Property analysts are calling for the Housing and Development Board (HDB) to abolish its Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) since it is already losing its relevance, revealed a TODAY report.
Introduced in 2005, the scheme was suspended in 2011 and was recently put under the spotlight again after residents complained of various defects in their new DBSS units.
Among them was Ng Tong Seng, who moved into his 4-room DBSS flat at Ang Mo Kio in December 2012. Within weeks, the 45-year old resident found numerous flaws in his flat which he bought for over $500,000, from cracks on the walls to bug infestation.
Ng spent months to get the developer to rectify the defects in his unit, while the housing board did not offer much help.
“We are being left alone by authorities,” Ng said. “We bought the house under the ruling of HDB. They threw the rule books at us, but when we faced problems and approached them for help, they said, ‘Sorry, I can’t do anything’. So, that is frustrating. On one side, you try to govern me, on the other side, you can’t help me. So, I’m very confused about their rule.”
The role of HDB in the scheme was also questioned by residents of Trivelis, a DBSS estate in Clementi. Around 500 residents there complained about defects like rusty dish holders and flooding along the corridors.
The housing board explained that while it oversees the scheme, it is the developers who must rectify defects found by buyers within a year under the sale and purchase agreement.
Targeted at the ‘sandwiched class’, or those who cannot afford to buy private homes but did not qualify for Build-to-Order (BTO) flats since their income surpassed the qualifying ceiling which was then $8,000, the scheme featured flats with condominium-like furnishings.
Although they proved to be popular back then, property experts today feel they are no longer necessary considering that the quality of BTO flats has improved.
Moreover, prices between HDB and private housing units are narrowing, while the income ceiling for BTO units was raised to $10,000 in 2011, which is similar to that for DBSS flats.
“I think the differentiation has become smaller. So, if the price differentiation is relatively big, it makes DBSS less attractive in that sense compared to BTO flats, because there’s still a price gap between BTO and DBSS flats,” said Associate Professor Sing Tien Foo from the Department of Real Estate at the National University of Singapore.
“So, we might see that the DBSS scheme may no longer be necessary in the near future. So, this is probably a good time to phase it out.”
Nonetheless, Nicholas Mak, executive director for research and consultancy at SLP International Property Consultants, said it would be better to suspend the scheme and not abolish it totally.
“Because we never know that, perhaps one day when prices start to escalate quickly again, there may be a need to bring back a scheme that is similar to DBSS,” he said. “But I think in the next two or three years, the chances of it coming back are not high.”
Image: Artist’s impression of the Trivelis DBSS project in Clementi.