Real News‎ > ‎2013‎ > ‎June 2013‎ > ‎

19 June 2013

Over $1b given to low-income to buy HDB flats

Source: Straits Times 
By Daryl Chin Property Correspondent

MORE than $1 billion in grants has been given out by the Government to help low-income households get on the property ladder by buying their first HDB flat.

This has benefited close to 60,000 first-timer households since 2006, the Housing Board said in a statement to The Straits Times.

There are two types of HDB housing grants available to citizens who earn less and whose needs are seen as greater when it comes to securing a permanent roof over their heads.

For instance, the Additional Housing Grant (AHG), introduced in 2006, gives up to $40,000 if the applicant's household income is less than $1,500 a month.

This grant, which can be used to buy either a new flat from the HDB or a resale unit in the open market, has been disbursed to 58,845 households as of April this year, totalling $1.1 billion.

The other scheme, dubbed the Special Housing Grant (SHG), was implemented in 2011 as a supplement to the AHG.

To be used only for flats bought directly from the HDB, this grant was meant to lessen the sting of the rising cost of living for poorer Singaporeans, property analysts said.

Under the SHG for example, applicants earning less than $1,500 get $20,000.

The HDB said 1,238 households had taken advantage of the $13.15 million given out by the government scheme.

These figures do not include other schemes such as the family or single grants.

Property firm PropNex's chief executive Mohamed Ismail said the grants have provided a yearly average of 8,000 households a foothold in the property market.

He said: "The two schemes have given lower-income households a head start.

"Their flats, which are the same quality of product as everyone else's, will see similar capital appreciation, and effectively ease wealth distribution among citizens."

Mr Nicholas Mak, head of research at property consultancy firm SLP International, said it was perhaps timely to raise the income level of the schemes to include even more people.

"This will cast a wider net and capture more groups that are facing the reality of a higher cost of living," he said.

More low-income households buying flats with Govt grants

Source: Straits Times 
By Daryl Chin Property Correspondent

MORE low-income households are stepping forward to purchase a flat with the help of a Government grant, amid the ramp-up in supply.

Some 13,325 households received aid of up to $40,000 under the Additional Housing Grant (AHG) last year, compared to 1,762 when it began in 2006.

Overall, some 58,845 households have received a leg-up for both resale and new flats, to the tune of $1.11 billion, said the Housing Board yesterday.

The AHG is one of two schemes to help low-income Singaporean households - earning less than $5,000 - secure a HDB flat, although the amount disbursed depends on the income level.

The other, dubbed the Special Housing Grant, which gives up to $20,000, also saw a strong take-up last year.

Some 762 applicants signed up for it last year, compared to 248 when it was introduced in March 2011. As of April this year, $13.15 million had been given out under the SHG.

International Property Advisor director Ku Swee Yong said it was no surprise that that so many households had applied, given that property is viewed by many as an appreciating asset.

"Another contributing factor," he added, "was the fact that HDB has been aggressively pushing out more flats to meet demand, which has accumulated in recent years."

The HDB rolled out 27,000 Build-To-Order flats last year - the most since the system was introduced in 2002. In 2006, it launched only 2,400 units.

Singapore has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world, with more than 80 per cent of its citizens living in HDB flats.

Such schemes have helped home-buyers like Mr Ngan Kok Hwee and his wife.

They received a $60,000 grant in total for their three-room flat in Sembawang, which brought the price tag down to $105,800.

Mr Ngan, 32, who does freelance work organising funerals, said: "The cost of living these days is very high. With the help given, at least I'm able to start a family of my own and hopefully be able to pass something of value to our children in future."

Others, like house-hunter James Koh, believe the two schemes can be expanded to include those earning a bit more.

"I understand that the grants are tiered towards helping the lower-income. But these are arbitrary numbers that have adverse effects on some buyers," said the 28-year-old book store assistant.

But limits are there for a reason, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail. "If everyone wants more and more handouts, the burden on taxpayers will only get unreasonably larger," he said.

Eunosville seeks $688m in collective sale bid

Ex-HUDC estate in Sims Avenue makes maiden attempt to go en bloc

Source: Straits Times | Money
By Cheryl Ong

SINGAPORE'S collective sale market is showing signs of taking off again with two sales this week and now a bid to sell a former HUDC estate in Eunos for $688 million.

If successful, this would be the largest collective sale in six years.

The 330-unit Eunosville, in Sims Avenue, which was privatised in 2011, is making its maiden attempt at a collective sale.

The asking price works out to a unit price of $799 per sq ft (psf) per plot ratio (ppr).

This is after taking into account $155 million payable to the Government to top up the lease from about 74.5 years to 99 years, and for intensification of the site's use, said marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

This week, two smaller collective sales have gone through. Developer Tuan Sing bought Gilstead Court in the exclusive Novena-Newton area for $150.2 million and Yi Mei Garden in Tampines Road was sold to Roxy-Pacific Holdings for $136 million.

Another large collective sale, of Thomson View to Wee Hur Holdings for $590 million, inked in September last year, has now hit a legal snag.

Mr Karamjit Singh, head of investments and residential at JLL, said the required 80 per cent of owners at Eunosville had given their consent to the collective sale this month, leading the sales committee to launch the tender now.

Over the past six years, other privatised HUDC estates that have been sold en bloc include Gillman Heights, at $548 million, Waterfront View, at $385 million, Minton Rise, at $342 million, and Amberville, at $183 million. Eunosville may be shaping up as a large collective sale but it falls short of 618-unit Farrer Court, sold for $1.34 billion in 2007.

"It is not often that a privatised HUDC estate is launched for collective sale, largely due to the sheer size of such estates," said Mr Tan Hong Boon, JLL's regional director of investments. He said only eight such estates had been launched for sale en bloc since 2006, of which five had sold.

However, Mr Singh added that developers will be keen on the site as the total investment for Eunosville is under $1 billion, while the absolute land value of most similar projects tends to be higher.

Mr Tan said developers have the option of dividing the plot into two or more parcels, and can expect to sell units for about $1,450 psf to $1,650 psf, based on an estimated break-even price of $1,200 psf. Home owners of Eunosville can expect to receive sales proceeds of more than $2 million each, based on the asking price.

The 376,712 sq ft plot has been earmarked for residential use, and can yield about 1,000 units averaging 1,100 sq ft each, said JLL.

The development consists of four low-rise blocks, each four storeys high. It also has two nine- storey blocks, two 11-storey blocks and two 13-storey blocks. Located opposite Eunos MRT station, Eunosville is one stop away from the upcoming Paya Lebar Commercial Hub. It was built in the late 1980s by the HUDC.

Mr Singh said the prospects for collective sale properties depend on location and other factors.

He said: "It's an en bloc market where when there are good-value, well-priced and well-located properties, there will be ample takers for it. Where en bloc (sites) are priced unrealistically or don't have key attributes, they may struggle to find buyers."

The tender for Eunosville closes on July 24.


Area: 376,712 sq ft plot in Sims Avenue opposite the Eunos MRT station
Minimum price asked for: $688 million or $799 per sq ft per plot ratio, after taking into consideration $155 million payable to the Government to top up the lease from about 74.5 years to 99 years, and for intensification of the site's use
What it can yield: About 1,000 units averaging 1,100 sq ft each, said marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle.
How much a new development on the site can sell for: Developers can expect to sell units for about $1,450 psf to $1,650 psf, based on an estimated break-even price of $1,200 psf, said Mr Tan Hong Boon, JLL's regional director of investments

It is not often that a privatised HUDC estate is launched for collective sale, largely due to the sheer size of such estates.

- Mr Tan Hong Boon, Jones Lang LaSalle's regional director of investments

Fierce bidding for Faber Walk site

Tender closes with top bid of $157m after 18 bidders vie for residential site

Source: Straits Times | Money 
By Rachel Scully

A RESIDENTIAL site at Faber Walk received an overwhelming response from 18 bidders at the close of a tender yesterday with a top bid of $156.7 million.

In what some analysts said was the most fiercely contested tender of a residential site under the Government Land Sale (GLS) programme so far this year, developer World Class Land put up the highest bid for the site which translates into $687.42 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr).

The top five bids (see table) for the 99-year leasehold site, which has a five-storey height limit and can yield 210 homes, were 24 per cent to 60 per cent higher than what property analysts had predicted.

After the tender was launched on April 15, property analysts had expected between five and seven bids ranging from $430 psf ppr to $500 psf ppr.

National director of research and consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle Ong Teck Hui said: "With 18 bidders, this is the most hotly contested GLS residential site since the Jurong Kechil parcel attracted 23 contestants in November last year."

CBRE Research associate director Desmond Sim said: "The race for land continues... The hunger of these developers is illustrated by the narrow margins especially from the top three bids."

The bid from World Class Land - a subsidiary of locally-listed Aspial Corporation - was just $1.67 million more than the next highest bid of $155 million by Keng Hoe Development.

The lowest bid was from Vantage Properties at $110.8 million or $486.10 psf ppr.

The site area is about 162,808 sq ft and can yield a maximum gross floor area of 227,932 sq ft.

CBRE's Mr Sim expects a break-even cost of about $1,100 psf to $1,200 psf, which translates into a possible launch price from $1,350 psf onwards, given its proximity to Clementi and the upcoming Jurong Gateway.

Jones Lang LaSalle's Mr Ong said: "The keen participation and bidding for the site is due to its fairly exclusive location, set within a mature landed housing estate with frontage to a park connector and Sungei Ulu Pandan and yet accessible from the Ayer Rajah Expressway."

Executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International Nicholas Mak said the strong demand was expected, given the limited supply of vacant land parcels available for development in the future.

Despite the attraction of the site's location, Mr Mak said one drawback is that it is about 1.5km away from Clementi MRT station.

Aspial said in a statement yesterday that it will make further announcements after the land parcel is officially awarded.


The keen participation and bidding for the site is due to its fairly exclusive location, set within a mature landed housing estate with frontage to a park connector and Sungei Ulu Pandan and yet accessible from the Ayer Rajah Expressway.

- Mr Ong Teck Hui, Jones Lang LaSalle's national director of research and consultancy

Popular Tiong Bahru coffee shop will stay on

Source: Straits Times 

COMMUNITY campaigners have reacted with joy after it emerged that a well-loved coffee shop has been given a second chance to stay in business.

The popular Tiong Bahru eatery - which closed last week to make way for another food outlet - will continue to operate alongside the new eatery.

Mr Loh Lik Peng, who runs the boutique hotel and restaurant chain now leasing the space, vowed to preserve the "essence" of the Hua Bee coffee shop, which served as the set of the 1995 film, Mee Pok Man. Most of its interior and exterior will be retained, he said, along with its signboard and furnishings.

The compromise comes after residents joined forces in March to save the coffee shop, and later set up a Facebook group called We Love Hua Bee.

Others were concerned that the community space, frequented by many elderly customers, would be taken over by yet another "aesthetically appealing but community-irrelevant" cafe.

Seng Poh Residents' Committee chairman Kelvin Ang described Mr Loh as a white knight for saving the coffee shop, which is more than 70 years old. "Developers should take into account that they can play a meaningful role in sustaining such intangible heritage," he said. A spokesman for the We Love Hua Bee group added: "It demonstrates that the old and new really can co-exist to everyone's benefit."

Unlisted Collection, the chain leasing the space, said both stalls at the coffee shop in an art deco block at Moh Guan Terrace will keep operating at breakfast and lunch after the venue reopens in two or three months. The new eatery will run alongside them at lunch and separately at dinner.

Mr Loh said two hawkers, the mee pok and coffee sellers, were asked to stay. But the 58-year-old coffee seller, known as "Uncle Tony" to regulars, already had plans to retire. Mr Loh will be looking for a replacement.

"I was extremely gratified to find out how much the locals value Hua Bee and we are looking to ensure we keep the spirit of the place alive," he said.