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Investors in Better Position: Khaw

In an August 2015 interview with Today, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that generally, the housing market is now “much more stable.” He added that citizens are now complaining that it’s almost impossible to get rid of their houses and existing condos for sale at the price they want. He added that while the government could not satisfy both sellers and buyers at the same time, the existing market condition is “a fairer balance” between the two groups.

Khaw had a message for new launch condo owners and other units: that owning an asset that is appreciating in value is definitely better than not possessing anything. Fifty years of mandatory saving through the Central Provident Fund has enabled continuous progress and home ownership, and have put Singaporean people in a privileged situation in comparison with their counterparts in practically every other country.

The minister conceded that higher expectations from ordinary people, who might now be interested in new launch condo developments like The Skywoods, Alex Residences, Kallang Riverside etc as opposed to public housing, should be applauded as society advances, and that these expectations will have to be met.

For now, with property prices still high, those who want to buy condos may need to fine-tune their expectations to make sure it is within their means. Khaw added that prospective buyers should keep in mind that steep wage increases are not likely in the near future. That psychological adjustment, he says, is something that Singaporeans may not be accustomed to yet.

For the second time since 2011, government experts are revising the income ceiling for Build-to-Order flats and executive condos for sale, and Khaw restated that this effort is to keep in step with salary increases over the years. He hinted that nonetheless, the authorities would be rather pleased to see the percentage of persons living in Housing and Development Board apartments go up – in contrast to the view a few years back.

Khaw had a candid reply to detractors who feel housing prices are exorbitant in Singapore: between eighty and ninety percent of Singaporeans own their homes, he said. If they were not affordable, he added, then how could the country have accomplished such a result? He said that nonetheless, there are always people living at the edges, and that is why income ceilings have to be dynamic and frequently amended.

Several of the opposition candidates zoomed in on public unhappiness with the housing situation in the run up to the 2011 General Election – many people could not afford private homes or new launch condo developments. The situation was complicated by the limited supply of HDB flats. Some people were also unhappy with the government’s asset-enhancement program, which they felt had contributed to the runaway housing prices.

Khaw acknowledged that there remains more to be done, for example tackling the needs of singles and people who unexpectedly find themselves in financial difficulty, although the current régime has done much to address the public discontent with housing that came forward in the 2011 General Election.

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