SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) launched four Build-To-Order (BTO) projects on Wednesday, offering 3,497 new flats in the non-mature towns of Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun.
The new flats comprise 2-room to 5-room flats, and Three-Generation (3Gen) flats.
Prices start from S$10,000 with maximum housing grants.
Siti Shahilah, aged 26, and her husband have been looking for a place of their own for about a year.
While they had hoped initially to buy a Build-To-Order flat in the mature town of Bedok, they have decided on a four-room unit in non-mature Sengkang instead.
Siti said: "It's a bit far but I think we can still afford it. For Bedok, the price right now is 300 (thousand) plus (Singapore dollars) for a three-room flat, but for Sengkang we can get a four-room flat. So why not take a bigger place?"
The new units are spread across three non-mature towns of Sengkang, Sembawang and Yishun.
Stefanie Ang, a potential homebuyer, said: "It's not really a main concern because I think at the end of the day, Yishun and Sembawang will be the areas that will become more developed."
Muhammad Hairuddin, a BTO applicant said: "It's not the most ideal but we have to make do, so we're hoping that in four to five years’ time when we move into the place, there'll be more amenities and transportation will be more developed over there."
Chris Koh, director at Chris International, said: "We call it a non-mature estate because we are still building in that estate. But perhaps I don't have to look at whether it's called non-mature or mature, but rather look at the age of the estate and the infrastructure that has come up.
“Although they are non-mature estates, some of the estates are older. We're talking about estates like Yishun -- some of the flats there are easily 20 years old. When the estate is older, you tend to have more infrastructure already in place, such as the public transportation network, the schools, the shopping."
Property analysts foresee the overall demand for BTO flats to be healthy, but also expect two-room flats for singles and 3Gen flats to continue to be popular.
Christine Li, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee, said: "The demand from singles is still very strong. I expect it (the take-up rate) to still be in the double digits. Previously, some people still haven't got their two-room flat, so they'll try again and again until they get it.
“3Gen flats will attract a fair bit of healthy interest. Looking at the number of units on offer, it's only 70 units. It's a small number and given it's next to a reservoir, waterfront living appeals to a lot of people."
Some analysts noted in the previous BTO launch in January, there were about 41 singles applying for each two-room flat in Punggol.
"With the small increase of the number of 2-room units offered from 604 to 740 flats, the supply of 2-room flats in this BTO launch is still unlikely to meet all the demand from singles for this category," said Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International.
As for whether recent changes to the HDB resale process will affect demand for BTO flats, some property analysts say it is unlikely.
In a move to shift the attention of negotiations away from Cash-Over-Valuation, the government earlier announced that buyers and sellers have to agree on a price first, before being allowed to get a valuation from HDB for a resale flat.
"People who buy resale flats and BTO flats do differ,” noted Chris Koh.
“Many who can't wait for BTO flats prefer to be in the resale market. Whereas those who prefer to buy a flat that is brand new, one that's cheaper, especially if they can wait… for the construction process, don’t mind the BTO flats."
In a statement on Wednesday, HDB said the new flats are meant to meet the diverse housing needs of first-time buyers, second-timers, multi-generation families, and singles.
First-timers will continue to have priority flat allocation, with at least 85 per cent of 4-room and 5-room flats and 70 per cent of 2-room and 3-room flats in the BTO supply set aside for them.
Eligible first-timer singles have the option of applying for a 2-room flat in EastCrown @ Canberra, EastLace @ Canberra, and Fern Grove @ Yishun.
Married or courting couples who wish to apply for a 3Gen flat together with their parent or parents can apply for one at Anchorvale Parkview, which will offer 70 3Gen flats in the exercise.
Other multi-generation families who wish to live in the same BTO project can apply under the Multi-Generation Priority Scheme (MGPS).
There will be flats set aside in EastCrown @ Canberra, EastLace @ Canberra and Fern Grove @ Yishun for that purpose.
HDB will set aside up to 15 per cent of the Studio Apartments, 2-room and 3-room flats in a BTO project, subject to a minimum of 20 units each, for parents applying under MGPS.
The same number of 2-room and bigger flats will be set aside in the same BTO project for their married children.
This is the second BTO launch for 2014, bringing the total number of flats offered for sale this year to 6,636.
HDB said as with all new public housing developments launched since January this year, it will introduce a standard suite of eco-features in all four projects.
The features are meant to manage water, energy and waste more efficiently.
Regular updates on the number of applications submitted for the various flat types or towns will be published at HDB InfoWEB.
HDB advised applicants to check for updates before submitting their applications.
In May 2014, HDB will offer about 3,060 BTO flats in Bukit Batok and Woodlands.
An additional 3,000 flats will be offered in a concurrent Sales of Balance Flats (SBF) exercise.
Information on the flats for offer under the May 2014 BTO exercise can be found at the HDB InfoWEB.
More information on the flats for offer under the March 2014 BTO exercise in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun can be found here. - CNA/nd/ec
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