Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

April 24, 2008

Mah disagrees with suggestions on land sales, deferred payment scheme

Filed under: General — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:04 pm

NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday disagreed with suggestions by property tycoon Kwek Leng Beng on the need for the government to review its first-half 2008 land sales programme and rethink its decision to scrap the deferred payment scheme.

Mr Mah said the government can be nimble on state land sales because the programme is reviewed every six months, depending on changes in the market.

But the H1 2008 programme will not be changed midstream, he said. ‘We should be careful of knee-jerk reactions. You can’t adjust it just because something is happening yesterday and then we change things today. We’ve got to take a longer-term view.’

Mr Mah was speaking at a media briefing after he delivered the keynote address at Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Corporate Plan seminar at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

In an interview published by BT this week, Mr Kwek had urged the government to review its H1 2008 land sale programme, which was fixed last year when the property market was buoyant compared with today.

On the decision announced in October last year to scrap the deferred payment scheme, Mr Mah said yesterday it was carefully considered, taken ‘after a lot of thought, deliberation’.

‘The objective was two-fold,’ he said. ‘One, to remove excessive speculation from the market. And two, to make sure there is financial prudence – that people make decisions and don’t over-commit themselves.

‘These are two very important objectives and they are still relevant today – in fact, probably more so in today’s kind of market. I don’t see any need for us to change our decision on that.’

Mr Kwek had suggested the deferred payment scheme could be revived, but this time with a higher initial payment of 30 per cent instead of 20 per cent previously. He also said that if a developer wants to extend a deferred payment scheme to a buyer, perhaps the developer’s bank might be in a better position to assess viability, while keeping an eye on prudence.

Mr Kwek also made a suggestion he said could make housing more affordable for young Singaporeans, including singles. The government could build more public housing units and lease them to young first-time buyers with an option to buy the flats within 10 years at fixed prices, he said.

Responding yesterday, Mr Mah said he disagreed with the premise that young couples cannot afford to buy an HDB flat.

‘The average amount of money they need to put up for monthly mortgage payments is well within their means, something like 20 per cent. This is quite affordable,’ he said.

‘If you were to rent, they will probably be paying as much, if not more, in rental, than to buy the flat. It doesn’t make sense to rent when you can buy using your CPF. You rent, you can’t use your CPF.

‘When you buy, you actually buy a place you can call your own. It’s an investment. When you rent, it’s not yours.

‘Our home ownership policy with all the generous housing subsidies that we have given actually allows most Singaporeans, young couples, to be able to buy their own homes.

‘If you look at the numbers, you’ll find that suggestion (by Mr Kwek) does not quite make sense.’

Source : Business Times – 5 Apr 2008

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