HDB Plus Flat Owner Rental Restrictions, First-timer Families Will Enjoy Priority for Standard BTO Flats, and More

28 Aug 2023

22 to 28 August 2023

The new Plus flat model will come with several conditions such as an income ceiling of $14,000 for resale buyers and a ban to rent out the entire flat at any time. Meanwhile, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) have launched a new tender to transform the former Bukit Timah Fire Station into a community hub.


1. HDB Plus flat owners will not be allowed to rent their whole homes

Following the National Day Rally 2023 announcements, the new Plus flat model will come with several conditions such as an income ceiling of $14,000 for resale buyers and a ban to rent out the entire flat at any time.

Minister of National Development Desmond Lee said the rental restriction will apply to first-time buyers and resale buyers of HDB Plus flats, reported TODAY.

“This is to ensure owner occupation for such flats and deter those who intend to ‘flip’ the flats for quick gains or rent them out for long-term yields,” he said.

On the $14,000 income ceiling, which applies to both families and singles, Lee noted that it is also the prevailing salary cap for married couples buying a BTO flat.

Meanwhile, private property owners looking to buy Plus flats will also have to deal with a 30-month wait-out period.

Notably, Plus flats will be built in choicer locations such as near town centres and transport nodes or in more central locations like Bishan, Ang Mo Kio, Clementi, Toa Payoh, Queenstown, Bedok, Bukit Merah, and Kallang-Whampoa.

Related article: Singles BTO and Resale Options: 3 Single Singaporeans React to NDR 2023


2. SLA and URA seek new proposals to transform the former Bukit Timah Fire Station into a community hub

SLA and URA launched a new tender to transform the former Bukit Timah Fire Station into a community hub, reported The Straits Times.

This comes after Homestead Holland, the consortium that was previously awarded the project, pulled out in 2022. Homestead Holland was supposed to convert the 0.86ha site into a lifestyle hub with a food street and allotment garden plots.

In calling for the new tender, SLA and URA said they are searching for “a compelling proposal to repurpose the state property to promote healthy living, community interaction and integration with nature while featuring environmentally sustainable urban solutions”.

They noted that the relaunched tender will use revised evaluation criteria, underscoring sustainability goals and outcomes that are in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

Located at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah Road and Old Jurong Road, the site consists of seven three-storey accommodation blocks, a single-storey residence and a main fire station building.


3. Influx of Hong Kong expats may boost Singapore residential rents

Singapore saw private residential leases drop 1.9% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) and 6.5% year-on-year (YoY) to 19,699 in Q2 2023, revealed Savills Research.

Leasing volume for landed homes declined 8.1% QoQ to 1,089 transactions during the quarter under review.

For non-landed homes, the Rest of Central Region (RCR) posted the biggest decline in rental transactions, which dropped 2.8% QoQ to 6,485. It is followed by the Outside Central Region (OCR) which registered a 2.4% quarterly decline to 6,583.

The Core Central Region (CCR) bucked the trend as leasing volume increased 1.1% QoQ to 5,542.

Savills attributed the contraction in leasing volume to global economic headwinds and high rents.

Nonetheless, it expects the influx of expats from Hong Kong to boost Singapore’s leasing volume.

“We are sensing that another wave of Hong Kong-based expatriates, albeit small are either relocating or starting to relocate to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, Executive Director of Savills Research and Consultancy.

“This may impact the leasing volume in the coming quarters,” he added.


4. Some first-timer families will enjoy priority for Standard HDB flats

The NDR 2023 new HDB flat classification system will bring significant changes, with first-timer families receiving priority in applying for four-room or smaller Standard BTO flats across the country, expanding from only non-mature estates, reported The Straits Times.

This means eligible families, including those with children 18 years old and below and married couples under 40, will have better chances of securing homes in good locations.

This comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that all BTO flats will be categorised as Standard, Plus and Prime flats from the H2 2024, eliminating the mature and non-mature estate classification.

Under the First-Timer (Parents and Married Couples) priority category, eligible families will enjoy three ballot chances when they apply for BTO and Sale of Balance Flats.

This privilege will continue to apply across the country. Notably, the three ballot chances apply to mature estates, non-mature estates and Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) flats under the current estate classification.

From H2 2024, this privilege will apply to all Standard, Plus and Prime projects, said Minister Desmond Lee.


5. Housing policy changes to benefit singles who want to be near parents

Market experts expect the changes in public housing policy to benefit singles who want to live near their parents while enjoying their personal space.

“I’m quite relieved. At least I can apply for a flat nearer to my mother,” said Carolyn Tan, who had applied for a flat as a single, but was told by HDB to buy one in Tengah, reported CNA. It left her disappointed as the development was far from Aljunied, where her elderly mother lives.

Dr Lee Nai Jia, Head of Real Estate Intelligence, Data and Software Solutions, PropertyGuru Group noted that a significant portion of singles are the main caregivers of their elderly parents. As such, they should ideally be living near each other.

However, the lower subsidies for singles to buy resale flats, means they may have been priced out of securing homes near their parents, particularly if their parents reside in central areas, said Dr Lee.

“In light of these challenges, the newly introduced policy is poised to alleviate demand pressures for BTO flats among singles,” he said.

Notably, singles will be allowed to buy two-room BTO flats across all locations from 2H 2024. They will also be allowed to buy two-room Prime flexi flats as well as Plus and Standard flats of any size in the resale market.


6. Home buyers adopt wait-and-see stance amid changes to public housing classification

Some homebuyers are taking a wait-and-see stance and observing developments in the property market, following the introduction of a new public housing framework to maintain affordability and accessibility.

Newlyweds Marcus Lim and Tris Marlis are holding off their acquisition plans to see how the changes will affect property prices. They are working closely with their property agent to understand the changes and monitor unit prices before making a purchase, reported CNA.

Analysts’ opinions on the market impact are mixed, with some suggesting buyers wait for the introduction of Plus flats, while sellers may face pressures on pricing.

Although some sellers may leverage the Plus flats to demand higher prices, OrangeTee & Tie’s Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics Christine Sun expect the overall effect on the resale market to be moderate.

This comes as flats near amenities and transport hubs already command a premium.

With the new classification, Dr Lee Nai Jia anticipates prices of flats in prime locations, particularly those near MRT stations, to gradually increase.

“And so we see that with this new classification, the growth will not be so fast and I think future generations will also benefit from it,” he said.


7. At least 232 properties were bought by nationals from higher-risk countries from 2016 to 2023

At least 232 residential property deals have been made by individuals holding passports from the same countries as those arrested in a recent billion-dollar money-laundering operation, according to a data analysis by The Business Times.

The figure is way higher than the 105 properties, worth around $831 million, seized by the police during an anti-money laundering raid.

The analysis – which is based on URA’s property transaction data from 1995 to August 2023 – showed a notable increase in property transactions by buyers from Cambodia, Dominica, Cyprus, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Vanuatu, and Turkey in 2016.

The individuals arrested during the anti-money laundering operation were all of Chinese origin but held passports from such countries.

Most of these countries are on OECD’s list of counties with citizenship-by-investment schemes which potentially pose money laundering risks.

Between 2016 and 2023, buyers from these countries purchased 232 residential properties, out of 339 transactions registered since 1995.

William Lai, CEO of property data analytics firm Amicus, noted that while there are genuine buyers from these higher-risk counties, there may be some who are using a golden passport to invest in property here in Singapore and potentially launder money.


8. Real estate agents should conduct due diligence checks or face penalties

Real estate agents are mandated to conduct thorough due diligence checks on their clients to curb money laundering and terrorism financing, reported CNA citing the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) and industry sources.

Notably, 10 foreign nationals were recently arrested on suspicion of forgery and money laundering, with around $1 billion in assets – which include 105 properties – seized.

In conducting due diligence checks, real estate agents are required to verify the identity of their clients and assess the risk of money laundering involvement. They are required to keep the due diligence check records for five years.

Agents are also mandated to report any suspicious transactions or activities to the Commercial Affairs Department.

With this, CEA had issued a “suspicious indicators” list, which included behavioural indicators, such as hesitating or declining to place his name on any document connecting him to the property.

Failure to conduct diligence checks can result in penalties and suspension or revocation of the agent’s registration.


9. About 300 HDB carparks are now fitted with Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers

About 300 HDB carparks, or about 15% of all HDB carparks, now have EV charging points installed, reported The Straits Times.

“We are on track to achieve our target for one-third of HDB carparks to have charging points by the end of this year,” Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said.

A large-scale tender was awarded to five firms to install and operate these charging points, with the goal of having at least 12,000 charging points in almost 2,000 carparks by end-2025.

Singapore aims to have over 60,000 EV charging points by 2030, with 40,000 installed in public carparks and 20,000 on private premises as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

Dr Khor, who also serves as Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, provided the update at an event by EVCo, a joint venture between SMRT’s Strides Mobility and DST Electric Vehicle Rental.


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Marcus Lee, Content Executive at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this story, email: marcuslee@propertyguru.com.sg.


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