Over the weekend, PM Lee delivered his National Day Rally 2023 speech. These National Day Rally Speeches can bear pretty big news. Just last year, PM Lee announced that masks will soon be optional (does that feel like a whole lifetime ago to anybody else?), and that Section 377A was going to be repealed.
This year, a good number of the big changes PM Lee announced were with regards to public housing. For starters, there’s a brand new housing category in town, and it’s going to rock our current HDB BTO classification. And for the singles out there, listen up: Owning your first home just got easier.
During his speech, PM Lee spoke for about 60 minutes. If you only have 6 minutes, here’s a summary of 5 housing-related highlights from the National Day Rally 2023.
5 Highlights on Housing from the National Day Rally 2023:
- Our HDB classification system is getting a makeover, with 1 new flat category—Plus
- The new Plus category comes with tighter restrictions, such as a 10-year MOP
- HDB is scrapping the mature vs non-mature flat classification
- Singles will be allowed to buy any 2-room flats—Standard, Plus, and Prime
- The elderly can expect more senior-friendly flats and neighbourhoods
1. Our HDB classification system is getting a makeover, with 1 new flat category—Plus
From the second half of 2024, HDB is adding a Plus category to classify HDB flats. This is on top of the existing Prime Location Public Housing (“Prime”) flats, a model that’s been in place since Nov 2021.
All in all, this is what the new 3-tiered HDB flat classification will look like:
|New HDB classification (from second half of 2024)|
|Majority of flats. These are in “okay” locations that aren’t outstanding.||Flats in choice, non-central locations, e.g. near MRT stations.||Flats in the best and most central locations, like Farrer Park, Kallang/Whampoa|
Just like how “all schools are good schools”, the government says that all flats are good flats. To quote PM Lee during his National Day Rally 2023 speech: “[…] they are all good flats, good flats, good flats. But the locations are different, the subsidies are different and the restrictions are different.”. We’ll take a closer look at the different locations, subsidies and restrictions for each flat category later on. But first, let’s address the new kid on the block.
Why is there a new Plus category for HDB flats?
You know how there are some great flats smack in the town centre, or sitting just a stone’s throw away from the MRT station? These flats are, in PM Lee’s words, “good deals” because of their convenience and high resale value. There’s no doubt they’re hot favourites among BTO applicants, and their high application rate means getting these units in a BTO sales exercise has basically become a lottery draw.
That’s what the new Plus category is here for—to reduce the lottery effect. With stricter sales conditions, HDB is going to moderate the prices and demand of Plus flats. The ultimate goal is to make things fairer for those who would otherwise have lost at the BTO lottery. At the same time, HDB is going to provide more subsidies for Plus flats than Standard ones to keep things affordable for more households.
Let’s take a closer look at what the new Plus category entails.
2. The new Plus category comes with tighter restrictions, such as a 10-year MOP
Here’s a quick look at the subsidies and sale conditions of the new Plus flats:
- Subsidies: More subsidies than that for Standard flats, but less than that for Prime flats
- Minimum occupancy period (MOP): 10 years—same as for Prime flats. The goal is to discourage people from buying Plus flats just to flip them ASAP for a handsome profit.
- Subsidy recovery upon resale: You must return a percentage of the resale price back to HDB if you sell the flat. This is to return the aforementioned subsidies that HDB gives for Plus flats.
- Income ceiling on resale buyers: Just like how there is an income ceiling on first-time buyers, those buying a resale Plus flat must also be within the income ceiling of $14,000 per household. HDB is imposing this to better manage resale prices.
With these in mind, this is how the Standard, Plus, and Prime flats compare:
|New HDB flat classification (from second half of 2024)|
|Location||“Normal” flat locations that are good but not fantastic. Majority of flats are Standard.||Better locations, e.g. near MRT stations. Not central.||The best and most central locations, like Farrer Park, Kallang/Whampoa|
|Subsidies||Standard subsidies apply, such as the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant||More subsidies, i.e. HDB can discount the flat more for you||The most subsidies, i.e. HDB can discount the flat a lot for you|
|MOP||5 years||10 years||10 years|
|Renting restrictions||No restrictions||Cannot rent out the entire flat||Cannot rent out the entire flat|
|Subsidy recovery upon resale?||No||Yes, but lower subsidy recovery rate than for Prime flats||Yes, higher subsidy recovery rate than for Plus flats|
|Income ceiling on resale buyers?||No||Yes—$14,000 per household||Yes—$14,000 per household|
In short, as you move from Standard to Plus to Prime flats, you get:
- Better connected and more central locations
- More subsidies (and hence a higher subsidy recovery rate imposed upon flat resale)
- Tighter restrictions
3. HDB is scrapping the mature vs non-mature flat classification
Currently, our HDB BTO flats are classified in 2 ways:
- Mature vs non-mature: Flats in mature estates have better amenities and are better connected than flats in non-mature estates. Mature estates include Ang Mo Kio and Queenstown, while non-mature ones include Punggol, Woodlands, and of course the non-mature estate poster child, Tengah.
- PLH flats vs “not PLH” flats: Some flats in prime, central locations like Kallang/Whampoa and Little India fall under the PLH model. These flats are costlier and come with more restrictions, such as a 10-year minimum occupancy period (MOP) instead of the usual 5-year MOP for standard flats.
But as Singapore becomes more developed, the line between mature and non-mature estates is blurring. Plus, we just spoke about the rationale behind the Plus category to reduce the lottery effect.
That’s why the new Standard-Plus-Prime framework will replace the current classifications detailed above. That means no more “mature” and “non-mature” HDB estate categorisations, and flats aren’t just “PLH” or “not PLH”. All flats will simply fall under one of the 3 classifications, Standard, Plus. and Prime.
This new framework will be put into place from the second half of 2024. Rest assured that existing projects, flats you’ve booked that are being built, and your existing homes are all unaffected.
4. Singles will be allowed to buy any 2-room flats—Standard, Plus, and Prime
Currently in Singapore, singles who want to buy a new flat have it hard. They can only apply for:
- New 2-room Flexi flats in non-mature estates only
- Resale flats that are not under the PLH (“Prime”) model
Once the new flat classification system is put into place, singles can buy new 2-room flats across all 3 types. In the resale market, singles will also soon be able to purchase Prime flats (2-room Flexi only) and Standard or Plus flats of any size except 3-Gen:
- New 2-room Flexi flats—Standard, Plus, and Prime
- Resale Standard and Plus flats of any flat size (except 3-Gen)
- Resale 2-room Flexi Prime flats
5. The elderly can expect more senior-friendly flats and neighbourhoods
Seniors already have the EASE programme today—Enhancement for Active Seniors. Under EASE, seniors can get fittings like ramps, grab bars and slip-resistant flooring installed in their homes. But there’s a lot more that can be done to make the homes of the elderly more safe and comfortable. These are part of EASE 2.0, and include foldable shower seats and wider toilet entrances that are more wheelchair-friendly.
Homes aside, the government is also looking into enhancing safety and convenience for the elderly in their neighbourhoods. You know how even if the green man gives way to red at the pedestrian crossing, cars have to wait anyway for some older folks to cross the road? I mean, they do wait, but it’s certainly not the best system. To address this, the government is planning to make roads more senior-friendly with longer green man signals, among other measures. These include:
- Barrier-free ramps and raised zebra crossings: These are so that wheelchair users don’t need to navigate going down the curb, across the road, then up the curb again.
- 3D road markings and narrowed roads: These aim to slow cars down.
- Larger and more colourful block signs, with familiar symbols: These aim to aid seniors in recognising key symbols, remember their block, and find their way home easily.
The government also wants to encourage our senior citizens to stay active. More details aren’t out yet, but seniors can also look forward to more shelters, rest points, therapeutic gardens, fitness trails, and exercise machines in their neighbourhood.
And finally, of course, there are more assisted living residences with integrated care facilities coming up for our seniors. These will be constructed all over the island, but will start with areas with more seniors, such as Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah.
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