25 Jul 2011, 10.58AM
Earlier in July, the Ministry of National Development (MND) announced that it is reviewing the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) for public flats. DBSS flats are condo-style HDB flats built by private developers, and which come with better finishes and facilities. The scheme was introduced in 2005 to offer greater choice and variety to meet the housing aspirations of higher income households seeking public housing.
The pricing mechanism and relevance of DBSS flats became the talk of the town, after it was announced that the indicative price for a top-tier 5-room DBSS flats in Tampines was $880,000. REACH contributors were shocked by what they felt was the “ridiculously high” asking price for what was essentially a HDB flat, with its associated conditions of ownership and sale. Several questioned the Government’s assurance that it is providing affordable public housing to Singaporeans. The subsequent reduction in the price of units by as much as $102,000 appeased some, but at the same time, a few contributors pointed out the massive profits the developer would have pocketed had the public not reacted so strongly to the high indicative prices, leading the developer to cut its prices.
This situation had some questioning whether the DBSS scheme is fundamentally flawed, given that it enables private developers, appointed by HDB to provide public housing on public land, to amass huge profits. Contributors also reacted negatively to initial comments by the authorities stating that DBSS flats are not HDB, and that Singaporeans should forgo the project if they find it too costly.
The news that the scheme is being reviewed was hence welcomed, with some opining that a review is long overdue. A key point which surfaced is the need for HDB to retain some element of control over pricing even if the project is developed privately, in view of its mandate to ensure that public housing remains affordable. Others called for the scheme to be scrapped altogether, given that HDB Executive Condominiums already cater to the higher-income households seeking public housing.
Pending the outcome of the review, land sales for DBSS projects have been suspended.
Selected contributor quotes from REACH’s platforms:
“I was shocked to learn that the newly launched HDB 5-room flat costs $880,000.” – Orson Lee, via email
“Should a DBSS HDB flat, which comes fitted with flooring, cabinets, trees and bushes around the flats, command such a high premium? It is after all a HDB flat and it is far away from the city.” – David Tan TW, via Discussion Forum
“Land for HDB flats is subsidised by taxpayers… so how can it be used as a money-making instrument by private developers, instead of serving the public interest?” – Guest, via Discussion Forum
“Even with the lowering in prices of the top-tier units to $778,000, it still works out to $662psf for 5-rooms units… I believe it is still high and has not met the objectives and fundamentals of public housing.” – Raymond Lo Wan Mou, via Discussion Forum
“MND's decision to review the HDB's DBSS is long overdue. The pricing has risen so much that DBSS has priced itself out of the market, compared to executive condominium and private condominium.” – Guest, via Discussion Forum
“They (HDB) already got EC, why must they have DBSS…??” - Siti Nor'aini Abdul Samat, via Facebook
“The prices of DBSS flats need to be controlled. This will also mean that the sales of land for DBSS will need to be capped so that developers can still make profits at lower price…” Wong Boon Hong, via Facebook