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    Dec 17, 2013

    Fewer larger flats, more 2-roomers

    THE supply of larger flats will shrink next year, but more smaller units will be offered, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

    There will be fewer three-room, four-room and five-room flats as the Housing Board slows down after three years of ramped-up supply.

    But more two-room flats and a "steady stream" of studio apartments will be offered, Mr Khaw said yesterday in a blog post. The reason, he shared, is due to varying demand between families and singles for the Build-To-Order (BTO) flats.

    Singles were first allowed to apply for new flats in July's BTO launch, and there were 58 of them chasing each available flat. The figure came down to 27 last month. "Being a new housing scheme, the application rates of singles were especially high," said Mr Khaw.

    In contrast, demand from families was much lower. Three years of bumper BTO launches have "cleared much of the backlog". There were 2.4 first-timer applicants for each flat in January, falling steadily to 1.3 last month. For second-timers, the rate fell from 14.9 to 2.7 in the same period.

    As for studio apartments, demand stabilised at an average of 2.1 applicants per unit this year. "These data will help shape our housing taper for 2014," he said.

    For two-room flats, the plan remains to offer 5,000 next year, as announced in September. This is about twice as many as this year.

    Offering fewer large flats makes sense, so as to avoid over-supply, said PropNex chief executive officer Mohamed Ismail. But he and other experts said more could be done to tackle the differences in demand.

    Half of all new two-room flats could be made available to singles, up from 30 per cent now, said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim. And more larger flats could be allocated to second-timers and single parents, said SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak.

    With the slowdown in supply, some buyers are worried. Industrial designer Seth Yang, 26, was unsuccessful when he applied for a four-room flat with his girlfriend earlier this year. The first-timer plans to try again next year, but the upcoming slowdown has dented his hopes: "It feels like we'll have less of a chance."