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Khaw to pilot 'soft landing' in HDB resale market

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National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has reiterated that he wants to engineer a "soft landing" in the resale market for Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats, and noted that recent cooling measures are taking effect, going by the latest HDB Resale Price Index released yesterday.

He revealed this on Thursday night at a session of Our Singapore Conversation (OSC), which was specific to housing.



Indeed, while HDB resale prices continued to rise in Q1 2013, the rate of increase was slower than that in the previous quarter.

Comparing resale prices to aeroplanes, Mr Khaw told Singaporeans that time will be needed to slowly moderate prices without "hurting a lot of people", just as an aeroplane would require "a very long runway" to achieve a gentle landing.

"I hope to have understanding from Singaporeans that this is the correct way to go," said Mr Khaw.

While the minister was clear of his target to avoid a hard landing, he qualified that he cannot guarantee it because "the world is in a very dangerous place". He cited the fragile global economy and the unpredictable scale of the H7N9 flu as potential threats that could lead to a major fall in prices on the HDB resale market.

Although there were no hints of an imminent round of new cooling measures, they might not be the only methods to rein in HDB resale prices anyway if one OSC participant has his way - introducing a minimum occupation period (MOP) for HDB flats bought from the resale market in order to discourage short-term speculation. To this, Mr Khaw said that it struck him as a new idea that he had never thought of before.

Currently, while an MOP of five years applies to those who buy new flats from HDB, those who purchase resale flats are not subjected to any MOP.

On the proposed imposition of such a requirement, Mr Khaw said: "I don't think it will be welcomed by many." Although he expressed that he is not keen on the idea, the minister is not ruling it out just yet, saying that "we can take a look" at this suggestion.

Despite discussing at length on possible options to control prices in the HDB resale market, the group of 30 remained mindful of the HDB flat's role as an asset to Singaporeans, especially to a growing group of retirees. Mr Khaw concurred that implementing overly restrictive changes to resale rulings will "spoil their retirement plans".

The issue of equity revolving new HDB flats also came under the spotlight. The opinion that the subsidies enjoyed by a higher-income family in buying an executive condominium (EC) far outweigh those enjoyed by a lower-income family in buying a build-to-order flat seemed to resonate among the participants.

To that, Mr Khaw admitted that there is indeed "a substantial gap" in the subsidies that are meted out currently, thus giving rise to this sense of inequity.

He said: "Something is wrong somewhere, and therefore I think we cannot carry on the EC in this current mode."

Mr Khaw rounded up the conversation by saying that he hopes to garner clarity and conclusion from more of such OSC sessions specific to housing in the coming weeks, and called on all Singaporeans who are interested to partake in the national conversation on housing to sign up for upcoming sessions atwww.mnd.gov.sg/homesweethome <http://www.mnd.gov.sg/homesweethome> .

Credit from Business Times - 27 April 2013

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