2013 might be the year of housing policies shockwaves. Earlier in the year, news of singles being about to purchase new HDB flats directly from housing board stirred the market a little, then there were the limits placed on dual-key apartments which are now only available to multi-generational families. A cap was also put on the size of executive condominium (EC) units, at 160 sq m. ECs have been put under the microscope of late, with some questioning the amount of subsidies buyers are receiving from the government.
Certain members of public have questioned whether EC buyers should receive any government subsidies at all, since they are able to or willing to afford million-dollar units in both new and resale developments. The executive condominium scheme was initially set up by the government in 1996 to help families transit between public and private properties. But as the price gap between ECs and private properties now draw close, there has been a niggling thought about whether changes should be made to this scheme.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan recently highlighted that there might soon be changes in the EC scheme and buyers and developers are poised to react. Forestville, the next EC to launch in June this year, might benefit from increased response since buyers might be leaping at what may very well be their last chance to secure a unit under the current conditions. EL Development‘s Lim Yew Soon has this to say: “Whenever policies change or are alikely to, the immediate launches will have the biggest benefits. There’s a good change that buyers may snap up existing ECs to ensure they still receive the grant.” Will resale ECs also benefit from this rush?
Should there be a drastic adjustment in government subsides, the most affected might be first-time buyers. Buyers and owners of existing ECs are imploring the authorities and public to see things from their point of view. Engineer Eddy Lau, 40, said, “It’s not right to just look at the profit we make. We also pay more in interest over the years for the EC. For us who are sandwiched, ECs are the only option to upgrade.”
Ultimately, the question that probably begets the Government is, what defines “sandwiched class” and what are the housing schemes actually meant to do. And perhaps only honest answers will help everyone fully understand and accept Singapore’s future housing situation.