Mr Chua Kheng Wee Louis: Chairman, in my cut last year, I called for the Government to build a larger percentage of HDB stock ahead of demand. During the housing debate earlier this year, my hon friend Leon Perera mooted this idea as well, recognising that if we can build industrial facilities ahead of demand, can we not also build residential homes ahead of demand?
I do appreciate Minister Desmond Lee’s assurance that HDB is planning to launch more shorter waiting time flats of around 2,000 to 3,000 flats per year by 2025. However, this is, essentially, at similar levels to the number of such flats launched in the last five years, ranging from 1,096 in 2018 to 2,850 in 2020, representing a mere 7% to 18% of BTO supply in each year.
We all recognise that long waiting times are not just an inconvenience but seriously affect Singaporeans’ life plans, such as causing young couples to delay starting a family. Beyond addressing the near-term demand-supply imbalance, I believe it is time for us to have a fundamental rethink of the BTO system.
Someone shared with me a blog post by a certain Prof Ben Leong which I agree with, and I quote, “Having excess flats is actually a feature and not a bug. It just means that if some Singaporeans want to get married and want a new house straightaway, there is a house available!”, and he goes on further to say, “To me, BTO is the real culprit behind our uncontrolled fire”.
Even if the hybrid approach I proposed entails a small risk of marginal excess supply, this would strengthen the security of supply of HDB flats, making us more resilient to potential supply-side shocks, as we have seen in the wake of COVID-19.
Most importantly, any such risk of marginal excess supply would be worthwhile taking to achieve the social need to reduce average BTO wait times and, in turn, support Singaporeans in charting their lives and starting new families.
Ministry of National Development
2 March 2023