HDB’s challenge: low-cost housing, condo-like flats

HDB’s challenge: low-cost housing, condo-like flats 

Board has to find ways to cater to the poor as well as those better-off, says Mah

By Fiona Chan, Property Reporter 

 

AS THE population grows and becomes more diverse, the Housing Board will have to find creative ways to keep its flats affordable for low-income families but attractive for the better-off.

As it tackles this task, one concern is rising construction costs, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

 

He said costs are estimated to jump a further 20 per cent this year and they could start pushing up the prices of HDB flats. ‘Construction costs have gone up significantly…HDB is trying to contain the cost as much as it can.’

 

These higher costs will not directly affect the selling prices of flats, as the Board prices flats at a discount to market prices rather than based on cost, Mr Mah said.

 

But building costs will boost the market prices of flats, so ‘there will be some feed through’ to HDB prices.

 

‘We cannot escape that. But the important thing is, as salaries go up and prices are fixed at a discount to the market, flats will continue to remain affordable,’ added Mr Mah, who made a special visit to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh yesterday to congratulate staff on winning a United Nations (UN) Public Service Award.

 

The HDB’s 44-year-old Home Ownership Programme was honoured for improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the public service. HDB chairman James Koh Cher Siang and chief executive Tay Kim Poh will accept the award at a ceremony held at the UN headquarters in New York on June 23.

 

Mr Mah praised the agency for its success over the past 48 years in moving Singaporeans out of slums into clean and modern flats. In its first five years, HDB built 50,000 flats; now there are 900,000, housing more than 80 per cent of the population.

 

He also pointed out the new challenges the Board is facing, including the key issue of helping more low-income families buy a flat rather than rent one.

 

‘Those with income of $1,000 to $1,500 a month, although they are eligible to rent a flat, I much rather they own a flat because from there they can build a base and own some assets,’ he said.

 

The cheaper two-room flats the Government has been building over the past few years will be ready soon, with construction to be ramped up, he added.

 

For those who cannot afford to buy even the cheapest flats, HDB will make available 20 per cent more rental flats over the next three years, Mr Mah said.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, better-off Singaporeans should also get to enjoy the ‘HDB experience’. To this end, condo-like flats are being built under the Design, Build & Sell Scheme in areas such as Boon Keng and Bishan.

 

HDB also launched a new Build-To-Order project at Marsiling yesterday. Straits Vista @ Marsiling is near Woodlands Regional Centre and is the first new public housing estate in Woodlands in recent years. It will offer 50 three- room and 332 four-room flats.

 

Applications can be made until June 23.

 

 

 

Board wins UN Public Service Award

WHAT IT IS: An annual award for excellence in public service that has been given out by the United Nations since 2003. There were four winners each in three categories this year. HDB was the only Asia-Pacific winner in its category: improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the public service. The other two categories were improving the delivery of services and fostering participation in policy-making decisions through innovative mechanisms.

 

 

PAST AWARDS

 

Singapore has won the award in the past.

 

 

Progress Package, various ministries, 2007

 

Work Permit Online system, Ministry of Manpower, 2006

 

Online Business Licensing Service, Ministry of Trade and Industry, 2005

 

Polygon of Good Laws, Ministry of Law, 2002

 

National Trust Council and the Trustmark programme, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, 2002

 

Source: Straits Times

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