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Is the government prepared to deal with potential housing crisis?

By Phillip Ang

Recent global events may trigger a correction in global stock markets and property markets.

Back home, the increase in housing prices has never been due to an improvement in the economy but artificially low interest rates.

(SingaporePropertyCycle)

Likewise for the stock market.

(Dow Jones Industrial Average)

How long will the circus continue is anyone’s guess but a sharp fall is only a matter of time.

During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the property market experienced a severe correction of about 45%. Property prices tanked and buyers literally disappeared overnight. Banks were forced to allow buyers to hold on to their ‘underwater’ property because there were just too many homes with negative equity.

Although the government had implemented property cooling measures, they were insufficient as it had also opened the floodgates to foreigners.

(This is similar to the current situation where foreigners have been snapping up properties and even 6-figure COVs were not an issue. What’s worse, the current high property prices is also due to the government allowing foreign property developers to bid up land prices. This was not evident more than a decade ago.)

The government controls both the demand and supply of housing but had made the ‘mistake’ of allowing property prices to increase by more than 200% within 7 years. To cover up the colossal mistake, CPF rules were bent backwards to allow the use of Special Account for mortgage payments in 1999.

The current situation mirrors the situation before the 1997 collapse where cooling measures have also been implemented since 2009 and have not really worked.

The relentless rise of global stock markets is also a cause for conceren. The US DJIA has more than doubled from 2009 solely due to historically low rates. Will a collapse in housing prices be precipitated by a stock market crash?

Where CPF and bank rules had been bent backwards to support housing prices in 1997, is the government prepared to deal with the impending crisis?

This article was first published on likedatosocanmeh.

Editor's note: CPF's guidelines indicated that, "If your housing loan is still outstanding when your total CPF used has reached the Valuation Limit and, you are below 55 years old, you may continue to use your CPF Ordinary Account savings up to the applicable Housing Withdrawal Limit to repay the housing loan after setting aside half of the prevailing Minimum Sum. Savings in the CPF Special Account (including the amount used for investments) and CPF Ordinary Account can be used to meet half of the prevailing Minimum Sum."