Written Answer by Ministry of National Development on measures HDB is taking to reduce the impact of the construction delays; the alternative housing solutions that HDB can provide in the interim; and average completion time for new BTOs
Jul 6, 2021
Mr Shawn Huang Wei Zhong: To ask the Minister for National Development (a) what are some of the measures that HDB is taking to reduce the impact of the construction delays; (b) what are the alternative housing solutions that HDB can provide in the interim; and (c) what is the average completion time for new BTOs that are made available for balloting today.
The construction industry is one of the sectors hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Circuit Breaker last year, coupled with the stringent safe management measures (SMM) imposed at worksites, and the tightening of border controls for workers from South Asia, have led to delays for many private and public sector projects, including HDB’s Build-to-Order (BTO) projects.
As a result, most BTO projects have been delayed by about six to 12 months beyond their Estimated Completion Dates (ECD) originally indicated to buyers during project launches. The extent of the delay varies by BTO project, and depends on site-specific factors such as manpower availability, the contractor’s performance and available supply of materials. The average waiting time for BTO projects launched in 2020 was around four to five years. Generally, the waiting time for newly launched BTO projects is expected to be longer, due to longer time needed to prepare the sites, as well as ongoing requirements to comply with strict SMM amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
HDB is closely monitoring the construction progress of all BTO projects and will work with contractors to meet the revised completion dates. HDB is also working with various agencies on mitigating measures to reduce the length of delays. This includes getting exemptions to allow less noisy construction activities to be carried out on Sundays and Public Holidays where possible.
We recognise that the delays to the completion of BTO flats have caused inconvenience to flat buyers. HDB is doing its best to work with contractors and consultants to expedite construction works, while ensuring that the project quality and safety standards are not compromised.
Meanwhile, flat buyers are encouraged to find alternative housing arrangements with family members, relatives or on the open market. Where they are unable to do so, first-timer applicants who are waiting for their BTO flats could apply for temporary housing under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS). Given the limited supply of PPHS flats, we are considering how to finetune allocation to give priority to families in greater need of temporary housing. We are also studying ways to increase the supply of temporary housing to better support affected flat buyers in need of housing. We will provide more details on these measures when ready.
For low-income households with no family support and no other housing options, HDB will consider offering Interim Rental Housing (IRH) on a case-by-case basis.
Today, flat buyers who cancel their flat booking will either have to forfeit their option fee, or five per cent of the flat purchase price, and wait out a one-year period before they can apply for subsidised housing again, whether a new flat from HDB or a resale flat with grants. These measures are in place to ensure that buyers are serious when they buy a flat, and do not deprive others with urgent housing needs of the opportunity to do so.
Nonetheless, HDB recognises the challenges faced by flat buyers given the COVID-19 situation and will consider waiving these forfeitures based on an assessment of the flat buyers’ specific circumstances, including for flat buyers who have been affected by BTO delays and cancel their BTO flats to buy a resale flat due to urgent housing needs. The waiver of the one-year wait out period will allow first-timer families with urgent housing needs to receive housing grants if they decide to buy a resale flat. Resale flats are generally available for immediate occupation, and buyers can choose from a wide range of flats, according to their preferences and budget. Eligible first-timer families can receive up to $160,000 in grants when they purchase a resale flat.