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Parliament in brief: 4 things you need to know

SINGAPORE — About 3.3 per cent of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners also owned at least one private property as of end-September 2022.

Parliament in brief: 4 things you need to know
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  • Members of Parliament filed questions on the number of HDB homeowners who own private property, residential fires, and the nationality of doctors here, among other issues
  • The replies showed that about 3.3 per cent of HDB flat owners own at least one private property
  • Only three HDB flat fires from January 2020 to September 2022 had spread to neighbouring flats up to two floors above the fire's source
  • Singapore citizens and permanent residents make up 93.2 per cent, or 14,367, of doctors actively practising here

SINGAPORE — About 3.3 per cent of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners also owned at least one private property as of end-September 2022.

This figure was provided by Minister for National Development Desmond Lee in response to a parliamentary question from Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Shahira Abdullah.

Other topics raised by MPs during Thursday's (Oct 20) parliamentary sitting included residents impacted by neighbouring Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat fires, mortgage debts and missing Singaporeans overseas.

1. PROPERTY OWNERSHIP AND HOUSING LOANS

    Questions by Dr Shahira Abdullah, NMP

    • How many HDB homeowners have purchased a second private property, and has this number increased in the last five years?
    • What percentage of HDB flats are not owner-occupied and are being rented out?

    Questions by Mr Louis Chua, MP for Sengkang Group Representation Constituency (GRC)

    • What percentage of private residential properties have an outstanding mortgage loan?
    • What is the average loan-to-value ratio of such mortgage loans?
    • What percentages of these loans are used to finance owner-occupied properties and investment properties respectively? 

    Replies by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Minister for National Development Desmond Lee

    In response to Dr Abdullah's query on HDB flat owners who have bought private properties, Mr Lee said that this group made up just 3.3 per cent of all HDB flat owners as of end-September 2022.

    "This proportion has declined by about 0.5 percentage points in the last five years," he added.

    HDB flat owners who have fulfilled the minimum occupation period for their units may buy private property and rent out their flats.

    He added that 5 per cent of HDB flats sold were rented out as of end-September 2022.

    In response to Mr Chua’s questions, Mr Tharman said that about 63 per cent of private property owners had outstanding mortgage loans as of the second quarter of 2022.

    The loan-to-value ratio — which is the loan calculated as a percentage of the property value — of such outstanding mortgage loans was 44.3 per cent as of the second quarter of 2022, he added. 

    “As of August 2022, approximately 75 per cent of outstanding mortgage loans on private residential properties were for the financing of owner-occupied properties and the remaining 25 per cent were for investment properties,” Mr Tharman also said.

    These questions come as interest rates have spiked in recent months, causing housing loan interest rates to reach their highest levels in years, with some close to 4 per cent per annum.

    This is likely to continue to increase, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Chee Hong Tat during a Parliament sitting earlier this month.

    Rising HDB resale prices have also led the Government to announce several property cooling measures that kicked in on Sept 30, including requiring private property owners to serve a temporary wait-out period of 15 months after selling their homes before they can purchase a non-subsidised resale flat.

    The authorities have noted that the number of private property owners buying HDB resale flats had also doubled in 2021 and the first three-quarters of 2022, as compared to 2019 and 2020.

    Mr Lee had previously said that these buyers generally have more means to make such purchases, compared to first-time buyers or existing HDB flat owners, and they therefore tend to pay higher amounts of cash over valuation when they buy resale flats.

    2. FIRES IN HDB FLATS AFFECTING NEIGHBOURING UNITS

    Question by Ms Rachel Ong, MP for West Coast GRC

    • What percentage of fire incidents in HDB flats spread to neighbouring units, or impact them in other ways?

    Reply by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam

    Mr Shanmugam said that from January 2020 to September 2022, there were 2,441 fire incidents in HDB flats, with only three incidents impacting units up to two floors directly above the initial affected unit.

    Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law, added that new residential buildings which exceed 24m in height must have an apron wall or horizontal ledge on the building facade to minimise the risk of vertical fire spread based on the Fire Code 2018.

    As for neighbours on the same floor as a flat on fire, Mr Shanmugam said that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has not recorded any cases of fires being spread to their units.

    “This is because residential units are designed as fire compartments to prevent the spread of fire beyond the unit,” he said.

    “As for smoke inhalation injuries, this occurred in less than 5 per cent of the HDB fire incidents since January 2020. This includes residents from both the initial affected unit and neighbouring units.”

    On Sept 12, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim announced in Parliament that SCDF will trial placing fire extinguishers at the lift lobby of every other HDB block.

    A month earlier, a resident was killed after his HDB flat in Jurong East went up in flames. Firefighters took about five hours to fully put out the fire. Three neighbours in the flat next door had to be rescued by SCDF.

    There were 480 residential fires in both public and private homes in the first six months of this year, lower than the 513 residential fires in the same period in 2021.

    3. NATIONALITY OF  DOCTORS IN SINGAPORE AND WHERE THEY WERE TRAINED

    Questions by Mr Leong Mun Wai, Non-Constituency MP from Progress Singapore Party

    • How many registered foreign doctors are there in Singapore?
    • How many Singaporean and non-Singaporean doctors who graduated in local and foreign universities are able to practise in Singapore since 2000?

    Questions by Ms He Ting Ru, MP for Sengkang GRC

    • In the last five years, how many foreign-trained doctors were newly registered in Singapore, and how many are practising family medicine?

    Reply by Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung

    Mr Ong said that there were 15,423 doctors with active practising certificates in Singapore as of Dec 31, 2021. 

    Singapore citizens and permanent residents made up 93.2 per cent (14,367) of doctors locally, of which 63.4 per cent were trained locally.

    Among non-resident doctors in Singapore, 93.1 per cent were trained overseas. Most doctors are from India, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and the United Kingdom, said Mr Ong.

    He added that over the last five years, 2,780 foreign-trained doctors were newly registered in Singapore, of which 274 practise family medicine.

    Among these 274, 116 are Singapore citizens, 133 are permanent residents and 25 are non-residents.

    Earlier this month, the Government announced more details of the Healthier SG programme, a long-term reform of the healthcare sector to focus on preventive care over just acute care. 

    Healthier SG, which aims to have citizens take charge of their own healthcare, involves having residents enrol with a single doctor — either a general practitioner or a polyclinic doctor — who will support residents in their health needs throughout their lives.

    4. SINGAPOREANS GOING MISSING OVERSEAS

    Questions by Ms He, MP for Sengkang GRC

    • How many requests have Singapore overseas missions received for Singaporeans overseas believed to be missing?
    • What type of missing person cases is help sought for?

    Reply by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan

    In the last 10 years, about 30 requests a year for assistance were received by Singapore overseas missions, said Dr Balakrishnan.

    While he did not provide exact numbers, he said some overseas Singaporeans reported to be missing were found to be hospitalised, arrested, had passed on or were uncontactable temporarily due to lack of mobile connectivity. 

    There have also been cases where they have chosen to be uncontactable for personal reasons, he added.

    Last month, the Global Anti-Scam Organisation, an organisation against human trafficking and cybercrime in Southeast Asia, claimed “more than a hundred” Singaporeans were held captive in a Cambodian scam syndicate base, 8World News reported. 

    Mr Shanmugam had told Parliament earlier this month that the police are monitoring potential human trafficking of scam victims who are lured by scam syndicates to "work" in other countries.

    Related topics

    Parliament fire doctors HDB

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