HDB ordered to ramp up building of flats

Elena Torrijos

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan discloses new measures to address backlog in HDB flats. (Yahoo! Photo)

New National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has announced measures to build more Housing Development Board (HDB) flats and at a faster pace in Singapore, addressing the backlog in demand that had been one of the concerns of the electorate.

In his Housing Matters blog, Minister Khaw said that he has ordered the HDB to ramp up capacity and to bring forward projects scheduled for early next year to this year.

In line with this, the HDB has confirmed that it will be able to raise the number of build-to-order (BTO) units from the earlier planned record number of 22,000 to 25,000.

He said he also told HDB to "build ahead of demand" by tendering projects as soon as architectural drawings and documents are ready.

At present, a tender is called only after 70 percent of orders have been confirmed, hence the term BTO.

"Given robust demand, I told them to proceed to build, knowing that the orders will definitely come," he said. "We can return to normal BTO approach after we have stabilised the situation."

He also directed the HDB to sustain the new pace of building, suggesting that at least another 25,000 flats would be built for next year or a total of 50,000 flats over a two-year period.

"As we intend to ease the $8,000 income ceiling on HDB flats, we can expect additional demand and we have to prepare for that," he said.

There had earlier been indications that the government would raise the income ceiling to $10,000 for HDB flats from $8,000 and to $12,000 for executive condominium flats from $10,000.

HDB flat prices have shot up in Singapore amid strong demand and limited supply, stirring up discontent among Singaporeans. The rise in housing prices has slowed somewhat since the government's implementation of sets of measures to cool the property market last year and this year.

In his first blog post on Friday, Minister Khaw has said his priority is to focus on the housing needs of groups such as young couples, divorcees with children and low income families.

Also on Friday, the government launched close to 4,000 BTO flats in Tampines, Punggol, Pasir Ris and Woodlands.

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