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30 January 2013

30th January, Wednesday




S'pore population could reach 6.9m by 2030

Source: Business Times

In about 17 years' time, Singapore's population could rise from 5.31 million today to as high as 6.9 million, based on the government's latest projections.

This comprises a resident population of 4.2-4.4 million, of which 3.6-3.8 million are citizens and the remainder, permanent residents (PRs). The non-resident group will number about 2.3-2.5 million.

The plan is to bring in some 30,000 new PRs every year to maintain the PR population size at about 500,000-600,000. From this total pool, the government will grant citizenship to 15,000-25,000 people each year to prevent the citizen population from shrinking.

These figures are based on various assumptions, according to the document by the national population and talent division.

Firstly, that the stretched productivity target of 2-3 per cent for this decade dips to 1-2 per cent between 2020 and 2030. Secondly, that the workforce growth rate falls to one per cent between 2020 and 2030, from 3.3 per cent over the last three decades.

Should these numbers be realised, Singapore's gross domestic product growth beyond 2020 is likely to come in at 2-3 per cent a year, down from the 3-5 per cent estimate for the current decade.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the government has, in recent years, moderated the number of new citizens and PRs coming in, as well as introduced many measures to curb the growth of the foreign workforce.

He also said that there was a need to supplement the local workforce with "suitable foreigners with the appropriate skills and experiences" to meet the country's social and infrastructural needs as the population greys.

Singapore's citizen population reached a turning point last year as the first cohort of baby boomers turned 65. Between now and 2030, more than 900,000 baby boomers - a quarter of the current citizen population - will enter their silver years.

From 2020 onwards, the number of working-age citizens will decline as Singaporeans who retire outnumber those who are just joining the workforce, according to the White Paper. At the current low birth rate, the citizen population will age rapidly and also start declining from 2025 if new immigrants are not brought in.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that Singapore's population challenges were both "difficult and complex". "It is not just the headline number which matters, but getting the right mix of citizens and PRs, creating exciting opportunities for our people, and building a city that offers a high quality of life and a nation that is the best home for all of us."


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Khaw: Need for 700,000 more homes by 2030

Source: Business Times

Enough land has been set aside for 700,000 more homes here by 2030 - more than half the 1.2 million households currently - to cater to a growing population.

This is part of a plan to provide good and affordable housing for Singaporeans detailed in the Population White Paper Tuesday, as the population may reach 6.9 million by then.

The White Paper acknowledged that Singapore had fallen behind in its planning and investment for infrastructure development, and accordingly discussed other improvements, such as a better and more extensive transport system.

Of the 700,000 homes that can be built, about 200,000 are already under construction.

Of the remaining half a million houses, many will be in new towns, such as Tengah, Tampines North and Bidadari.

More details will be revealed in a Land Use plan report by the MND later this week.


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12-way battle for plum Jurong site Great location

Source: The Straits Times

A plum Jurong West residential site sparked a 12-way battle among developers although the tough new property curbs seem to have kept bids from going through the roof.

Experts had expected the top bid to range from $540 to $680 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr) when the tender was launched last November, but that was before the cooling measures hit a few weeks ago.

MCL Land submitted the top bid of $438.9 million - or $651 psf ppr - for the 99-year leasehold residential site on Jurong West Street 41.

That was at the upper end of the range but MCL Land chief executive Koh Teck Chuan told The Straits Times that the measures did have a dampening effect on the bids.

The MCL bid was just 3 per cent more than the $424.9 million - or $631 psf ppr - offered by UOL Group unit Secure Development.

Other bidders for the 22,357 sq m plot included a joint bid by Frasers Centrepoint, Far East Orchard and Sekisui House, Low Keng Huat and Mezzo Development, which lodged the lowest bid of $243.8 million - or $362 psf ppr.

MCL's Mr Koh said the project will have 650 to 700 units of one- to four-bedroom apartments.

Experts said the strong showing in the tender indicates that developers still want good sites.

The Jurong plot is 450m from the Lakeside MRT station, which will eventually be linked to the Jurong Region Line, and there will be clear views of Jurong Lake, noted an analyst.

Based on the competitive number of bids and high land prices submitted in the tender, it seems that some developers do not expect private home prices to fall in the next one year or so despite the latest measures, added another analyst.

"Buyer demand should come from professionals working in the industries in the Jurong and Tuas areas as well as upgrader demand from the Housing Board estates in Jurong East and Jurong West," an analyst added.

Mr Lee Sze Teck, senior manager for training, research and consultancy at Dennis Wee Group, notes that while Jurong East will be the biggest commercial hub outside the central business district, it has limited land parcels for residential development.

Those who want to live near the hub might have to look to Jurong West instead. The Canadian International School next to the site also provides a good catchment of tenants, he added.


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3,300 BTO flats for sale in latest launch

Source: The Straits Times

The Housing Board (HDB) is rolling out 3,346 flats in mature and non-mature estates, the first to feature a new priority scheme for married couples with young kids.

The flats in the first launch of Build-To-Order (BTO) projects for the year are in Ang Mo Kio, Kallang-Whampoa, Tampines, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang and Yishun.

The Government recently tweaked the rules to help families with children younger than 16, and who had not obtained a housing grant, to secure a new flat. Previously, they were grouped with newly married and engaged couples in vying for the allotment of at least 85 per cent of new flats for first-time applicants.

Now, 30 per cent of the BTO flat supply and half of leftover units on offer will be reserved for families with children below 16. This amounts to at least 7,000 new flats this year, based on the projected supply of 23,000 units.

Analysts were divided over whether there will be a rush from this group to buy the new flats.

"We could very well see more married couples with kids stepping forward to bid for a home in mature towns, thus increasing competition in those areas," said one analyst.

But Dennis Wee Group spokesman Lee Sze Teck thinks that this segment is unlikely to be very large. "Many married couples would have gone for a flat before their children hit 16, and those who have not may be comfortable with their current housing arrangements," he said.

The units set aside for this group will be released to other first-timers if they are not taken up, said an HDB spokesman.


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Expat housing here 2.7% pricier this year

Source: Business Times

The average cost of relocating staff to Singapore has increased 2.7 per cent to average US$5,510 per month this year - third highest in Asia and eighth globally.

According to data from the report - which uses rental prices of three-bedroom apartments in areas commonly inhabited by expatriates as the benchmark comparison - rents for an unfurnished three-bedroom apartment in Districts 9-11 and East Coast average US$5,510 per month, 50 per cent higher than the regional average.

Companies are managing the increase in costs by expanding the locations in which they expect employees to reside, and scaling back on accommodation packages for certain employees.

Looking ahead, the report does not expect rents to increase more than 5 per cent this year.


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Govt must carefully manage housing, infrastructure developments

Source: Channelnewsasia

The government is planning to build 700,000 new homes by 2030 to meet the projected increase in population to up to 6.9 million in about 20 years.

Market observers said that the key challenge is to ensure that the supply of housing and supporting infrastructure rolled out is in line with population growth.

The government plans to roll out some 200,000 new homes by 2016 and it is setting aside land to build another 500,000 units till 2030. Plans are also in the pipeline to improve transport infrastructure.

Experts said the government will have to carefully manage the development of facilities to ensure that they're in line with population growth.

"The crux of the issue is the speed in which the population increases versus the infrastructure and the completion of the housing stock. These two elements of infrastructure development and housing development take time. It takes an average two years for housing, 1.5 to two years to meet the demand. That has to be timed accurately," one analyst said.

With the projected population increase and new home supply, analysts believe demand for housing will remain sustainable.

An analyst said: "We will not expect a significant drop in property prices. However, will it go up? I think there is a big question mark. The government is taking a lot of concerted effort to make sure that prices do not go through the roof."

City planners expect more home-buyers to be attracted by new satellite townships with commercial hubs. This will allow residents to work and play near their homes.

The White Paper has listed Woodlands, Serangoon and Punggol as possible growth areas for businesses. Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central and One-North will also be expected to mature by then.

The National Development Ministry is expected to release more details on land use plans this week.


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Room for more commercial developments in northeast S'pore

Source: Channelnewsasia

The government has been ramping up housing supply in recent years, particularly in the north-eastern part of Singapore and some analysts said there is room for more commercial developments to meet the needs of the growing population.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB), a total of 44,868 residential units will be completed in Sengkang and Punggol by 2016. The nearby Pasir Ris town will also see 10,243 units in the next three years.

As a result, analysts said some of these towns may have limited shopping options.

One analyst said: "When we look at shop space, we need to bear in mind that this excludes space used for F&B as well as entertainment space. If we were to consider the total amount of shop space available in the main areas of Sengkang, Punggol, Pasir Ris as well as Tampines, we can actually see that Sengkang and Punggol have a lower space per capita of about two sq ft, compared to Tampines which has about seven sq ft."

The completion of The Seletar Mall and Waterway Point in the next two to three years would add another 780,000 square feet of retail space in the Sengkang/Punggol area. The URA has also launched a commercial site at Punggol Point for sale on 4 December last year.

Looking ahead, as these new towns continue to grow, analysts said there is room for more shopping malls.

An analyst said: "In three to five years, there could be more opportunities for commercial sale of sites. Generally, these malls maybe smaller in size of less than 300,000 sq ft. In some cases, they could be about 100,000 square feet to 200,000 sq ft, mainly catering for the local population."

Some analysts said one way to address the issue is for the government to release more mixed development sites in these areas. On these sites, developers will be able to build a combination of residential units and commercial shops which will also serve residents in the vicinity.

Analysts expect the government to continue to improve the range of facilities in new towns.

Lee Sze Teck, senior manager of training, research and consultancy at DWG, said: "The Masterplan review is coming up this year and we will probably see some changes to land uses. From there on, we will see how the URA is going to implement some of these changes to cater for an increase in population."

Responding to query, HDB said more commercial facilities will be provided to serve residents as a town gets more developed. It added that 71 shops, eating houses and supermarkets will be built in Sengkang, Punggol and Pasir Ris by 2016.


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