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02 February 2013

2nd February, Saturday




6.9m population figure not a forecast or target: Khaw

Source: Business Times

Singapore may not hit the 6.9 million population figure as provided in the White Paper on Population released earlier this week as it is a basis for planning for the future and is a worst-case scenario.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan clarified this in his blog post Friday as he sought to explain that the figure given in the paper is not a forecast or target and simply states the assumptions going forward.

He added that the 6.9 million population figure, which is the upper limit of what the paper projects Singapore to reach by 2030, simply states the assumptions going forward. Based on a certain set of productivity and workforce growth rates and that for planning purposes, it is safer to take the more aggressive projection and plan infrastructure needs based on it. "This way we will not be caught under-providing, as we are experiencing currently."

"But as planners, we have to ensure that the infrastructure could accommodate such a figure, if need be. Our hope is that the actual figure would turn out to be much lower."

Mr Khaw concluded that such a strategy follows the time-tested survival mantra of preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, and that this was the only responsible thing to do.


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Too soon to bet on plot ratio hikes: analysts

Source: Business Times

The Ministry of National Development (MND) has indicated in its Land Use Plan that intensifying use of land would be one strategy to support a larger population.

Although it plans to optimise land use where possible, it will look at the possibility of intensification only where it can be supported by planned infrastructure capacity (such as roads and MRT stations) and the provision of adequate amenities (such as retail, and food and beverage outlets). "We also seek to ensure we can safeguard a good liveable environment for the neighbourhood when reviewing the suitability and feasibility of intensification," MND said in response to Business Times' queries.

Some property consultants are not counting on any general increase in plot ratios for private housing sites fanning a new wave of collective sales for the ongoing review of the Master Plan, following MND's recent release of its Land Use Plan.

With the Land Use Plan out, the Master Plan - the blueprint for Singapore's physical development and which contains details such as approved use and plot ratio for each site in Singapore - is expected to be completed in around a year's time.


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Tampines North may pip Tengah in attractiveness

Source: The Straits Times

Tampines North and Tengah are slated to be bustling new towns in the coming years, though analysts say the latter could be a harder sell because of its location and current condition.

The two estates are part of the Land Use Plan released this week, to chart out the infrastructure needed to house a projected population of 6.9 million by 2030.

Tampines North, which is near the furniture store Ikea and Giant hypermarket, has a large expanse of open space measuring some 240ha. It is bounded by Tampines Avenue 10 and Tampines Avenue 9. Over the next three years, the site is expected to offer about 21,000 homes.

One analyst said that Tampines North would be the more attractive one. "Residents who move there will know they are a short distance away from an established town, which would have its own array of amenities like malls and clinics," he explained. Another advantage is that it sits near the Tampines Expressway.

Attracting residents to Tengah, a location currently dominated by forests, farmland and military areas, would be a bigger challenge.

Located in the west and bounded by Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Jurong West, the 700ha site is expected to host 55,000 homes in about three to five years.

Said one analyst: "A sound transport network needs to be established there before anybody will take notice." He added that being far from town and prone to the noise of planes, "it won't be easy to capture buyers' attention compared to, say, Punggol with its waterfront options".

But there is potential.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has said previously that Tengah's wide spaces will give planners "maximum opportunity to plan even better, such as new layouts and new building forms".


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Chance to invest? Don't be in a hurry: Experts

Source: The Straits Times

The Land Use Plan unveiled earlier this week has got property investors salivating over big new growth areas but analysts warn that payday is a long way off.

One thing is clear though - there will be huge investments coming up and some areas are firmly in the box seat.

The winners include existing estates like Woodlands, Bedok, Sembawang and Yishun, which the Government has earmarked for further rejuvenation and expansion.

Other areas set to enjoy significant infrastructure spending, including the waterfront city extending from Marina Bay through Telok Blangah and on to Pasir Panjang Terminal, are also likely to see home prices increase.

Some might see these announcements as a green light to start looking for a residential investment, but experts emphasised that these plans would take time to achieve given that they range to 2030.


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Island south of Sentosa zoned for housing

Source: The Straits Times

In more than two decades, some residents could call Pulau Seringat - a tiny island south of Sentosa - home.

The island, reported as a potential site for a casino resort six years ago, has been zoned for residential use under the Ministry of National Development's (MND) Land Use Plan announced on Thursday.

Asked about its plans for the area, the MND said that there were no further development plans for Pulau Seringat at this time, and the southern islands would be retained for recreational uses.


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More home owners 'decoupling' property to avoid hefty duty

Source: The Straits Times

Home owners are finding ways to reduce the amount they have to pay after hefty stamp duty increases were introduced two weeks ago.

One way is for families - say a husband and wife, or a parent and child - who bought a house together to transfer one partner's share to the other person.

This creates a sole owner and leaves the other half of the pair free to buy another home without having to pay the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD), as that purchase will be seen as his first.

The saving can be substantial. A Singaporean buying a second home will have to pay a 7 per cent ABSD, while permanent residents (PRs) pay 10 per cent.

But the transferring of a half share to one of the co-owners is still subject to the standard stamp duty rate of 3 per cent, as it is considered a transaction.


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CapitaLand cuts prices at Alexandra condo project

Source: The Straits Times

CapitaLand has slashed prices at another of its residential projects, this time The Interlace in Alexandra Road.

The Straits Times understands that the developer will offer an additional price discount of 10 per cent of its list price for sales starting from today.

This brings the total discount to 20 per cent, as the company had already been offering a 10 per cent discount previously.

Of the 302 units left unsold at the mega 1,040-unit project as of the end of last year, most are three-bedroom, three-plus-study and four-bedroom apartments.

Prices for typical three-bedroom units of between 1,593 sq ft and 1,905 sq ft, for instance, are now expected to range from about $1.9 million to $2.3 million - or between about $1,100 per sq ft (psf) and $1,300 psf. The prices for such units were about $2.1 million to $2.5 million before the additional discount.


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Sales of ECs increase despite new cooling measures

Source: Today

Some Executive Condominium (EC) developers have seen higher sales despite the Government introducing a package of cooling measures on Jan 12.

EC projects like One Canberra and Watercolours, which were launched last year, have seen sales jump by about five times after the measures kicked in.

In the two weekends after the new measures kicked in, One Canberra sold 30 units, up from two to three units per week before the announcement. Over 60 per cent have been sold after it was launched for sale in June last year.

Watercolours have also sold 20 units in the last two weekends. This is more than five times from before the cooling measures were implemented.

Watercolours was launched mid last year and over 70 per cent of units here have been sold so far.

Analysts expect seven new EC projects to be launched for sale this year from sites awarded last year.

Assuming all the projects are fully sold, analysts said there won’t be any new EC units in the market in the first half of next year as a result of the 15-month restriction on sites sold after 12 January.

They added that ECs will continue to be popular among home buyers and they expect prices to remain stable this year.


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Industrial, food sites up for sale in Jurong

Source: The Straits Times

Two industrial land plots were launched for sale this week at Buroh Crescent and Tuas Bay Walk.

Both sites are on 30-year leases and zoned Business 2 (B2), meaning they are suitable for heavy industrial use.

The 1.77ha parcel in Buroh Crescent is in an established industrial estate in Boon Lay and has a maximum permissible gross plot ratio of 2.5.

It is the first site where developers will have to comply with new regulations that require them to build a minimum number of large units. The successful tenderer must set aside some of these units for companies identified by government agencies and may have to offer reservations at no cost or unconditional rights of first refusal.

This is onerous for developers, said Mr Lee Sze Teck, senior manager at property firm Dennis Wee Group. He said bids are likely to be cautious, given the poor manufacturing outlook, and may range from $80 to $100 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr).

The other plot, a 0.58ha plot at Tuas Bay Walk, is zoned for food factories. It has a maximum permissible gross plot ratio of 1.7.

Analysts said food factory sites were rare, so demand would likely be strong from both developers and end-users. Mr Lee said bids could range from $70 to $100 psf ppr.

The tenders for both sites will close at 11am on 14 March.


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Changi properties ready for take-off

Source: The Straits Times

The Changi neighbourhood may adjoin one of the region's busiest airports, but it has long slipped under the radar of property investors - certainly when compared with the nearby mature townships of Tampines and Simei.

Still, the low-key district has witnessed a quiet warming of its non-residential property market with rents and prices registering a slight increase in the past year.

The area is dominated by industrial facilities and business park space, such as Sim Siang Choon Building and Changi Business Park, housing UE BizHub East and Honeywell Building. While the district does have retail spaces, they are mainly limited to three areas: shopping mall Changi City Point, Changi Airport and Singapore Expo.

Property investors looking to buy industrial units here will find that prices have risen considerably in recent times.

Data from analysts point to the i-Lofts@Changi project as the major source of strata-titled units up for sale. The project is a 30-year leasehold development at Changi North Street 1 and contains 36 units. Transaction prices have risen, with units fetching an average price of $266 per sq ft in 2012, up 21 per cent from the average $219 psf price in 2011.

Rents have also been on the rise. In the final three months of 2012, median rents of warehouse space in the Changi area stood at $1.80 psf per month, about 6 per cent higher than a year earlier.

While the property market in the area is still far from buzzing, newer developments are expected to whip up more excitement.

UE BizHub East is located at the heart of the Changi Business Park, a business hub in the east. The development, which has been completed, houses a business hotel with up to 300 rooms as well as office and retail space.

Firms such as Cisco Systems and British Telecom have signed on to lease space within the BizHub development. Just a stone's throw away, several other big-name firms have inked leases at One@Changi City, including Credit Suisse and IT firm EMC. One@Changi City consists of business park space, the Changi City Point mall and a boutique hotel residence, Capri by Fraser.

These two developments, plus the upcoming Singapore University of Technology and Design campus in Changi South, will no doubt supplement the modest 16,500 residents living in Changi, thereby boosting shopping traffic in the area as well.


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International Markets


China home prices up 1% in Jan; biggest gain in two years

Source: Business Times

China’s new home prices rose one per cent last month, the biggest gain in two years, as developers turned optimistic because the government did not impose additional measures to curb the property market last month.

Prices climbed for an eighth month in January to 9,812 yuan (S$1,955) per sq m from December, the country's biggest real estate website owner, said Friday, based on its survey of 100 cities. The increase was the biggest since January 2011.

Home prices rose 1.2 per cent last month from a year ago.

The eastern coastal city of Quanzhou had the biggest gain last month, increasing 4 per cent. Home prices in major cities of Beijing and Shanghai both rose 2.3 per cent from December.

China's property prices have "bottomed out" at the end of last year, while developers' credit profile have improved on sales growth and better liquidity,


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