45% of HDB flat owners who own private homes do not live in their flats: Desmond Lee

As at October 2022, about 3 per cent of HDB flat owners own at least one private residential property. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – About 3 per cent of Housing Board flat owners own at least one private residential property, and 45 per cent of this group do not live in their flats as they have rented out their entire unit, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee.

The proportion of flat owners who own private property has fallen by about 0.3 percentage point in the last three years, he told Parliament on Monday in response to Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC).

About 4 per cent of such owners rent out one or more bedrooms of their HDB flat, with the proportion remaining stable in the last three years. Among flat owners who do not own private property, about 13 per cent rent out their whole flat or bedrooms.

Mr Giam had also asked if there were any plans to review the policy of allowing HDB flat owners to keep their flats after buying private property.

In response, Mr Lee said the Government will study this suggestion, along with other ideas and views gathered from Singaporeans as part of the Forward Singapore engagement exercise.

Mr Lee also noted that flat owners who do not sell their HDB flats will be subject to additional buyer’s stamp duty of at least 17 per cent upon purchasing their second and subsequent residential property.

Mr Giam noted that HDB resale flat prices have risen by about 28 per cent in the past two years, with more than 266 flats sold for at least $1 million between January and September in 2022.

“This has put resale flats beyond the reach of many Singaporeans, even after factoring in the generous government grants,” he said. “Since HDB flats are meant for owner-occupation, can HDB owners who buy private property in the future be required to sell their flats so that the flats are freed up to be bought by other Singaporeans?”

Reiterating that the Government will study all options, Mr Lee said measures were taken in December 2021 and September 2022 to cool the property market.

“We’re also mindful of macroeconomic conditions going forward, rising interest rates, uncertainty in the economic climate globally, people being more prudent in their home purchases, so those will also have an impact,” he added.

On million-dollar flats, Mr Lee said they made up about 1 per cent of all resale transactions in the last two years and tend to have good attributes, such as being jumbo flats, loft units, executive apartments and maisonettes.

Separately, Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) asked how the eligibility criteria for HDB rental housing and rental rates were affected by the increase in wages arising from the Progressive Wage Model.

Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said the $1,500 income threshold is a guideline and not a hard ceiling.

“Applicants will not be rejected based on income alone, as HDB will also consider applicants’ circumstances, including their household size, family support, housing budget and options,” he said.

He added that HDB will not raise rents for existing tenants whose wages have increased during their current tenancy term. When their rents are reviewed at tenancy renewal, HDB will consider their circumstances to ensure rent remains affordable, he said.

“In cases where the rent is increased, HDB will also ensure that the rent increase is lower than the income increase, so that tenants are always better off when their wages increase.”

Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) asked about the proportion of divorced couples who are able to afford HDB flats after selling their matrimonial flats.

In response, Second Minister for National Development Indranee Rajah said about 12,800 divorcees bought a resale flat or booked a new flat with their children or on their own from 2019 to 2021. Of these, about 60 per cent were females and about 70 per cent were below 50.

In the same period, HDB approved about 2,800 requests from divorcees for public rental flats, she added.

“Source:[45% of HDB flat owners who own private homes do not live in their flats: Desmond Lee] © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction”

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