One apartment, 90 workers

One apartment, 90 workers


The private apartment in Balestier Road is just :1,300-square- foot :big – but it houses some 90 foreign workers.


:The 50-year old landlord reportedly charges occupants between $170 and $200 a month, and is believed to run similar lodgings in other parts of Singapore.


:When Channel NewsAsia visited the premises with a representative from the National Safety Council, conditions were found to be extremely cramped. Some 30 stuffy, narrow cubicles of various sizes were created using wooden partitions. Power sockets in the apartment were overloaded with up to four plugs each, and there were only two fire extinguishes available.


:Said council chairman Tan Jin Thong: :“If something were to happen, like a short circuit, having lots of clothes lying nearby will definitely cause a fire.” :Underscoring the hazard, the CNA news team observed a blackout while there.


:Besides the obvious health hazards, the apartment owner could be prosecuted for breaching fire safety regulations. Apartment owners who ignore fire notices and orders can be fined. — Channel NewsAsia


Source: Today Newspaper

Property values updated to match market rates

Property values updated to match market rates


I REFER to last Wednesday’s letter, ‘Property tax raised twice in a year’ by Mr Tan Wenfa.


Property tax is based on the annual value of a property, which is the estimated market rental of the property if it were to be let out. Annual values of properties need to be updated whenever they have become out of line with prevailing market rentals. Generally, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore reviews the annual values of properties every year.


The annual value of Mr Tan’s property was previously updated in September last year. Last month, the annual value had to be revised to reflect the prevailing market rentals for similar properties. The need to update the annual value of Mr Tan’s property is due to the increase in rentals for similar properties in the same estate between last year and this year.


We thank Mr Tan for the opportunity to clarify.


Deanna Choo (Ms)

Director, Corporate Communications Branch

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore


Source: Straits Times




When trying to sell house, owners surprised to find out Government acquired their land


THEY were offered close to $2 million for their two-storey shophouse and the back lane behind it.


By Celine Lim



18 June 2008


THEY were offered close to $2 million for their two-storey shophouse and the back lane behind it.


But while trying to retrieve an online copy of the title deed to the back lane, the Goh family found out that the tiny strip of land had been acquired by the Government in an island-wide exercise in April last year.


As a result, the buyer, a property developer, slashed $290,000 off the purchase price.


The family said they did not receive any letter informing them that the back lane had been acquired.


Neither did they get any compensation.


Ms Goh G K, 52,said: ‘If it wasn’t for the offer for our house and lane, we won’t have known the Government had taken back the lane.’


The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the lane was acquired under the Street Works Act and no compensation is due for such acquisitions.


It said it had notified the owners by posting a copy of the declaration together with a plan at the site of the Gohs’ back lane on 27 Mar 2007.


But the Gohs felt the LTA should have informed them personally by sending a letter.


Ms Goh, her five siblings and their mother are joint owners of the property.


‘We didn’t want to sell the house or the lane initially due to the sentimental value as all of us grew up there,’ said Ms Goh, who’s in sales.


‘In the past, the door to the back lane was always open. It was our ‘backyard’, where our mum used to make bak changs (rice dumplings) and extended family gatherings were held.


‘But our mum said, ‘Better sell the property and distribute the proceeds’.


‘She had heard about family tussles over property in the news and didn’t want us to end up squabbling after she passed away.’


Ms Goh said her parents had bought the house and back lane for about $20,000 in 1950.


The 261 sq ft lane is located right behind their two-storey Rangoon Road shophouse and the unit next door. The family owns part of the back lane, stretching from behind their unit to the next door unit.


In March 1999, the family paid about $2,000 in legal fees, stamp duties and for a plan of the land area from the chief surveyor to renew the title deeds so as to include the names of all the siblings.


Before that, the title deeds had only the names of the mother and the eldest Goh sibling.


The family has a physical copy of the title deed to the back lane.


When they wanted to sell the property last October, they tried to get a copy online from the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) website to show the buyer.


They were unable to do so and realised something was amiss.


They called the SLA, which told them the lane had been acquired by the LTA.


Ms Goh said that when they called the LTA, an officer said the LTA was only required to post a notice in the government gazette as well as put up a letter of declaration at the site of the back lane to say it would be vested in the State.


The officer added that if no one raised any objections within a month, the LTA would take it as consent to proceed with the vesting of the lane.


The answer did not sit well with the Goh family.


‘Why didn’t the LTA inform us directly by sending us a letter? How much is the postage? Only 22 cents,’ said Ms Goh.


‘After all, they knew that our family had the title deed to the backlane.’


She said the LTA sent them a copy of the government gazette listing the back lanes that were vested during the exercise.


The Gohs’ back lane was on the list and the words ‘deed title’ written next to it.


This showed that the LTA knew her family held the title deed to the lane and should have contacted them, said Ms Goh.


The Gohs also insisted they did not see any letter of declaration near their back lane.




Ms Goh said: ‘We moved out about 10 years ago when everyone got married and started their own families.


‘But one of my brothers keeps items for his business in the house so he drops by almost every day.


She claimed: ‘He parks his car along the back lane and enters through the back door, but he did not see any notice pasted there.’


Ms Goh said the family has tried in vain to seek compensation from the LTA.


She said an LTA officer told them that there was ‘no commercial value to back lanes’.


But the Gohs pointed to a news article about a back lane off Jalan Bunga Raya in the Balestier area that was auctioned off on 10 Jan.


The article noted: ‘Knight Frank has indicated a price of about $750,000 to $800,000 for the back lane, which works out to $80 to $86 per square foot of potential gross floor area.’


A check by The New Paper found the Jalan Bunga Raya back lane eventually fetched $1.55m, or $465 per square foot.


In the Gohs’ case, the property developer was planning to put up a five-storey building on the site of their house and back lane.


The property agent told the family the developer had priced the back lane at more than $1,000 per square foot, the same as for the house.


Ms Goh said after they found out the back lane had been acquired by the Government, the property developer extended their option to sell in the hope that the family could work something out with the LTA.


The 1,660 sq ft house was finally sold for about $1.5m.


They didn’t want to reveal the exact amount.


She said the proceeds went to their mother who is in charge of disbursing the money.


LTA: Family won’t get compensation


A SPOKESMAN for LTA said the back lane was one of 206 lots vested island-wide from December 2006 to July last year under the Street Works Act.


A SPOKESMAN for LTA said the back lane was one of 206 lots vested island-wide from December 2006 to July last year under the Street Works Act.


Of the State-acquired lots, the spokesman said: ‘No compensation is payable for vesting of back lanes.’


The 261 sq ft lot owned by the Gohs had been set aside in 1937 as a back lane. This meant that before the Gohs bought the lane in 1950, it had become part of the Government’s ‘street reserves’.


The reserved land can be acquired by the State as and when it is needed for road improvement or construction, according to the LTA website.


The spokesman said the relevant authorities will not approve the building of any structure, like building extensions, on land that has been set aside but yet to be vested.


So, even if the Gohs still owned the back lane and had sold it to the property developer, the latter would not be able to build over it.


If a structure was built illegally, no compensation will be given for removing the structures if the land is vested. The spokesman said the back lanes were vested ‘in the interest of the public’.


Acquiring the back lanes ‘facilitates a more orderly and systematic maintenance. .. of these back lanes… by various public agencies’.


In a letter to the Gohs, the LTA said the working team had ‘exercised due diligence in the process of vesting’. The Gohs’ back lane was ‘not treated differently from the other cases’.


As per the Street Works Act, the LTA had posted a copy of the declaration together with a plan at the site of the Gohs’ back lane on 27 Mar 2007, said the spokesman. A month later, in the absence of any objections, the back lane was vested in the Government on 26 Apr 2007.



Source: The New Paper

Property tax raised twice in a year

Property tax raised twice in a year


IN SEPTEMBER last year, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) revised the annual value of our property and barely half a year later, it has once again revalued it upwards.


Is it fair for the Government to increase property tax twice within a year, especially when many people are struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising cost of living?


The pain is all the more unbearable for people who are retired and living on their savings.


This latest upward revision of the annual value of our property is all the more incomprehensible when recent press reports revealed that some newly launched developments are seeing a slide in prices.


Tan Wenfa


Source: Straits Times

Subletting illegally not right way to help

Subletting illegally not right way to help


I REFER to the letter by Ms Subha Rajaiya, ‘Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally’ (June 7).


HDB rental flats are heavily subsidised and meant as a last resort for low-income and needy families without other housing option. Illegal subletting of these flats is an abuse of government subsidies meant to help such households.


One rental flat that is illegally sublet means one less unit to house a needy family. Therefore, HDB takes a serious view on illegal subletting of its rental flats. We have stepped up enforcement since last year. Where there is clear evidence of abuse, we will not hesitate to recover the rental flat and re-allocate the unit to a family in genuine need.


We agree with Ms Rajaiya that government agencies and the community need to continue to work together to help the low income among us. But allowing a few to abuse and profiteer from rental flats allocated to them cannot be part of the solution.


Mike Chan

Deputy Director (Rental Housing)

For Director (Housing Administration)

Housing & Development Board


Source: Straits Times

Many still not aware of housing finance limits

Many still not aware of housing finance limits


I WOULD like to highlight an issue on housing finance in Singapore.


Through recent conversations, I realised that many of my friends who have bought Housing Board and/or private condominiums are not aware of the policies on the 100per cent Available Housing Withdrawal Limit (AHWL) and 120per cent to 150per cent cap on Central Provident Fund withdrawals if they bought a unit recently.


For example, my friend bought a unit for $300,000. After paying for it for 10years at $1,500 a month, he hit the 100per cent


AHWL at the halfway mark of a 20-year loan. Because he has insufficient Central Provident Fund (CPF) Minimum Sum, he has to put aside that $1,500 in cash from his monthly income, which requires a big adjustment.


If he had been more aware of the policies, he could have lowered his monthly instalments, lengthened his loan period, while saving up cash as early as possible.


Over the next few years, those who have reached the 100per cent AHWL and cannot use their CPF to pay, may not have enough cash to pay their instalments.


This is especially so for many who bought their flats in the late 1990s, since the ruling came into effect only in the mid-2000s.


Most people think they can depend on their CPF, and may not have enough cash savings or income to pay the instalments.


I hope the HDB and CPF Board can come together to organise programmes to create more public awareness about the issue, and also review their policies to allow owners to maximise their CPF before they hit the AHWL. This is so that home owners do not inadvertently have to depend on cash, while their CPF remains locked in.


Currently, owners get a notice letter only a year in advance, which may not be sufficient time for them to make the necessary adjustments, such as saving up, or even downgrading.


Ng Cheow Siang



Source: Straits Times

Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally

Don’t penalise desperate ones who sublet illegally


WITH a growing number of Singaporeans waiting to be allotted a rental flat from the Housing Board, it is good to know the HDB is taking steps to ensure those who abuse the system are caught and punished.


However, the article, ‘Tenants cashing in on rental flats’ (May 29), did not reflect other groups of tenants and unauthorised occupiers who run the risk of being caught for illegally subletting or occupying rental flats. In my work as a social worker, I have come across these groups and wish to bring to light their predicament.


Examples of tenants who sublet their units are:


·  Single elderly people who find public assistance money insufficient;


·  Elderly people who are unable to find employment; and


·  Elderly people who cannot depend on their children for monthly maintenance money.


It can be argued that there are assistance schemes in place to help these groups. However, the fact that some still resort to illegally subletting their homes indicates that the schemes do not address their actual needs and more needs to be done to reach out to them.


A number of unauthorised occupants also includes Singaporean families. These are predominantly families who: <P


·  Already face a debarment period, having sold their purchased flat, either because they were unable to settle their mortgage with the HDB or settle housing or renovation loans from the banks; or


·  Are on the wait list and have exhausted all other accommodation options.


What can be done to address the concerns of these groups without penalising them and pushing them down further when they are trying to stay afloat? What preventive measures need to be taken and how can government bodies work together to address these issues – which may indicate greater problems?


If the HDB acts alone, downstream the community- based agencies will have to pick up the pieces with those affected. Without policies in place, our remedial efforts may not be sufficient to assist these client groups.


Subha Rajaiya (Ms)


Source : Straits Times

Little choice but to offer less choice sites

Little choice but to offer less choice sites

Developers fear oversupply; the govt must offer some sites but may not waste prime sites





THE six-monthly Government Land Sales (GLS) programme announcement is just around the corner, and property industry players are once again voicing the familiar calls for the government to reduce its quantum of land sales, and to halt sales through the confirmed list – except for strategic reasons – and to instead offer sites only through the reserve list.


The players wanted this even when the market was buoyant. Given the subdued conditions now, they may have a stronger case for moderating the GLS programme in the second half of 2008.


But numbers alone won’t do. The focus must also be on the quality of sites on offer. The 99-year leasehold private residential sites offered by the state in H1 2008 yielded a mixed bag of results. Some have attracted numerous bids at high prices while others did not. In one case, the bids were too low for the government to make an award.


In other words, certain sites are in demand, others are not.


What kind of sites does the market want now?


There is enough supply of high-end private residential sites, so the government need not bother about supplying land in the prime districts.


As for the mid and mass markets, the locations in demand are near MRT stations, and/or with water views, in close proximity to major shopping centres, good schools and other amenities.


A site’s location could decide whether it’s likely to be sold under current cautious market conditions. A tender that closed in March for a condo site facing West Coast Park and overlooking the sea drew a dozen bids. In contrast, there were only two bids for a landed housing plot at Jurong West and the Government decided against awarding it.


These days, developers will only be drawn to land parcels with strong selling points.


Clearly, more waterfront housing sites will be welcome – a point catered for in the draft Master Plan 2008 revealed last month.


And given the rising private transportation costs, homes near MRT stations will probably command an even bigger premium than they do today.


Unattractive sites may attract bids that are too low for the Ministry of National Development to make an award. This could affect the already-fragile sentiment in the residential market. So the MND should focus on choice plots in its H2 2008 list, the argument would go.


CBRE’s update of the MND’s H1 2008 programme shows that five private residential sites have been sold so far through the confirmed list. These are in various choice locations outside the city – near Khatib MRT Station fronting Lower Seletar Reservoir, at Lorong 2/3 in Toa Payoh near Braddell MRT Station, at West Coast Crescent overlooking the sea, in Choa Chu Kang, close to Lot 1 Shoppers’ Mall and the MRT station, and Phase 2 of Sembawang Greenvale near the sea.


Developers have yet to make a single successful application for reserve list private housing sites in the H1 2008 slate – with the sentiment being weak and the reserve plots generally not boasting choice locations.


While the government launches plots under the confirmed list for tender according to a prestated schedule regardless of market demand, it releases reserve list sites only if there is a successful application by a developer who undertakes to bid at a minimum price acceptable to the state.


So will the MND release the sort of sites the developers want? As a seasoned market player puts it: ‘They’re very practical people. When the market sentiment is weak, why give away their good sites at subdued prices?’


Instead, the MND may offer more run-of-the mill sites. Such plots may draw poor interest, and this could affect sentiment. However, developers may still like the end result: not much new land actually being sold by the state.


Put simply, the outcome developers desire – of having less state land being sold – may be effected if the government offers a slate of mostly not-so-desirable plots.


The current weak demand makes it clear there’s no housing shortage in Singapore.


A moderation of land supply sold by the government would lend some support to the market. Another benefit if the government ends up selling less land is that it will provide some relief to the overheated construction sector.


On the other hand, the government may not be able to accede to developers’ calls not to sell land in H2 2008 through the confirmed list – as official data have so far not shown any decline in private home prices, despite thin sales volumes.


The government also has to balance the need to provide stability to home prices with the aspirations of Singaporeans who have yet to buy private homes.


The MND will likely be prudent and moderate the GLS programme for H2 2008. A shorter list of sites in both confirmed and reserve lists, with stronger emphasis on less choice locations, could do the trick.



Source: Business Times

Fickle flat buyers diverting HDB’s time, resources

Fickle flat buyers diverting HDB’s time, resources


WE WOULD like to thank Ms Tan Ai Li, Mr Adrian Bek, Mr Chua Chern Pin and Mr Adry Zamani for their comments and feedback on HDB’s new application process (May 24 and 28).

In recent sales exercises, HDB had seen significant over-subscription for new flats. However, some of the applicants did not book a flat when their turn was due, resulting in many flats being left unsold at the end of the exercises.


Many of such applicants had applied repeatedly for new flats in numerous sale exercises but declined to make a booking when called up. Processing their applications diverts HDB’s time and resources away from those with more urgent housing needs. HDB has, therefore, revised the application process to reduce the repeated non-selection of HDB flats in sales exercises.


In revising the flat application process, HDB analysed feedback from applicants who did not select a flat when their turn was due. Many of them indicated that the flat of their choice was not available, that they wanted to participate in other HDB sales exercises or switch to buying resale flats, or were not financially ready. This was despite HDB making available beforehand information such as the location, design, estimated completion dates and price ranges for flat buyers’ consideration.


The revised application process will encourage applicants to think through their housing plans and options carefully before they apply for a flat. Those with specific flat requirements in mind can also consider resale flats where a CPF Housing Grant of $30,000 to $40,000 is available for eligible flat buyers.


HDB will continue to monitor and review the flat application process regularly to meet the needs of HDB flat buyers.


Kee Lay Cheng (Ms)

Deputy Director (Marketing and Projects)

for Director (Estate Administration and Property)

Housing and Development Board


Source: Straits Times

Time-wasters steer clear of BTO projects

Time-wasters steer clear of BTO projects 


HDB’s two new projects still oversubscribed but at half the level seen before change of rules

By Jessica Cheam 


IT LOOKS like the time-wasters have got the message after the Housing Board tightened rules for flat applications.

The launch of 1,485 premium flats in Punggol and Sengkang closed on Wednesday with 4,050 applications – still oversubscribed but at about half the level seen before the new rules kicked in.


Some sales launches had become free-for-alls, with thousands of people who had no real intention of buying still lodging applications just to keep options open.


This was evident in the actual take-up rate for flats, which was sharply lower than the number of applicants.


Apart from creating an administrative headache for the HDB, such frivolous applicants also meant deserving buyers were pushed further back in the queue.


Now, a first-timer who twice rejects an offer to buy a flat at a build-to-order (BTO) or balloting sales exercise will lose his first-timer priorities for a year.


In other words, he will be sent to the back of the queue with the second-timers.


The shake-up has certainly made first-time buyers like Ms Lynne Huang, a 25-year-old teacher, more cautious.


‘The new rule is quite harsh, so home buyers like me really have to think twice before applying for any project,’ she said.


‘If I apply, it’s likely that I will buy a unit unless it’s on a very low floor.’


The amended regulations have raised fears that buyers offered leftover flats would be penalised, but the HDB has said it could be flexible if applicants at the back of the queue have good reasons for rejecting available homes.


HDB’s new rules had their first try-out in two new projects – Compassvale Pearl in Sengkang and Punggol Sapphire (below).


They were offered under the BTO system where flats are built once a certain level of demand is reached.


Compassvale Pearl received 977 applications for the 420 flats on offer, and Punggol Sapphire attracted 3,073 bids for 1,065 flats.


That put the ratio of applications to flats at 2.3 in Compassvale Pearl and 2.9 in Punggol Sapphire – roughly half the figure for projects launched earlier this year.


Applications for the Punggol Spring sale in February and Jade Spring @ Yishun Phase 2 in March were about five times the number of flats offered – or five would-be buyers for every home.


Punggol Spring received 2,765 applications for 494 flats, and Jade Spring @ Yishun Phase2 had 2,828 bidders for 576 flats, the HDB told The Straits Times.


Housing experts had anticipated the dip in applications following the rule change, but they still expect the take-up rate to remain strong due to real demand in the market.


PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said buyers are now showing discretion in their applications.


‘But I think the more interesting thing to watch is the actual take-up rate, if demand continues to meet the supply,’ he said.


Mr Colin Tan, head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, believes there is ‘a lot of pent-up demand’ in the market and it was likely the HDB could even see higher take-up rates from more serious buyers.


In the second half of last year, buyers took up about 54 to 72 per cent of flats in new HDB projects in Punggol, Sengkang and Bukit Panjang.


Unsold stock has reached an all-time low of 1,200 flats – a stark contrast to the 25,000 unsold flats at its peak.


HDB is ramping up supply to about 8,400 units this year – 40 per cent more than last year’s new supply.


Source: Straits Times