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11 June 2012

11th June, Monday




HDB first - the ring can wait

Source: Business Times

A small but significant number of under-25s are putting down the deposits for their first flats even before the man has gone down on one knee.

Housing and Development Board (HDB) records show that under-25s formed 32, 39 and 35 per cent of its Fiance-Fiancee Scheme between 2009 and 2011 respectively. The median age of this group is 27.

The Business Times spoke to several young couples, all university students, fresh graduates, or relatively new entrants to the workforce with one or two years of experience. All were not deterred by their young age, smaller incomes, or even the lack of an official engagement.

In fact, many agreed that buying a house first "makes sense".

Others find that getting public housing is the luck of the draw, and would rather not wait till they are engaged to attempt securing a flat.

Not only is it close to a three-year wait for Build- to-Order blocks to be constructed, but the application process is no guarantee of a flat.

Under HDB's Fiancé/Fiancée Scheme, a couple must produce a wedding certificate three months after taking possession of a flat. But when the proposal happens is entirely up to the couple.

Young couples must still be sure about their relationship before they sink money into a large asset like a house.

Last July, a buyer who bought a flat under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) with her fiance ended up paying $120,000 in penalties and legal fees after the wedding was called off.

An HDB spokesman said the board advises young couples to "think through their options carefully" as buying a flat is a major decision, adding that HDB is always present to offer its assistance.


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CapitaLand has shoebox homes at Bedok Residences

Source: Business Times

CapitaLand Group, whose CEO recently called shoebox homes "almost inhuman", has residential projects with units that fall within this category.

At Bedok Residences, 37 of the development's 583 apartments are below 50 sq m (538 sq ft). The smallest unit is 48 sq m, or about 517 sq ft. Another 11 units border along the size of a shoebox apartment at 50 sq m.

Over at d'Leedon at Farrer Road, 226 of its 1,715 units are between 50 and 60 sq m, slightly bigger than what is usually considered a shoebox home.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) defines a small apartment as being below 50 sq m. There are, however, slight variations to benchmarks used on what constitutes a small home here. For instance, the NUS Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) classifies small apartments as those up to 506 sq ft (47 sq m). Most in the property industry agree, however, that shoebox apartments are units of about 500 sq ft each.

When asked about the small apartments that CapitaLand is building in relation to his recent comments, Liew Mun Leong, who is also the listed group's president, said: "CapitaLand does not build residential units for sale that are less than 500 sq ft each. At Bedok Residences, 37 units are 48-49 sq m each. If we convert to sq ft, they are about 517-527 sq ft each.

"This is in line with what I said recently about shoebox apartments in an interview with Bloomberg. I had said that 'it's almost inhuman, it's not good for the welfare of the family to feel that constrained'."

Noting that his use of the word "inhuman" to describe shoebox apartments has raised a storm among members of the public and some developers, Mr Liew added: "Since the word 'inhuman' has caused so much controversy, I should have said it's 'too restrictive' instead.

"While there are some singles or couples who may not mind staying in small apartments, CapitaLand as a developer is of the view that shoebox units may not be conducive nor healthy for bringing up families with children. For this reason, our small units of about 500 sq ft each are typically one-bedroom units."


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'Proxy wars' in condos

Source: Today

At one condominium in Ang Mo Kio, the developer, which also owned units in the property, seized control of the management council and tried - albeit unsuccessfully - to push through a collective sale as well as a proposal to build a covered car park using the maintenance and sinking funds.

At another development in Simei, property agents infiltrated its management council and then transacted several units, with residents suspecting they did so by accessing their personal data or leasing information.

Such "proxy wars" have been waged for years at condos across the island: Home owners who are also property agents or developers allegedly coerce or harass other residents for proxies in a bid to seize majority voting power, get themselves elected into the management council and ultimately make decisions to their benefit.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is reviewing the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, including the use of proxies at annual general meetings, its spokesperson said in response to TODAY's queries. The review is undergoing public consultation till the end of this month. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The BCA spokesperson reiterated that all condo management council members who have direct or indirect interests in any matters or contracts should declare the nature of this interest and abstain from any discussion or voting.

On the issue, Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) Deputy Director (licensing) Yeap Soon Teck warned that property agents "should not take advantage of their position and influence (in the management council) to benefit their estate agency work."

Also, under CEA's Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care, salespersons "must not use threatening or harassing tactics or apply unreasonable pressure on any person to get themselves elected (to the management council), and bring discredit or disrepute to the real estate agency industry." The CEA will look into complaints and property agents who are found guilty of breaching the code could be fined, or have their licences revoked or suspended, Mr Yeap said.


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