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More singles succeed in getting 2-room flexi flats as backlog clears

SINGAPORE — More than 57 singles used to vie for one Housing Board (HDB) flat when the government first allowed singles who are not senior citizens to buy two-room flexi flats in non-mature estates close to six years ago.

An artist's impression of a HDB development in Tengah. Today, a high demand among singles — who have to be 35 years old before they can buy a flat — for two-room flexi flats remains, but the application rate has dropped to about 4.2 last year

An artist's impression of a HDB development in Tengah. Today, a high demand among singles — who have to be 35 years old before they can buy a flat — for two-room flexi flats remains, but the application rate has dropped to about 4.2 last year

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SINGAPORE — More than 57 singles used to vie for one Housing Board (HDB) flat when the government first allowed singles who are not senior citizens to buy two-room flexi flats in non-mature estates close to six years ago.

Today, a high demand among these singles — who have to be 35 years old before they can buy a flat — remains, but the application rate has dropped to about 4.2 last year, the HDB said in an update on Sunday (March 3).

While this means that most first-time applicants will still have to try several times before they can be successful in getting a flat, the backlog is clearing, with about 14,500 singles having booked a flat since, the HDB said.

Of these, about 6,200 have collected keys to their new homes by the end of last year.

Among them is freelance film producer Juan Foo who finally collected the keys to his Build-to-Order (BTO) flat in Bukit Batok last year after making three attempts to apply for a flat as a single since 2013.

On the long wait, the man in his 40s who preferred a newly-built flat as it symbolises “a fresh start” to him told TODAY: “I felt rather left out. Policies were understandably favouring family units to encourage traditional family forming.”

Initially, he had tried to apply for a three-room flat but was “rejected immediately”, he noted. That was before he found out that the option was not available for him unless he turned to the resale market.

The improvement in application rates comes as HDB had kept steady its supply of two-room flexi flats in non-mature estates — primarily built to cater to elderly citizens — at about 4,000 units annually over the last five years. In 2012, HDB supplied only 320 of such flats.

The term “flexi” refers to the flexibility given to seniors (those aged 55 and above) in the length of lease they would like to buy, while families and singles can buy them only on the standard 99-year lease. Forty per cent of such flats are set aside for older applicants, while the remaining flat supply is divided equally between families and singles.

“HDB will continue to monitor the demand and calibrate its supply of two-room flats to better meet the housing needs of this group,” it reiterated in its statement on Sunday.

The HDB pointed out that more than 60 per cent of the successful single applicants had benefited from taking either one or both of the two housing grants available to them — the Additional Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant and Special CPF Housing Grant. A single person can receive grants of up to S$40,000 with these.

Two-room flexi flats in non-mature estates were sold at between S$75,000 and S$158,000, depending on floor area and location in last August’s exercise.

Mr Aaron Low is one single who turned to the resale market two years ago as he felt BTO options are too limited for singles. “Two-rooms flats are too small for me; I need space,” he said.

The 37-year-old, who bought a three-room flat at Bukit Purmei, added: “It just doesn’t make sense how singles should be singled out of the BTO scheme. From my perspective, people who are able to afford it should be able to apply for BTO.”

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