SINGAPORE — From the second half of next year, single Singaporeans will have more public housing options, including two-room flats in prime areas, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Sunday (Aug 20).
WHY IT MATTERS
Changing lifestyles and social aspirations have led to more singles choosing to live on their own, the Ministry of National Development (MND) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) said in a joint statement on Sunday.
“During our Forward Singapore engagement sessions on public housing, some singles reflected their preference for flats in mature estates to be nearer to their elderly parents for mutual care and support,” they added.
The 2022 Population in Brief report found that the proportion of singles among adult Singaporeans have increased for most age groups, except for males aged between 44 and 49, and females aged 35 to 39.
The 2021 Marriage and Parenthood Survey released in October last year also found a slight decline in the proportion of single respondents aged 21 to 35 who intend to get married.
A total of 80 per cent of such respondents expressed such a desire, compared with 83 per cent in 2016 and 86 per cent in 2012.
While measures have been introduced progressively over the years to expand housing options for singles, several restrictions remain for this group.
For example, in 2021 a national debate erupted over whether it was a “step backward” for the Government to bar singles from buying flats in prime areas when it launched the Prime Location Public Housing model for upcoming projects in central locations such as the Greater Southern Waterfront and the city centre and towns surrounding it.
This will change when the new classification system of Prime, Plus and Standard for BTO projects kicks in from the second half of 2024, MND and HDB said.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CHANGES
Today, singles can only buy BTO flats in non-mature estates and they are not allowed to apply for any BTO units built under the Prime Location Public Housing model.
From the second half of 2024, eligible first-timer singles aged 35 and above will be able to apply for two-room Flexi BTO flats in all locations across Prime, Plus and Standard housing projects.
Now, singles are not allowed to buy any Prime Location Public Housing units on the resale market.
Under the new rules, they will be allowed to buy two-room flats on the resale market under the Prime Location Public Housing model.
Under current rules, singles are already allowed to buy resale flats of any size in estates that are not under the Prime Location Public Housing model, except for 3Gen flats.
This will continue, as they will be able to buy resale flats of any size in Standard and Plus projects, except for 3Gen flats.
The new classification and Plus model will not be retroactively applied to existing flat owners and the current resale market.
Given that Prime and Plus flats will have a minimum occupation period of 10 years, it will be more than a decade before any Prime or Plus flats are available in the resale market.
WHAT REAL ESTATE EXPERTS SAY
Dr Leong Chan-Hoong, head of policy development, evaluation and data analytics at policy advisory company Kantar Public, pointed out that about one-third of the population here are still single when they turn 35, with this trend going upwards.
Therefore, the welfare and housing needs for this group of Singaporeans are “not something we can put aside if we want to be inclusive”.
While allocating more housing options for singles would mean less for families, Dr Leong added that “difficult trade-offs” are inevitable when scarce resources such as land are involved.
The real estate analysts largely welcomed the measures, which they said benefit the singles while helping to relieve demand from certain segments of the market. Some, however, said that it will take some time for the impact to be felt.
Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president of research and analytics at OrangeTee & Tie, said that it is good to allow singles to buy small flats nearer to the downtown area where there is a ramp-up of new flat supply, adding that this will help cut down commuting to work.
Providing more options to buy subsidised flats also means that singles do not need to incur high rental or purchase costs, she added.
The redistribution of singles to other parts of Singapore can help promote housing diversity within communities, which is particularly important as the population ages and many singles may require assistance as they grow older in the future, she said.
Dr Lee Nai Jia, head of real estate intelligence, data and software solutions at PropertyGuru Group, said that the moves are “poised to alleviate immediate demand pressures for BTO flats among singles”.
He noted, for instance, that the May BTO sales exercise saw an application rate of 4.5 for first-time single applicants seeking 2-room Flexi flats in Tengah, describing the current demand as “robust”.
Mr Nicholas Mak, chief research officer of mogul.sg, said that opening up more BTO options for singles would draw away some demand from the resale market in current mature estates.
“(However), singles who want their flat faster will still go to the resale market, they will buy three-room flat, four-room flat and so on,” he added, noting the timeline of the measures.
“So the impact of this new move on the resale market will not be immediate.”
Mr Lee Sze Teck, senior director for data analytics at Huttons Group, believes that some singles may be disappointed as the qualifying age of 35 to buy a house is still not lowered, on top of the fact that they are not offered larger flats in the BTO market.
“However, there is a need to strike a balance between the needs of singles and families,” he said.