Desmond Lee

The problem of affordable housing has led to several questions raised in Parliament on the matter, given that the resale price index for the public housing market has gone up for 10 consecutive quarters.

Recently, Workers Party MP Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) and NCMP Leong Mung Wai (Progress Singapore Party) asked questions regarding the number of HDB flat owners who also own private property.

Mr Giam not only asked for the number of HDB flat owners who also own private property, but he also asked for the number of those who don’t live in their flats.

Moreover, he asked if the government has plans to review the policy of allowing HDB flat lessees to keep their HDB flats after they become private property owners, and if not, what other plans MND has to raise the supply of resale HDB flats and moderate their prices.

Mr Leong’s questions were similar to Mr Giam’s, and he also asked how many HDB flat owners there are who own private residential property and rent out rooms in their flats as well as those who don’t own additional private property but have at least one room in their flat rented out.

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These questions were answered by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Monday (Nov 7).

Mr Lee noted that Singapore citizen households who have fulfilled the minimum occupation period (MOP) for their HDB flat are allowed to purchase private residential property without selling their HDB flat, but are subject to an Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty of at least 17 per cent when they buy their second and subsequent residential properties.

Around three per cent of HDB flat owners own at least one private residential property as of October of this year, he said, adding that this proportion went down by around 0.3 percentage points in the past three years.

Among them, about 45 per cent do not live in their HDB flats, as they have rented out their whole flat.

Another four per cent of HDB flat owners are renting out one or more bedrooms of their flat, and these proportions have stayed stable in the past three years.

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As for the 97 per cent of HDB flat owners who do not own additional property, around 13 per cent rent out their entire flat or portions of it.

“This proportion has also stayed stable in the last three years,” said the minister, adding “We note that Mr Gerald Giam is asking the Government to consider requiring HDB flat owners to sell their HDB flats if they buy private property. Mr Yip Hon Weng has also called for this last month. We have been gathering views from Singaporeans as part of Forward Singapore and will study these as well as other views and ideas carefully.

“The purpose of my question was to discuss ways to moderate resale HDB flat prices so they are more affordable for lower and middle income Singaporeans. 

One way to achieve this is to increase the supply of resale flats by requiring buyers of private property to sell their HDB flats. (This should only be applied prospectively.) Those flats can then be freed up to be bought by other Singaporeans who need a home to stay in,” Mr Giam noted in a Facebook post late on Monday. 

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Letter to the Editor: Public housing needs to be made more affordable