Parliamentary Questions for the Minister for National Development

Hazel Asks the National Development Minister

Heavy Vehicle Parking Lots

8 May 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) since 2010 in the west region, what is the annual number of public and private heavy vehicle (HV) parking lots registered under the Vehicle Parking Certificate scheme and the length of the waiting list for publicly-operated lots; (b) whether there are any plans to reduce the number of publicly-operated lots in the next five years; and (c) whether any new publicly-operated lots will be provided in or near newly constructed residential areas, such as Tengah New Town.

Mr Desmond Lee: As of March 2024, there are around 40,500 HV lots islandwide, more than sufficient for the 30,800 HVs registered with LTA under the Vehicle Parking Certificate scheme. Around 16,200 HV lots are in the West region, comprising 2,900 public and 13,300 private HV lots. There are around 700 applicants on the waiting list for public HV lots in the West region. These applicants already have a HV lot, but may be looking for another lot for various reasons, such as better accessibility. We do not have these data on an annual basis dating back to 2010.

We have been reviewing our plans to progressively reduce the number of public HV lots in or near residential areas as having HVs enter densely populated residential areas poses a safety risk, especially to the elderly and young children. This will also free up land to meet other development needs, including public housing. Any injection of public HV lots in or near new residential areas will need to be studied carefully, taking into consideration the overall availability of HV lots in the area.

HV drivers play an important role in our economy. Agencies will continue to monitor demand and work closely with the private sector to ensure there are sufficient HV lots islandwide that are accessible to drivers.

Costs of HDB Green Towns Programme

3 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) what are the fixed and recurring costs of each major component of the HDB Green Towns Programme including rooftop solar panels and electric vehicle chargers; and (b) whether residents of these towns bear the costs through higher service and conservancy charges.

Mr Desmond Lee: The Housing & Development Board (HDB) Green Towns Programme (GTP) is a 10-year plan to make HDB towns more sustainable and liveable by 2030. GTP aims to reduce the energy consumption of HDB towns by 15% from 2020’s level by 2030.

For Solar Photovoltaics (PV) on HDB rooftops, the vendor will finance, install, operate and maintain the solar PV system, at no cost to the Town Councils (TCs). Solar energy generated is first used to power common services in HDB estates, such as lifts and lights. Any excess solar energy will be channeled to the grid. Under this operating model, TCs may be able to reduce their electricity bills as the common services will be partially powered by solar energy.

HDB is also working with the TCs to progressively install Smart LED Lighting in existing estates, which can further reduce energy used by up to 60% compared to conventional LED lighting. TCs will bear the fixed and maintenance costs and the repair or replacement costs for the lighting.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging points are progressively deployed at HDB car parks. EV charging operators bear the installation and maintenance costs of EV chargers, of which these costs are recovered directly from users of the EV chargers and not the TCs.

The GTP initiatives, such as rooftop solar panels and the switch to Smart LED Lighting, not only make our towns more sustainable, but also help to reduce the TCs’ electricity bills. The respective TCs are responsible for managing their overall income and expenses and review their service and conservancy charges from time to time to meet long-term financial sustainability.

Planning for Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme

2 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) what are the different stages of planning for the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) that will be needed prior to the full details of VERS being made available to the public; (b) at which stage of planning is VERS currently at; (c) whether studies and consultations have commenced; and (d) if not, whether there are plans to do so.

Mr Desmond Lee: Planning for the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) involves detailed long-term town planning to ensure that we optimise our limited land resources in order to cater to the housing needs of current and future generations of Singaporeans.

It is an iterative endeavour rather than a straightforward, staged process. In planning the rejuvenation of our Housing and Development Board towns, we need to carefully and sensitively stage redevelopment in the older parts of each town, while minimising dis-amenities to the residents in newer parts. Existing roads, greenery, drainage, utilities and other infrastructure may also need to be upgraded to support town rejuvenation. At the same time, we will also have to ensure that there is sufficient construction sector capacity to support the pace of VERS and new housing demand.

We are also working through the package for VERS and the detailed mechanics and processes for polling and relocation. We want to ensure that residents’ needs are taken care of, that there will be sufficient new homes at the right time for them and a range of housing options to meet the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans at different life stages.

As shared at the recent Ministry of National Development Committee of Supply debate, we are working through the details and will share them with Singaporeans in due course. [Please refer to “Committee of Supply – Head T (Ministry of National Development)”, Official Report, 5 March 2024, Vol 95, Issue 130, Budget section.]

House Price-To-Income Ratio

2 April 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether it remains a policy goal to achieve a House Price-to-Income ratio of four for HDB BTO flat buyers since the Ministry’s announcement of this goal in 2013.

Mr Desmond Lee: As explained before in this House on multiple occasions, the Government tracks a holistic range of indicators, such as the Home Price to Income Ratio (HPI) and Mortgage Servicing Ratio (MSR), and adjust our subsidies as necessary to ensure that Build-to-Order (BTO) flat prices remain affordable across different income levels. Compared to the HPI, the MSR is a better reflection of the proportion of income used to service a housing loan and takes into account more details, such as the housing loan amount, loan tenure and mortgage loan interest rates.

Our commitment to ensuring housing affordability has not changed. For instance, when we looked at First-Timer families who collected keys to their BTO flats last year with a Housing & Development Board housing loan, more than nine in 10 had an MSR of less than 25%, which means they can service their mortgage payments using their Central Provident Fund contributions with little or no cash outlay.

Arrears on Public Housing Loan

26 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development how many Singaporean households were in arrears on their housing loan instalments in 2023 for public housing and what were the median and maximum number of months they were in arrears.

Mr Desmond Lee: As at December 2023, about 15,600 households servicing their HDB loans were in mortgage arrears of three months or more. This represented 5.7% of all households with outstanding HDB loans. Of these 15,600 households, the majority owed less than two years of arrears.

To help households in mortgage arrears, HDB provides one-to-one financial counselling to homeowners and offers various financial assistance measures depending on the household’s circumstances. This provides temporary relief for homeowners, so that they have some time to explore ways to improve their finances. The assistance measures include allowing homeowners to:

(a) Reduce or defer their loan instalments for six months, with a further six-month extension (if necessary); and/or

(b) Pay their loan arrears by instalments till their financial situation improves; and/or

(c) Extend their mortgage loan tenure to help reduce their monthly instalments, if needed.

Some households owe arrears of two or more years as they require more time to address complex issues, such as medical issues or the demise of the sole breadwinner; and explore ways to resolve their arrears. For such households that experience prolonged periods of financial difficulties, HDB will work with each household to tailor support and explore longer-term solutions, such as including working adult children as joint owners to help with the loan instalments or right-sizing to a flat within their means.

Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme

4 July 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether the Ministry will consider changing the lease term of replacement flats for residents with difficulty financing the replacement flats offered under HDB’s Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Mr Desmond Lee: The Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) was introduced in 1995 as part of our estate renewal strategy for older HDB estates. It allows us to renew older estates, optimise land-use, and provide better homes for residents.

On top of compensation for the SERS flat which is based on the prevailing market value of the flat as at SERS announcement, and additional benefits such as a SERS grant of $30,000 and a removal allowance of $10,000, flat owners are offered new replacement flats that come with fresh 99-year leases. These are priced with a generous subsidy, making their prices considerably lower than comparable resale flats in the vicinity. Alternatively, SERS residents can apply for new flats elsewhere under the Build-To-Order (BTO) or Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises, and enjoy a 10% priority allocation. They can also choose to purchase a resale flat, and will receive an additional amount of $30,000 on top of the SERS grant. Residents aged 55 and above also have the option to purchase a 2-room Flexi flat with a short lease.

Holding size, location and other attributes constant, an older flat with a shorter remaining lease will have a lower market value than a younger one with a longer lease. For past SERS exercises, the flats had been younger, and the market compensation for flat owners had generally been sufficient for the residents to choose a new replacement flat of a similar type or size on a fresh 99-year lease.

For the latest SERS exercise at Ang Mo Kio Ave 3, based on the estimated compensation amounts and estimated selling prices of the replacement flats, flat owners will generally be able to purchase a replacement flat of a similar flat type with the compensation provided, with a fresh 99-year lease, albeit possibly a smaller floor area. Nonetheless, we understand the concerns of flat owners, especially the seniors who have expressed that they do not wish to top up the payment for an equivalent flat on a 99-year lease as they have no need for such a long lease. Their priority is to secure a replacement flat of similar size, in surroundings familiar to them.

Taking into consideration the views and feedback from the residents, MND and HDB have provided two additional housing options to meet the different rehousing needs of SERS flat owners. First, we will offer 3-room or larger flats on a 50-year lease at the designated replacement site, if this is able to last the flat owner till at least age 95. For the flat owners at Ang Mo Kio, a 50-year lease would be similar to the balance lease of their flats by the time they move to their replacement flats in 2027. In addition, we will also offer the seniors at the SERS site the option to take up the Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) for their existing flat even though SERS has been announced. These seniors can then buy a short-lease replacement flat thereafter.

These additional options will be offered to eligible flat owners in SERS sites, starting from the SERS site at Blocks 562 to 565 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3 which was announced on 7 April 2022.

4 July 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether there is any difference in the way compensation is calculated for HDB flats acquired under the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) now, and since it was implemented in 1995.

Mr Desmond Lee: The Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) was introduced in 1995 as part of our estate renewal strategy for older HDB estates. It allows us to renew older estates, optimise land-use, and provide better homes for residents.

In line with the Land Acquisition Act, flat owners are compensated for the SERS flats based on the prevailing market value at the time of the SERS announcement. This approach has been applied consistently across all SERS exercises, including the most recent exercise at Ang Mo Kio Ave 3. The market compensation is assessed by a professional private valuer, and takes into account the transacted prices of comparable resale flats, the remaining lease, as well as the flat attributes (e.g. type and size of flat, storey height, and extent of renovations done).

On top of the market value compensation, flat owners will receive a SERS grant of $30,000, a removal allowance of $10,000 to defray the relocation cost, and payment of stamp and legal fees for the purchase of a replacement flat equivalent in value to their SERS flat.

26 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) in 2024, how many HDB flats under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme are expected to be vacated upon the completion of replacement flats; and (b) whether these vacated flats will be added to the interim housing supply under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme.

Mr Desmond Lee: In 2024, a total of 992 flats are expected to be fully vacated to facilitate redevelopment under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme. There are no plans to use the flats in this site for the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme because the site is required for near-term redevelopment.

Impact of Lease Decay on Resale HDB Flat Prices

26 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether the Ministry or HDB has conducted any study on the impact of lease decay on resale HDB flat prices since 2017.

Mr Desmond Lee: It is well-established that as property leases run down, the prices will generally come down. This applies to both private properties and public housing. However, property prices, including HDB resale flat prices are also driven by other factors, such as the property’s attributes like location, size, storey height and so forth; prevailing economic conditions; market sentiments; demand and supply; and buyers’ willingness to pay.

We will continue to keep a close watch on the housing market.

Car Park or Bin Centre-Facing Units For HDB BTOs

7 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) of all the HDB BTO units launched this year, how many units are directly facing a multi-storey car park at the same or higher levels; (b) how many units below the fifth floor are directly facing a bin centre; and (c) what are the factors considered when deciding whether to construct a multi-storey car park within the same block or in a separate building next to the block.

Mr Desmond Lee: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) carefully studies the layout of each site, taking into consideration its size and shape, and minimises the number of flats facing parking decks and bin centres, while maximising the number of north-south facing flats, among other design considerations.

Of the 23,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) dwelling units launched in 2023, about 700 dwelling units, or 3%, face the parking decks of a multi-storey car park (MSCP). To provide greater privacy to residents and prevent vehicle headlights from shining directly into these flats, screens and greenery are incorporated into the façades of MSCPs. In addition, MSCP rooftops are also designed as landscaped gardens to provide visual relief for flats overlooking MSCPs. Such rooftops also serve as green and recreational spaces for residents.

Of the 23,000 dwelling units launched in 2023, fewer than 20 dwelling units directly face a bin centre. Bin centres in new HDB precincts are equipped with the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System for a cleaner and more efficient waste collection process. These bin centres are typically located at remote ends of HDB precincts and/or near public roads, with the entrances located away from flats. To further screen off these bin centres from surrounding blocks, HDB also incorporates additional greenery and planting where feasible.

Centralised Cooling System in Tengah Estate

6 February 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) how many households who have collected their keys in the Tengah estate have signed up for the centralised cooling system; (b) of these households, how many have reported issues with the centralised cooling system, such as water leaks and airflow problems; and (c) how much has been spent by SP Group to rectify these issues.

Mr Desmond Lee: Tengah Town is Singapore’s first smart and sustainable town, planned with green and sustainable features, and smart technologies. One such initiative is the development of a Centralised Cooling System (CCS) in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in collaboration with the Singapore Power Group (SP Group). The CCS pilot at Tengah provides HDB homebuyers the option to subscribe to a more energy-efficient cooling solution, compared to conventional air-conditioning systems. The keys for the first few precincts of HDB flats in Tengah have been progressively handed over to residents since end August 2023.

SP Group, as the provider of the CCS, undertakes the management of CCS sign-ups, as well as construction, installation, operations, and maintenance of the CCS. As of end December 2023, about 2,500 of the households that have been informed to collect keys have signed up for the CCS. The Ministry of National Development and HDB are aware of feedback from some Tengah residents relating to water seepage and condensation, and SP Group has put in place a systematic reporting and rectification process to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. SP Group has also looked into other feedback received from residents about the CCS, and while it has resolved the majority of the defects, it is working closely with residents to address the remaining feedback. SP Group has also waived CCS charges for the whole of 2023 as a goodwill gesture, even as they work on addressing some of the CCS installation and user experience issues. SP Group is unable to share more details on its project operating costs.

As we implement and pilot new systems at scale, like the CCS in Tengah, we can expect some teething issues to surface. However, these do not detract from the sustainability or technological viability of the CCS. HDB will continue to monitor the feedback on the CCS and support SP Group to ensure the smooth roll-out of CCS in Tengah.

Community Gardens

10 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) how many community gardens are there currently across Singapore; (b) how are these community gardens managed; and (c) what have been the impact of these community gardens on community development and food resilience.

Mr Desmond Lee: As of January 2024, over 1,900 community gardens have been set up across Singapore under the National Park Board (NParks’) Community in Bloom programme, which aims to encourage gardening and community bonding.

Community gardens are managed by volunteers, who oversee the management and programming of the gardens. Within housing estates, community gardens are managed by residents, with support from the Residents’ Networks under the People’s Association. There are also community gardens located within schools and organisations that are managed by these entities. NParks supports community gardeners by advising them on site selection, landscaping and plant selection and horticultural best practices.

Community gardens serve as common spaces for people from different walks of life to come together, to bond over their shared interest in gardening. In addition, edible plants are grown in some community gardens and harvests can be shared with the community. There are also outreach and education programmes to promote the growing of edibles. Through such efforts, community gardens can raise awareness on food resilience and local produce and enhance community well-being and social resilience.

Cost of Land Reclamation

10 January 2024

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development since 2000 (a) what is the total cost incurred by land reclamation projects and the total area reclaimed; and (b) of the reclaimed land that had since been sold via Government Land Sales, what is the (i) total area, (ii) original costs incurred and (iii) land sales proceeds.

Mr Desmond Lee: Around 74.5 square kilometres of land have been reclaimed from 2000 to June 2023. Since 2000, the cost of land reclamation projects has been charged to Past Reserves and the total cost of land reclamation projects completed during this period is around $13 billion. About 0.5 square kilometres of these reclaimed land have since been sold via Government Land Sales and the proceeds are around $462 million. As reclaimed land forms part of our Past Reserves, the proceeds from the sale of reclaimed land accrue back to the Past Reserves.

Renting of HDB Flats from Open Market

3 August 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development in each year since 2010, what is the respective number of Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and foreigners who rent (i) entire HDB flats and (ii) bedrooms in HDB flats from the open market.

Mr Desmond Lee: As of June 2023, there are about 11,900 (5%) Singapore Citizens, 34,900 (15%) Permanent Residents and 185,000 (80%) Non-Resident tenants renting flats from Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners on the open market. There are about 7,200 (3%) Singapore Citizens, 28,100 (13%) Permanent Residents and 186,000 (84%) Non-Resident tenants renting bedrooms from HDB flat owners on the open market.

Since 2010, the proportion of tenants who rented HDB flats has remained relatively stable and ranged from 5% to 9% for Singapore Citizens, 13% to 24% for Permanent Residents, and 67% to 82% for Non-Residents.

For the same period, the proportion of tenants who rented HDB bedrooms also remained stable and ranged from 3% to 8% for Singapore Citizens, 11% to 21% for Permanent Residents and 70% to 85% for Non-Residents.

Ethnic Integration Policy-related Appeals

8 May 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development of the 128 Ethnic Integration Policy-related appeals that HDB acceded to in 2022, what is the breakdown of appellants by ethnicity.

Mr Desmond Lee: In 2022, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) received 411 Ethnic Integration Policy-related appeals from flat owners. HDB acceded to 128 appeals (correct as at 21 March 2023), of which, the breakdown by ethnicity is as follows:

a) 92 from flat owners of Indian/Other race;

b) 29 from Malay flat owners; and

c) seven from Chinese flat owners.

Profile of First-Timer HDB Flat Owners

20 March 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development at the point of key collection, what is the age and gender of first-timer HDB flat owners in the (i) 10th percentile, (ii) 90th percentile and (iii) median level for the periods from (i) 2017 to 2019 and (b) 2020 to 2022.

Mr Desmond Lee: The breakdown of first-timer family applicants by age and gender at the point of key collection to their new HDB flats for the periods requested is tabulated below.

Waiting Time for HDB BTO Flats

4 July 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development what is the median, lower and upper quartile actual waiting time for HDB BTO flats each year based on those who collected their keys in the past 10 years.

Mr Desmond Lee: There are various factors that affect the construction time of each Build-To-Order (BTO) project, including site conditions and the height of the buildings. Projects with difficult site conditions or with very high storey-heights will require more construction time, and consequently, a longer waiting time for buyers.

The median, lower and upper quartile actual waiting time for flat buyers who collected the keys to their BTO flats in the past decade are set out in Table 1.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual waiting time for BTO projects was about three to four years. The pandemic has affected the construction industry and BTO waiting times. On average, there was a delay of about six to nine months in the flat completion, which resulted in longer waiting times in the past two years. Besides the significant delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply chain disruptions over the last two years caused by both the pandemic and current geopolitical uncertainties, the longer median waiting time now can also be partly attributed to higher-rise HDB developments as HDB intensifies housing yield to meet the strong housing demand.

With the improving COVID-19 situation and a more positive outlook in the construction industry, construction projects are gradually regaining momentum. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we expect construction progress to improve going forward. HDB will continue to work hard to further minimise delays and deliver new BTO flats to buyers as soon as possible, while ensuring that the safety and quality of our projects are not compromised.

9 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) whether the publicised waiting time for HDB BTO flats includes the length of time from the first flat application which may have been unsuccessful to the time of successful application; (b) if not, what is the median, lower and upper quartile length of time from the point of the first HDB BTO application to key collection, for those who collected their keys in the past 10 years.

Mr Desmond Lee: The waiting time published by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) at Build-To-Order (BTO) launches refers to the length of time that successful applicants per project have to wait between flat selection and key collection, which is largely dependent on construction duration. For the BTO projects launched in 2022, the median waiting time is between four and four-and-a-half years.

The published waiting time does not span the length of time from a first unsuccessful flat application through to an eventual successful application. This is because there are wide variety of factors which affect the interval between an unsuccessful first application and a subsequent successful application. For instance, some unsuccessful BTO flat applicants may apply immediately for subsequent consecutive BTO sales exercises whereas others may not, due to specific locational preferences or other reasons. Some flat applicants may also only apply for Sales of Balance Flats, which are offered every six months. Hence, the timelines of subsequent applications vary greatly among the applicants.

HDB does not track the other information requested by Ms Poa.

Rental Flats Under Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme

9 January 2023

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme which offers rental flats to those waiting for their HDB BTO flats to be completed can be extended to those who have applied for HDB BTO flats but are yet to be successful in booking a flat.

Mr Desmond Lee: We have ramped up our supply of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats and are prepared to launch up to 100,000 flats from 2021 to 2025, if needed. The bulk of our BTO flat supply has been set aside for first-timer families, and virtually all first-timer families get a chance to select a flat within three tries, if they apply for one in non-mature estates. At the recent November 2022 BTO sales exercise, there were 3-room, 4-room and 5-room flats in both mature and non-mature estates, where the application rates were 1.7 or lower, and applicants to these six projects stand a good chance of being successful in securing their BTO flats.

The intent of the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) is to provide an additional temporary housing option for families waiting for their new flats to be ready. BTO flat applicants who have not booked a flat are a varied group. They have a variety of existing housing arrangements, and some do not apply continuously at BTO sales exercises. Given the limited PPHS flat supply, we will prioritise families who have booked BTO flats, in line with the objective of the PPHS. We, therefore, have no plans to expand the scheme to those who have not booked a new flat.

Waiting Time for Rental Flats by Ethnic Group

8 November 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development for each year since 2012 (a) what is the average waiting time for applicants of HDB rental flats under the Public Rental Scheme by ethnic group; (b) what is the breakdown of HDB rental flat residents by ethnic group; and (c) what is the percentage of HDB rental flat blocks where the ethnic limits at the block level have been reached.

Mr Desmond Lee: The current average waiting time for a public rental flat is about seven months for Chinese applicants, eight months for Malay applicants and seven months for Indian/Other applicants. This is comparable to the waiting time in 2012 at six months, eight months and seven months for the respective ethnic groups.

Currently, of about 51,900 public rental tenants, 51% are Chinese, 35% are Malays and 14% are Indian/Others. In 2012, of about 47,900 public rental tenants, 61% were Chinese, 27% were Malay and 13% were Indian/Others.

Currently, about 70% of the Housing and Development Board (HDB)’s public rental blocks have reached the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) block limit for at least one ethnic group, compared to about 60% in 2012. Where needed, HDB exercises administrative flexibility within reasonable bounds to allocate public rental flats to low-income households who have no other housing options and avoid prolonging the waiting time for them.

Affordability of Rising Public Housing Prices

4 October 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development whether the Ministry has conducted or will conduct studies on the impact of rising public housing prices on marriage and fertility rates.

The Minister for National Development (Mr Desmond Lee): Mr Speaker, Sir, Question No 2 on today’s Order Paper on the issue of marriage and parenthood is also relevant to this question on public housing affordability. As such, may I request, Sir, that the answers to Question Nos 1 and 2 be provided first, and the supplementary questions from Members on both questions be taken together thereafter.

Mr Speaker: Please proceed.

Mr Desmond Lee: Thank you, Sir. This reply will also respond to the Member’s question for 3 October on affordability benchmarks for public housing.

Sir, over the past two years, there has been strong, broad-based demand for housing, including in the Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale market. There are a number of reasons for this. First, we have seen more households forming as the echo-boomer generation – those who are in their 30s today – are getting married, especially with the easing of COVID-19 measures. Next, we also see societal trends shifting to smaller households, as young couples, singles, as well as adult children choose to buy their own homes instead of living together with their parents. These aspirations for more personal space may have been accentuated during the pandemic. Third, more homebuyers have also turned to the resale market because of longer waiting times for Build-To-Order (BTO) flats due to construction delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fourth, in the last two years, we have also seen more private property owners and existing HDB owners cashing out on their property and going into the HDB resale market.

To be clear, foreigners are not allowed to buy HDB flats and would not have contributed to the increase in demand for public housing. They also account for a small proportion of overall private residential property demand.

These demand factors, alongside the previous low interest rate environment that made it cheaper to service a home loan, have put upward pressure on HDB resale flat prices. Since the Government implemented a broad package of measures in December 2021, the HDB Resale Price Index has increased by 5.3% in the first half of this year. We understand the concerns about housing affordability and have, therefore, been carefully monitoring the housing market.

We are committed to keeping public housing affordable and accessible, to meet the housing aspirations of Singaporeans and to help Singaporeans own their own homes. This is a key longstanding national priority and provides the basic foundation for us to raise our families, bring up our children and build strong communities.

That is why we continue to build and sell new HDB flats at prices below the market as they come with significant subsidies. The average price for a new 4-room flat in a non-mature estate has remained relatively stable at $341,000 in 2019 and $348,000 in the first three quarters of this year. We have managed to keep prices relatively stable as market subsidies have been increased, to keep new flats affordable. Eligible first-timer buyers can also receive Enhanced CPF Housing Grants (EHG) of up to $80,000, with more help for lower-income buyers.

For new flats in prime, central locations, we have introduced the Prime Location Public Housing (PLH) Model which provides additional subsidies on top of the substantial subsidies already provided for BTO flats. This is to keep flats in such locations affordable for a wider range of Singaporeans.

The Member has asked if we should have affordability benchmarks and if these should consider families at the 30th percentile of income, instead of just median income. Sir, our affordability benchmarks do not only consider median incomes, as we provide a wide range of BTO flats for first-timer buyers with different housing needs and budgets.

Take, for example, a first-timer household earning about $5,000, which is slightly less than the 30th percentile of resident household incomes. They may buy a 4-room flat in any of the three non-mature estate projects in the recent August 2022 BTO exercise, namely in Jurong East, Woodlands and Choa Chu Kang. These projects come with typical prices comparable to, or lower than, the average price of BTO flats in non-mature estates at about $348,000. After factoring in the $45,000 in grants they would receive, they will need to use about 23% of their monthly income for their housing loan, which means that they will be able to service their mortgages from their monthly Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions with no cash outlay. This also works out to a home price-to-income ratio of around five for this family, which means that the price of their home is about five times their annual household income.

For a first-timer couple who are both fresh tertiary graduates buying their first home, a typical combined starting salary would be about $6,500. They would receive $30,000 in grants and would only need to use 18% of their monthly income for their housing loan to afford the same new 4-room flats in any of the non-mature estate projects in the recent August 2022 BTO exercise, with typical prices comparable to or lower than $348,000. This works out to a home price-to-income ratio of around four for this family, and they would also be able to service their mortgage fully from their CPF contributions.

As a broad comparison, the ratio of the median home price to the median household income in other comparable cities, such as London, Los Angeles and Sydney are much higher, at between eight and 15 times. In Hong Kong, it is more than 20 times.

For resale flats, the Government provides significant housing grants of up to $160,000 to ensure that resale flats remain affordable for eligible first-timer families. We review our grants regularly to ensure that resale flats remain affordable.

Generally, the mortgage servicing ratio (MSR), which is the proportion of monthly income used to service mortgage instalment payments, has remained below 25% for most new and resale first-timer flat buyers taking on an HDB loan. This is well below the international benchmark of between 30% and 35%. This means that most first-timer buyers can service their housing loans using their monthly CPF contributions, with little or no cash outlay.

The Member also asked what the Government will do to ensure housing is affordable for Singaporeans in the wider Singapore property market. We have announced, on 30 September this year – measures to moderate demand in the HDB resale market to ensure that HDB flats continue to remain affordable, as well as measures to encourage prudent borrowing amidst the rising interest rate environment.

First, we introduced a wait-out period of 15 months before private property owners are allowed to purchase a non-subsidised HDB resale flat. This measure aims to moderate demand and slow the momentum of price increases in the HDB resale market, by deferring demand from private property owners, so that HDB resale flats will continue to be an affordable option for first-time HDB flat buyers. We intend for this measure to be temporary and will review this, depending on overall demand and market changes.

Previously, private residential property owners looking to buy a non-subsidised HDB resale flat do not have to serve a wait-out period, but they will need to sell their private properties within six months of the HDB flat purchase. In particular, the number of private property owners buying HDB resale flats has doubled in 2021 and the first three quarters of this year, as compared to 2019 and 2020. Overall, private property owners and former private property owners make up about one in 10 HDB resale flat buyers.

Private residential property owners, generally, have more financial means to buy resale flats, as compared to first-time home buyers or existing HDB-owners. Some might not even need to take loans to complete their purchase. They, therefore, tend to pay higher amounts of cash-over-valuation (COV) when buying HDB resale flats.

Having said that, we recognise that not all private residential property owners are in the same situation. Some seniors need to sell their private property and move to an HDB flat to strengthen their retirement adequacy. So, we are exempting seniors above the age of 55 who are moving from a private property to a 4-room or a smaller resale flat from the wait-out period.

We also know that there are private residential property owners, whatever their age, who face genuine housing needs or who have to sell their homes because of extenuating circumstances, such as financial difficulties. They should approach HDB for assistance, and my colleagues will see how best to support them on a case-by-case basis.

Next, we are also mindful of the challenges posed by the rising interest rate environment. From 2013 to 2021, we have had exceptionally low interest rates, especially from financial institutions. But market interest rates have risen over the last year, with further increases expected over the medium term. This will increase borrowing costs for those who are buying a home and also for those who are servicing existing home loans pegged to floating rates. Therefore, we have decided to move now to safeguard home buyers and ensure that they are able to service their long-term home loans.

We have thus implemented the following measures to tighten the maximum amount that can be taken for home loans and ensure prudent borrowing.

We have raised the medium-term rate floor used under the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) and MSR frameworks to compute a borrower’s maximum loan quantum for residential property loans granted by private financial institutions from 3.5% to 4% per annum. The actual rates that private financial institutions charge for home loans will, however, continue to be determined by them.

Next, HDB will introduce an interest rate floor of 3% per annum to compute a borrower’s maximum eligible housing loan amount. This is 1% below the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) rate floor for private financial institutions. This will reduce the maximum loan quantum for home buyers taking HDB loans but will not increase the monthly instalment borrowers have to pay, as there is no change to the HDB concessionary interest rate of 2.6%.

We have also lowered the Loan-to-Value (LTV) limit for HDB housing loans from 85% to 80%, so that home buyers borrow prudently in view of the uncertain economic outlook and rising interest rate environment. This is not expected to affect first-timer and lower-income flat buyers significantly, as they receive housing grants of up to $80,000 when buying a subsidised flat directly from HDB, or up to $160,000 when buying a resale flat, and can tap on their CPF savings to pay for the flat purchase.

These measures are necessary as property loans are long-term commitments and often a household’s largest liability. The higher floor rates ensure that today’s borrowers take loans that reflect the likelihood of rising interest rates and avoid overstretching themselves. If we do not move now, households may run into housing difficulties when they find it harder to service their housing obligations. This is already happening in other countries where we see home owners defaulting on their mortgage payments and losing their homes.

Beyond the cooling measures, we recognise that there is genuine demand from home buyers. We have, therefore, also increased supply in both public and private housing markets. For HDB, we have ramped up our BTO supply and are on track to launch 23,000 flats per year in 2022 and 2023, or a 35% increase from 2021. In November this year, we will launch more than 9,500 BTO flats. We are prepared to launch up to 100,000 flats in total from 2021 to 2025, if needed. We also endeavour to launch more projects with a shorter waiting time of less than three years where possible.

The supply of private housing on the Confirmed List of the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme has also been increased by 75% from 2021 to 2022. We are prepared to increase supply further to meet the demand for private housing, if needed.

The Government will intervene and do what is necessary, to ensure a stable property market and affordable public housing for Singaporeans. This has been our approach all along. We will do so decisively but also carefully, being cognisant of the uncertain global economic outlook and rising interest rates environment, which will affect home prices and contribute to uncertainty in our property market.

We will continue to monitor the market closely and adjust our policies as necessary on both housing demand and supply, to ensure that prices move broadly in line with economic fundamentals.

This Government is committed to the stability of the wider Singapore property market and to keeping public housing inclusive, affordable and accessible to Singaporeans.

The Second Minister for National Development (Ms Indranee Rajah): Mr Speaker, many different factors affect marriage and fertility rates. These include shifts in societal norms and attitudes towards marriage and parenthood over time, and temporal factors such as the restrictions and disruptions caused by COVID-19.

While we have not conducted studies on the impact of housing prices on marriage and fertility rates, our regular surveys and engagements indicate that many couples continue to aspire to have their own home before they start a family.

We recognise these aspirations and preferences, that is why public housing policies are designed to prioritise and support first-timer families to enable them to have their own home and start a family.

For example, the vast majority of our BTO flat supply is set aside for first-timer families. The quota of 3-room and 4-room BTO flats in non-mature estates set aside for first-timer families, was increased to 85% and 95% respectively.

For mature estates, we continue to set aside 95% of BTO flat supply for first-timer families. First-timer families also have more ballot chances than second-timer families, to improve their likelihood of securing a flat.

In addition, the Government has put in place various grants and measures to help Singaporean couples own their first home. Eligible first-timer buyers who buy new flats can enjoy an enhanced CPF housing grant of up to $80,000, on top of the generous subsidies in new flat prices. Those who choose to buy a resale flat can enjoy housing grants of up to $160,000 dollars.

In 2021, about 7,000 families received grants for their resale flat purchase. We recognise the concerns of couples looking for their first home to start a family. To meet the strong housing demand, we have ramped up the supply of new flats to 23,000 new flats per year in 2022 and 2023, or a 35% increase from 2021.

We are well on track this year and home buyers can look forward to 9,500 flats being offered in the upcoming November BTO launch exercise.

We are prepared to launch up to 100,000 new flats from 2021 to 2025. We also endeavour to launch more projects with a shorter waiting time of less than three years where possible. We continually review our policies, to ensure that Singaporeans continue to have access to affordable public housing and to support Singaporeans in owning their first home.

Sale Price for Coffee Shop at Blk 201 Tampines Street 21

5 July 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development regarding the coffee shop located at Block 201 Tampines Street 21 that recently transacted at $41.68 million (a) in which year did HDB sell the coffee shop; and (b) at what price did HDB sell it for.

Mr Desmond Lee: This coffee shop was sold to the sitting tenant in October 1992, at $3,451,200. This unit has not been sold since then, and this will be its first resale transaction.

The coffee shop is located in Tampines Neighbourhood 2 Neighbourhood Centre, comprising Blocks 201 to 201G Tampines Street 21. This Neighbourhood Centre has a total of four sold coffee shops and there is another rental coffee shop located across the road at Block 264. There is a sufficient supply of coffee shops in the vicinity to maintain healthy competition and nearby alternative options for stallholders and customers.

HDB will continue to ensure a good supply of coffee shops to create competition and help keep food prices affordable. For example, 34 coffee shops have been completed in the past four years and another 30 will be completing by 2025.

Average Size of Each HDB Flat Type

4 July 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development what is the average HDB flat size for each flat type completed in the years 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020.

Mr Desmond Lee: HDB flat sizes have remained unchanged since 1997 but average household sizes have decreased.

The average size of HDB flats and typical range of flat sizes completed in 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020 are in Table 1 below.

Circuit Breaker Systems in HDB Flats

5 April 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) how many HDB flats are fitted with residual current circuit breaker (RCCB) that do not protect the whole unit; and (b) whether these flats will be upgraded to provide circuit breaker protection for the whole unit.

Mr Desmond Lee: Flats built before 1985, which comprise about 30% of our current HDB housing stock, were provided with fuses. RCCBs became a requirement from 1985, and this applied to new homes (including HDB flats) built on or after 1985 as well as older homes (including flats) that underwent substantive renovations. Over the years, most of these flats, which are close to 40 years old, would have undergone renovations, would likely have had their electrical circuit rewired and installed with RCCBs in line with the regulatory requirements. Based on a sample survey of about 1,800 HDB flats built before 1985, it is estimated that less than 1% of such flats do not have RCCB protection covering the entire unit.

To ensure electrical safety in residential premises, including HDB flats, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) regulates electrical installations in Singapore via the Electricity (Electrical Installations) Regulations. These regulations require all electrical works, such as the installation of electrical wiring and RCCBs, to be undertaken by a licensed electrical worker (LEW). The regulations also require the LEW to ensure that the electrical works meet the industry technical and safety requirements and standards.

After the completion of the electrical installations, the LEW is required to apply to SP Group for inspection and testing of the installations. This is to ensure that they have been installed correctly and are safe and fit for operation, before the electricity supply can be turned on.

Since August 2020, HDB has included the option to rewire non-compliant water heaters for flats undergoing the Home Improvement Programme (HIP). HDB has also advised flat owners to replace RCCBs which are found faulty during HIP. For HIP projects tendered in 2020 under the new extended HIP, HDB has included the checking and replacement of faulty RCCBs.

EMA also conducts periodic educational campaigns on electrical safety in partnership with agencies, such as HDB and Enterprise Singapore (ESG). For example, in July 2021, EMA sent out information leaflets in utility bills to remind homeowners to test their RCCBs. Flat owners should check that their entire flat is protected by RCCB and test their RCCBs regularly to ensure the safety of electrical circuits, especially in older homes. Flat owners can contact HDB if they need help to locate their RCCBs or to find electrical contractors whom they can engage to do the checks.

HDB will continue to work with EMA on efforts to raise awareness and improve electrical safety for HDB residents.

Prices of HDB Flats

10 January 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development for each year in the past three years, what are the lower, median and upper quartile prices of new HDB flats before and after subsidies, with a breakdown by first-time and repeat buyers.

Mr Desmond Lee: All flat buyers enjoy a housing subsidy when they buy a new Build-to-Order (BTO) flat, as HDB applies a significant subsidy to the assessed market value of the flat and prices the flat below the market. In addition, eligible first-timers can enjoy the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) of up to $80,000, which provides further support to lower- and middle-income families buying their first home.

The prices of new HDB flats have remained relatively stable over the past three years. Between 2019 and 2021, the prices of new HDB flats bought by first-timer Singaporean families are tabulated below.

The flat purchase price remains the same whether buyers are first- or second-timer families. However, to prioritise housing grants and subsidies for first-timer families and to ensure a fair allocation of limited fiscal resources, second-timers pay a resale levy which reduces the total amount of subsidy that they enjoy when they purchase a second subsidised flat.

The Government will continue to monitor the housing market conditions closely and ensure that Singaporeans have access to affordable public housing.

10 January 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development for each year in the past three years, what are the lower, median and upper quartile prices of resale HDB flats before and after subsidies, with a breakdown by first-time and repeat buyers.

Mr Desmond Lee: HDB resale flats are transacted at prices mutually agreed upon between flat sellers and buyers. Eligible first-timer families who buy a resale flat can enjoy up to $160,000 in housing grants, comprising a CPF Housing Grant of up to $50,000, an Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $80,000 and a Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) of up to $30,000.

Between 2019 and 2021, the prices of resale HDB flats bought by Singaporean first-timer families are tabulated below.

While second-timer families do not receive the CPF Housing Grant and Enhanced CPF Housing Grant, they may be eligible to enjoy a PHG of up to $30,000 and/or a Step-Up CPF Housing Grant of $15,000.

The Government will continue to monitor the housing market conditions closely and ensure that Singaporeans have access to affordable public housing.

First-Time HDB Home Buyers

10 January 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development for each year in the past three years, how many first-time HDB home buyers bought (i) new flats and (ii) resale flats, respectively.

Mr Desmond Lee: The number of first-timer families who bought new and resale flats in the past three years is tabulated below.

Unsuccessful HDB Loan Applications

10 January 2022

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) for each year in the past three years, how many HDB housing loan applications have been unsuccessful; (b) what are the reasons they have been unsuccessful; and (c) what is the breakdown of the number of these unsuccessful applications by the different reasons.

Mr Desmond Lee: From 2019 to 2021, HDB received about 61,000 applications on average each year for an HDB Loan Eligibility Letter. Of these applications, an average of about 4,600, or 7.5% of all applications, were unsuccessful each year.

About half of the applications were unsuccessful as the applicants were unable to fulfil HDB’s credit assessment criteria. For instance, applicants may not have met the minimum employment period. The remaining applications were unsuccessful either because the applicants were ineligible for an HDB housing loan or ineligible to purchase an HDB flat. For instance, they may have already taken two HDB housing loans or their household income may have exceeded the income ceiling.

Financial Viability of HDB BTO Contractors

13 September 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development what measures are currently in place to ensure the financial viability of HDB’s BTO contractors and whether these measures will be enhanced.

Mr Desmond Lee: Members Mr Don Wee and Ms Hazel Poa, as well as Ms Poh Li San¹ and Mr Murali Pillai² who have filed questions for future Sittings, have asked about the Greatearth situation and how it has affected homeowners, main contractors, and sub-contractors.

Greatearth Corporation Pte Ltd and Greatearth Construction Pte Ltd (referred to collectively as “Greatearth”) are the main contractors for five HDB BTO projects. The five projects are at various stages of completion, with two projects at Bukit Panjang – Senja Ridges and Senja Heights – near completion.

Just before mid-August, arising from a feedback from the project consultant, HDB checked with Greatearth and was informed that they had run into financial difficulties and were exploring options to continue with the projects. Slightly more than a week later, Greatearth informed HDB that they were unable to complete the five BTO projects, despite the Government’s assistance provided to all construction firms over the past year. Prior to this, work at the sites had been progressing satisfactorily and there were no signs of work slow-down. HDB engaged Greatearth to explore possible options to resolve Greatearth’s challenges, such as the provision of advance payments to allow Greatearth to continue with the projects. However, Greatearth did not have the financial ability to continue operations and made the decision to undergo liquidation.

HDB is now working closely with Greatearth and their provisional liquidators Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) to bring onboard new contractors to take over and complete the five BTO projects as soon as possible. As part of this process, HDB is facilitating discussions between potential new main contractors and existing sub-contractors. This will allow affected sub-contractors the opportunity to work out a suitable arrangement to remain on the projects and complete the remaining works. It will also minimise the extent of delays for flat buyers.

We recognise that the delays will affect home buyers and further disrupt their life plans and understandably, many will be disappointed. HDB has reached out to the affected flat buyers and will continue to keep them updated about the situation. We will also inform them of the revised completion date of their flats, once the replacement contractors have been appointed and the construction schedule has been worked out.

Flat buyers who are unable to find alternative interim housing arrangements with family members, relatives or on the open market, can apply for temporary housing under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS) if they are first-timers. On a case-by-case basis, HDB will also offer Interim Rental Housing (IRH) to low-income households with limited family support and without alternative housing options. In addition, HDB will consider waiving the forfeiture and one-year wait out period for flat buyers who have been affected by these delays and decide to cancel their BTO flats to buy a resale flat, based on an assessment of the flat buyers’ specific circumstances. Flat buyers can contact HDB if there is any further assistance they might require.

The construction industry has been one of the sectors worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction costs have increased due to an increase in foreign manpower costs arising from tightened border measures, additional compliance costs from Safe Management Measures to lower the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and increases in the cost of construction materials.

In line with overall support for the construction industry, HDB has provided extensive support for our contractors. This includes:

(a) co-sharing the increase in foreign manpower costs, by allowing contractors to apply to adjust the contract sum for their projects to account for such increases. HDB and relevant agencies are also supporting industry players who are seeking to bring in more migrant workers from various countries in a safe and controlled manner, to ease the construction manpower shortage;

(b) co-sharing the increase in non-manpower related operating expenses arising from the prolongation of construction contracts, such as plant and equipment rental, site maintenance costs and the extension of insurance premiums and performance bonds. In this regard, HDB has provided $36 million in co-funding;

(c) providing some $170 million in advance payments to help ease the contractors’ cashflow and exercising flexibility by deferring the start of the recovery of the advance payment beyond the default two months after construction works have commenced and allowing a longer repayment period beyond the default 12 months;

(d) extending the original duration of 18 or 22 months for which HDB provides steel price protection. Structural works may take longer than usual and we will further extend the steel price protection period to make it a total of nine additional months, so that contractors can continue to receive full protection from steel price fluctuations for the duration of the structural works which have been delayed due to the COVID-19 situation; and

(e) providing additional supplies of concreting materials to contractors for local pre-cast production, going beyond the amount that contractors had earlier opted for at tender closing.

HDB will work closely with our contractors and assist them in tiding over this difficult period. We will continue to engage them and review what more we can do to support them to ensure that construction progress remains on track. We also recognise that the delays will affect homebuyers and will do our best to assist them. We remain committed to minimise the extent of the delays and continue to deliver BTO flats in a timely manner, while ensuring that project quality and safety standards are not compromised.

Note(s) to Question No(s) 73-74:

¹ To ask the Minister for National Development (a) whether HDB BTO owners affected by the closure of Greatearth Construction will be accorded priority for HDB rental flats when required; (b) what measures can the Ministry and HBD put in place to facilitate a smooth handover of the construction works for the affected BTO projects and minimise delays in the completion of the projects; and (c) what assistance can be given to construction companies of BTO projects to prevent similar closures in light of the construction manpower shortage.

² To ask the Minister for National Development what steps will HDB take to help home buyers of the five BTO developments, including Sky Vista @ Bukit Batok, who may be affected by the construction delay arising from the insolvency of the main contractors of these BTO projects.”

Wheelchair-bound HDB Residents Without Lift Access

5 April 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) how many wheelchair-bound HDB residents currently live on floors without lift access; and (b) in the last three years, how many cases of complaints have been received annually from wheelchair-bound HDB residents over accessibility problems within HDB blocks and estates.

Mr Desmond Lee: With an ageing society and a ever-growing number of senior citizens, more and more HDB residents may face mobility issues and even require the use of wheelchairs. We recognise the increasing need for barrier free accessibility in our HDB estates, which is why we have over the years set out a range of programmes, in full anticipation that all residents may one day have mobility needs.

In 1990, the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility in Buildings was introduced to set minimum standards for barrier-free accessibility in and outside buildings. This was complemented by BCA’s barrier-free accessibility programme in 2006 to address older buildings built before the Code. In 2012, when the programme was completed, close to 8,000 HDB blocks were made barrier free by retrofitting them with features such as ramps and railings, and by leveling of steps. All new HDB estates are built with barrier-free access features, which include wider corridors for wheelchair movement, and a wheelchair accessible bathroom within the flat. HDB also provides other features such as wheelchair-accessible letter boxes and planters for community planting. Barrier-free accessibility, of course, also applies to connectivity between blocks, key precinct facilities and amenities as well as traffic crossings and transportation nodes.

In 2001, HDB introduced the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) to provide direct lift access to flats and enhance convenience for residents, especially the elderly and less mobile. At the start of the LUP, there were more than 5,300 HDB blocks without full direct lift access. Over the years, through the use of innovative technical solutions, HDB has provided LUP for the vast majority of these blocks. Today, there remain about 150 blocks where it is still not possible to implement the LUP due to prohibitive costs or existing technical constraints, such as limited space to build new lift shafts.

While HDB will continue to explore possible ways to bring direct lift access to these blocks, we recognized that some residents may urgently require direct lift access due to medical or mobility issues. Hence, in March last year, HDB introduced the Lift access Housing Grant (LHG) of up to $30,000, to help those with medical or mobility issues buy a new or resale HDB flat with direct lift access. As at February 2021, HDB has approved 22 applications for the LHG and is evaluating another four applications.

To further help some of our less mobile residents, HDB also enhanced its Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme in December 2018 to include two new improvement items – a portable ramp and a customised ramp – to help residents living in HDB flats with multi-step entrances move in and out of their homes with greater ease. Since December 2018, more than 1,900 ramps have been successfully installed. Where ramp solutions are not feasible, a wheelchair lifter is offered as an option in a pilot programme launched in December 2018. As of end February 2021, a total of 10 wheelchair lifters had been installed. I encourage residents who want to make their flats more senior-friendly, be it for themselves or for the seniors living with them, to apply for EASE directly with HDB, or opting for the EASE improvement items when their flats undergo the Home Improvement Programme (HIP).

Nothwithstanding, we acknowledge that there is always more we and the Town Councils can do, and we have improvement programmes such the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme to upgrade our estates over time. HDB does not track the number of wheel-chair bound residents in our flats. But I can assure the Member that HDB will attend to every case of a resident requesting help with mobility issues, and do its best to assist such residents. Over the past year, HDB received 27 cases of feedback on wheelchair accessibility within HDB blocks and estates.

Obstruction along HDB Corridors

5 April 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) what is the average annual number of cases of obstruction along HDB corridors; and (b) what is the average time frame for such cases to be successfully resolved.

Mr Desmond Lee: Based on the site inspections conducted by HDB, an average of one obstruction case per block is found along the corridors of HDB blocks each year. A case is considered an “obstruction” when the clear passage width at the corridor is less than 1.2 metres, as stipulated by SCDF.

The common areas, including corridors, in HDB estates are under the management and maintenance of the Town Councils. Town Councils are responsible for resolving cases of obstruction along HDB corridors. HDB does not track the average time taken by the Town Councils to resolve such cases. However, based on anecdotal feedback from some Town Councils, the average time taken to resolve each case could range from a few days to several months depending on the complexity of the case.

Land Cost in FY2019/2020

2 February 2021

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for National Development (a) how much did HDB pay for land cost in FY2019/2020; and (b) what is the breakdown of that payment amount to (i) SLA (ii) other Government organisations and (iii) private entities.

Mr Desmond Lee: Currently, HDB only buys Land from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the custodian of State Land in Singapore, for HDB’s public housing developments.

In FY 2019/2020, HDB paid SLA about $3.2 billion for the purchase of State Land. This information can be found in HDB’s annual financial statements report, which is published on HDB’s website.