Privileges on the line

Privileges on the line

More chances at ballot for unlucky BTO applicants, but the fussy will be penalised

 

Loh Chee Kong

cheekong@mediacorp.com.sg

 

TO KEEP the kiasu Singaporean herd-instinct in check, the whip has been cracked.

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Turn down two chances to choose a flat under the Build-to-Order (BTO) scheme after you have applied and you will have your first-timer privileges suspended for a year in the housing board’s sales exercises — resulting in a plummeting in your chances of getting a unit.

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Here’s how drastic it is: You not only lose the extra chances you would otherwise be allotted for each ballot, you will also not be able to ballot for the 90 per cent of publicly-available flats set aside for first-timers.

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This move by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) comes after Today reported, on April 1, about the frustrations of flat-seekers wondering if more could be done to sieve out non-genuine applicants.

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The changes to the six-year-old BTO scheme are aimed at deterring such frivolous applications that have led to “significant over-subscription” for new BTO flats, but with many flats left unselected at the end of the exercise.

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For instance, applications for Punggol Lodge closed in November with 1,484 applicants vying for 464 flats.

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In the end, there were 49 units left over (to be put up for sale later through HDB’s consolidated sale exercises) — with 1,069 applicants rejecting the offer to pick a unit. Of these, a third had rejected two or more previous offers under the BTO scheme.

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A HDB spokesman said: “Processing such repeated applications diverts the HDB’s time and resources from those with urgent housing needs.”

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The rule changes are also to correct the “impression of excessive demand”, which has led to growing discontent among frustrated flat seekers. What’s more, the latter can now rejoice in a boost to their chances of getting a BTO flat in non-mature estates.

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For such exercises, first-time flat buyers who have been repeatedly unlucky will — after failing twice to be invited to pick a flat — enjoy, from the third try on, additional chances in the balloting. Currently, extra chances are given only from the fifth try.

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The changes kick in with immediate effect and would affect all BTO projects launched henceforth — such as the Compassvale Pearl and Punggol Sapphire announced yesterday. BTO applicants who have rejected previous offers will start with a clean slate.

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What this new policy means is that those who are in genuine need of a flat “would be smiling while the others would think twice about just trying their luck”, said Mr Chris Koh, director of Dennis Wee Properties.

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“Previously, you find some young couples saying, ‘Let’s try our luck. If we get shortlisted, then we talk about getting married.’ With the changes, at least they will think carefully before they just throw in their applications.”

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While no specific data is available, it is believed the majority of applicants for BTO projects are first-timers, who do not have to pay the resale levy, say property analysts.

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While flat-seekers whom TODAY spoke to generally welcomed the changes, they had some concerns.

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Account manager Samuel Lee, 27, felt the one-year suspension of first-timer status was “a little harsh” – six months was more appropriate, he argued, since with so many BTO projects launched in a year, the penalised person would miss out on many of these.

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Out of the four times he applied, Mr Lee was invited twice but did not turn up to choose the flat as his queue number was “five times” over the number of units available. “I assumed I would not get a good unit,” he said. Hence, he suggests that the HDB update invited applicants about the type of units still available and what storeys they are on.

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Teacher Irene Goh, 27, who was targeting a large flat, last year rejected an offer at Treetops@Punggol — one of the earlier BTO projects to offer five-room units — after all 14 five-room units were snapped up. “It’s not as if we didn’t want to take up the offer,” she said.

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Responding to TODAY’s queries, the HDB said that since the Treetops@Punggol exercise, couples looking for larger flats are now put in a separate queue. They will not be asked to select a unit if the larger flats have been taken up, the spokesman said.

 

 

Source: Today Newspaper

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