the future when they do get developed.
Each zone is colour-coded according to what the land can be used for, and you can check what each colour represents by looking at the legend.
Here are some notable developments that you might want to look out for if you’re looking at a feasible area to buy property.
Transport facilities, such as the MRT
These are one of the factors that have large impacts on the prices of property – HDB blocks that are within walking distance of an MRT usually fetch higher prices than those that are significantly farther away. However, if a unit is too close to the MRT tracks, it can also be a deterrent due to the constant noise.
Commercial (retail, office)
Having a shopping mall or a selection of retail amenities nearby where you live is a very attractive prospect – everyone likes convenience.
Sports and recreational facilities
For those who are very active and like sports, this might factor more into your decision for a certain property.
Business parks/business zones (light or heavy industries)
Business zones are divided into two types – Business 1 Zones for light industries, and Business 2 Zones for heavy. Light industries usually comprise non-disruptive businesses that are clean, or light. Heavy industries tend to be slightly more disruptive, but are not factories.
Business parks usually comprise office buildings or complexes, and often have F&B industries and amenities in the vicinity. These zones are a source of jobs for most cases, and can be attractive for buyers or renters who want to be near their place of work.
If you have children that are of school-going age (or planning to have children), having a good school nearby can be a big draw. Take note that schools are often quite noisy during recess and dismissal times.
Health and medical care
Areas zoned for healthcare usually mean hospitals, polyclinics, or other developments such as rehabilitation centres or hospices.
Civic and community institutions/places of worship
Places of worship usually mean churches or various temples, and they may include columbariums. For civic and community institutions, it’s hard to pinpoint what kind of development you will get, as it ranges from community clubs to old folks’ homes.
While having greenery can make a property more attractive, it is often not as large a factor as having an MRT station nearby, or a large shopping mall.
These zones do not yet have a determined use.
Zones marked with this are generally reserved for military camps or air bases.
Areas marked in white are currently undergoing development, most likely for either for commercial, residential or recreational purposes – sometimes a combination of all of those. Developers who are bidding for these white zones will submit detailed proposals to URA, and the winner is selected based on how the development will benefit and fit into the zone.
Plot Ratios: Providing an indication of potential developments
When it comes to exploring areas to purchase property, future plot ratios can be a useful indication of potential developments in an area.
In addition to letting you know what a zone of land is intended to be used for, the URA Master Plan tells you the plot ratio. Plot ratio is basically how intensively a plot of land can be used for developments; for example, how likely it is to contain skyscrapers or tall buildings.
To check the plot ratio of a parcel of land, place your mouse over the part you want to check, and zoom in all the way. The number indicated on a plot of land is the plot ratio. The larger the number’s value, the more intensively the land can be used.
If two plots of land have similar areas, but differing plot ratios, it usually means that one will be denser or taller than the other. You can also look up the maximum allowed height for buildings in certain plots using the search bar. Input the address or name, and then look for “Building Height Plan” from “Control Plans”. Residential plots with a high plot ratio can mean towering condo blocks, and a commercial land area could be a new shopping mall.
Plot ratio examples
Planning within limits
While the URA Master Plan is quite useful when it comes to making property decisions, it should not be used as your sole source of information, especially since this Singapore Master Plan is reviewed once every five years. While it can give you an idea of how the land in the vicinity is going to be used, as well as how dense it can get, it doesn’t give you the details of what exactly will be built there. An MRT station is a big difference from a bus interchange, for example.
Supplement your research with news and updates from URA and LTA on developments in the area, and keeping an eye out for news regarding updates, such as new shopping malls or condos.
Need to stay in the loop about certain districts or estates? You can keep up to date with PropertyGuru’s District & Estate Guides.
To get more guides like this, check out PropertyGuru.