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BTO: 32 months to build – Really?

(Part 3 of the Singapore Census 2010 series)

by Leong Sze Hian

Going by the volume of postings, comments and debate on the internet, the one statistic in the recently released Singapore Census 2010, that is arguably the most contentious, is that the number of single Singaporeans is on the rise.

According to the article “Number of single Singaporeans on the rise” (ST, Jan 13) , “one in three residents – or one million of those who call Singapore home – is single”. In percentage terms, the figure has gone up from 30 per cent a decade ago to 32 per cent today.

If this statistic is broken down into Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), it would be interesting to know how many Singaporeans, relative to the total adult citizen population are single.

HDB: New hope for singles?

One of the perennial issues that singles lament about, is their housing predicament. Singaporean singles have to wait until they are 35, before they can buy a resale HDB flat.

Before the recent clarification by the HDB, hardly anyone knew that two Singaporean siblings below 35 whose parents are not in Singapore and do not own a HDB flat, can apply to buy a resale flat, on a case-by-case basis.

In contrast, it was widely known that two PR siblings below 35 can buy under the same conditions.

So, with the HDB new flats' Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) raised from three to five years in August last year, and the construction of Build-to-order (BTO) flats getting longer to about five years now, it would take a total of about 10 years before the ramped up offer of BTOs last year and this year, becomes available in the resale market, for singles to buy.

By that time, with resale prices continuing to escalate, many singles may not be able to afford one.

It's like a double whammy – more singles and a longer period before new flats can be sold in the resale market.

BTO: 32 months to build?

Whilst on the subject of BTOs, I would like to refer to the article “Shorter wait for BTO flats” (ST, Jan 12). 
It states that “Flats under the build-to-order (BTO) scheme in the last two years were completed in 32 months on average”.

According to the HDB's web site, the Estimated Delivery Possession Date (EDPD) for the last four BTOs in December, November and October, is 66, 58, 53, and 60 months, respectively.

The EDPD dates for the subject four BTOs are 31 May 2016, 30 September 2015, 31 March 2015 and 31 October 2015, respectively. So, why is the BTO EDPD getting so much longer?

Since Mr Mah said in August last year that the waiting time for BTO flats launched after the middle of this year would be "about 2-1/2 years, or 30 months”, why are BTOs now about 60 months?

Finally, why is it that when the HDB built very little flats, the average BTO was 32 months, and now that it is building 38,000 flats in two years (“HDB to roll out more BTO flats in 2011”, BT, Oct 22), which is more than the total number built over the last 10 years or so, the time to build is getting so much longer?

Whilst all the above seems rather confusing, perhaps there is one thing that we may be certain of – the Minister of National Development obviously never read the HDB web site's BTO information sheet which contains the EDPD data.