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Higher grants, more choice for first-time flat buyers

Higher grants, more choice for first-time flat buyers.

More incentives to buy resale flats; income ceiling raised to widen the pool of buyers. From today, first-time buyers will get higher grants and more flexibility to choose the size of their flat and where it is located.

The income ceiling for Housing Board flats has also been raised for the first time since 2015, widening the pool of eligible buyers. Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said yesterday that the new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG), which streamlines two older grants, gives couples more flexibility in affording a flat that suits their needs.

It also helps the authorities meet the growing demand for homes without building new flats, which is limited by a lack of land, especially in mature estates, he said. Instead, the incentive structure has been changed to make it attractive to buy resale flats.

Mr Wong said past incentives, with subsidies and grants, encouraged first-timers to choose new flats, adding: "This is one reason why first-timers often prefer new over resale flats. So, we ought to adjust our grant structure to achieve a better balance."

The changes were hinted at by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last month, when he said his younger colleagues had ideas to keep flats affordable.

Before this, there were three types of grants: The CPF Housing Grant of $50,000 for resale flats, the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to $40,000 for those earning $5,000 and below, and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to $40,000 for those earning $8,500 and below and were looking to buy four-room or smaller flats in non-mature estates.

Those buying Build-To-Order (BTO) flats may have been eligible for the AHG and SHG, while those buying resale homes could get only the CPF Housing Grant and AHG.

From today, the AHG and SHG will be combined into the EHG of up to $80,000 and available to eligible buyers - including resale flat buyers who did not get the SHG before. There are also no more restrictions on buyers' choice of flat type and location. "This (dropping of restrictions) means first-timers can get up to $40,000 more when they purchase a new flat," Mr Wong said.

The income ceiling for the EHG is $9,000, higher than the AHG's cap of $5,000 or the SHG's $8,500. The caveat for the EHG is that the flat's lease must cover buyers until they are aged 95, in line with the authorities' push to get people to buy homes that can last them for life. Those who do not meet this condition will get a pro-rated amount depending on the lease.

With this change, an eligible first-timer family earning $4,800 a month and buying a new four-room flat in a mature estate from the HDB can get $45,000 in grants, compared with $5,000 previously. As for resale flat buyers, they may get up to $160,000 in grants - a third more than before. This figure takes in the $50,000 CPF Housing Grant and $30,000 Proximity Housing Grant.

The income ceiling for Singaporean households to buy new flats and executive condominium units will be raised by $2,000 - to $14,000 and $16,000, respectively, to allow more to qualify. Mr Wong said the HDB will likely increase the BTO supply in 2020 to meet the extra demand for public housing expected to arise from these changes. The board is on track to launch 15,000 flats this year.

Its third BTO launch of the year, initially scheduled for last month, has also been pushed to later this month to allow more home buyers to take advantage of the changes.

Property analysts, buyers and sellers said the new system not only benefits first-time buyers, but also sellers looking to upgrade. "If you are a young graduate in a well-paying job, you benefit. If you are looking for a resale flat, you can afford it more. If you are a seller, it is more likely your flat can move now. Everybody wins," said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

Adapted From The Straits Times, Sep 11 2019