Aug 28, 2013

    Middle-income get more help to buy flat

    THE Government is reaching out to help middle-income Singaporeans afford their first home as well as low-income families upgrade to larger Housing Board flats.

    Middle-income households can now make use of the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) to buy four-room or smaller new flats in non-mature estates directly from HDB.

    Starting with last month's Build-to-Order (BTO) exercise, the income limit for the grant will be raised substantially to $6,500.

    The SHG, capped at $20,000, was previously available only to households earning not more than $2,250, to buy two- or three-room flats in non-mature estates.

    Singles buying two-room flats, too, will benefit from an enhanced SHG, as the current income ceiling will be raised to $3,250 to help them better afford their homes.

    The measures were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech on Aug 18. The details were announced yesterday by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

    Ms Christine Li, head of research and consultancy at Orange Tee, said: "The monthly household income of $6,500 covers about half of Singaporeans.

    "As the grant covers more middle-income families, more attention could be diverted from the resale market, causing demand to fall."

    Additionally, low-income families living in subsidised two-room flats will benefit from a new Step-Up CPF Housing Grant of $15,000.

    This will help them upgrade to three-room flats in non-mature estates, after they have fulfilled the Minimum Occupation Period. This new measure will also apply from last month's BTO exercise.

    The Government has also taken measures to further stabilise the public-housing market by reducing the maximum tenure for HDB housing loans from 30 to 25 years.

    New- and resale-flat buyers who take up HDB loans can now use only up to 30 per cent of their gross monthly income to repay their loans, instead of 35 per cent.

    The maximum repayment period for housing loans taken from financial institutions to buy HDB flats - including those under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme - will also be reduced from 35 to 30 years.

    From yesterday, permanent-resident (PR) households will have to wait for three years from the date of obtaining their PR status, before they can buy a resale flat. Currently, they are able to buy a flat right after they attain PR status.