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Janice Heng
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014

Singapore, Asian Opinions

How to avoid 'alumni' effect with HDB priority

The Straits Times | Janice Heng | Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014

If the HDB wants to do more, it could increase the ballot chances only for those with parents in non-mature estates. Perhaps it could go as far as to introduce absolute priority for this group

Most Singaporeans surveyed support the Housing Board's plans to encourage couples to live near their parents. But how to do this without penalising other applicants too harshly is another question.

In a blog post last month, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan noted that half of all couples want to live with or near their parents, but only 37 per cent are able to do so. "We must do more to help families stay close to one another," he said.

He floated several ideas, including higher grants for those buying resale HDB flats near their parents' homes, a move backed by about eight out of 10 respondents in an ongoing survey by the Ministry of National Development.

More controversial, however, was the idea of absolute priority for those seeking Build-To-Order flats near their parents' homes.

This would guarantee such applicants a flat without the need to ballot, assuming there were enough flats to go around.

Nine out of 10 survey respondents supported greater priority for those wanting to live near their parents. But absolute priority? The survey did not ask about that. Anecdotally, though, that idea does not seem popular.

In the first of three Housing Conversations which the HDB is holding this month, most of those who took part were not in favour of absolute priority.

One participant noted that couples whose parents live in mature estates would benefit from a higher resale value of their flat.

Flats in mature estates tend to fetch more than others on the resale market. Three-room flats in mature Clementi estate went for an average of $382,000 in May, compared with $336,500 in neighbouring, non-mature Jurong East.

Housing experts have similar concerns. Says OrangeTee head of research Christine Li: "It is not very fair to those whose parents do not currently reside in mature estates."

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