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Budget debate: New scheme to spur alliances aims to boost transformation of Singapore's built environment sector

The push to accelerate transformation and boost the resilience of Singapore's built environment sector will intensify through a new scheme that supports strategic alliances among developers, builders, consultants and sub-contractors, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament on Thursday (March 4). Under the Growth and Transformation Scheme, each alliance will develop a business plan of at least three years that should clearly show how technology will be used to increase productivity, said Mr Lee. It should also seek to achieve sustainability targets, build better capabilities, develop the workforce, and improve business growth and strategic collaboration. "The alliance members will be collectively responsible for the outcomes committed to in their business plan. In this way, the value chain approach will help alliance members forge long-term collaboration, reap mutual benefits, and build capabilities through knowledge sharing and transfer, " he said. The built environment refers to man-made structures, features and facilities viewed collectively as an environment in which people live and work. The sector comprises industries such as security, construction, environmental services, real estate and smart facilities management. Mr Lee noted that there are "heavy inter-dependencies" among the different stakeholders along the value chain in the built environment sector. "Developers work with builders and consultants on each project, who in turn rely on multiple tiers of contractors and sub-contractors for different aspects of the project. "Given these interlinkages, it is difficult for any one firm in the value chain to transform on its own. And this pandemic has shown that we are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, " he said. The value-chain approach of the Growth and Transformation Scheme differs from existing schemes in two ways, explained Mr Lee. First, unlike existing schemes that support individual firms, the scheme supports alliances of firms across the value chain, with the view of uplifting the entire built environment ecosystem. Second, existing schemes focus on individual projects, which can result in contractors operating at very thin margins to meet short-term targets without the capacity to invest in long-term transformation. In contrast, the GTS supports firms in improving their capabilities, not just in completing specific projects. The scheme will thus also help to pave the way for the alliances to take on larger or more complex projects, or develop niche strengths in the future, he added. Mr Lee said the scheme will be rolled out with a few alliances first. "Over time, the GTS can catalyse transformation throughout the ecosystem, so that the sector can progress together. With enhanced capabilities and a stronger track record, Singapore firms will also be better placed to compete in construction tenders both here and abroad, " he said. In addition, other broad-based incentives to help firms accelerate their transformation, such as through the construction productivity and capability fund, will be enhanced. Referring to how the industry was hit very hard by the pandemic, he said: "This experience has strengthened our resolve to accelerate the pace of change as set out in our Industry Transformation Map, and decisively transform the way we design, build and maintain our city. We cannot go back to how we used to do construction before." In response to points raised by Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC) and Mr Xie Yao Quan (Jurong GRC), Mr Lee noted that even though construction has resumed, the industry still faces serious challenges. "Safe management measures on worksites have affected productivity, while restrictions on the inflow of foreign workers have resulted in a labour crunch and higher manpower costs." But amid ongoing challenges, construction demand is expected to recover in the coming years. For 2021, between $23 billion and $28 billion worth of projects are expected to be awarded, up from $21 billion last year, Mr Lee said. If needed, some planned public sector projects may be brought forward to help support the industry, he added. The Government will also strengthen regulations to spur productivity growth and reduce the industry's reliance on foreign manpower, as well as step up research and development efforts to create innovative solutions for the sector. Foreign manpower levers in the construction industry will also be reviewed, said Mr Lee. "As announced at MND's COS in 2019, we intend to remove the man-year entitlement framework in the near future, and replace it with a system that incentivises more productive off-site work. We are also studying the reduction of the construction dependency ratio ceiling to support more manpower-lean construction, " he said. "We are aware that changes in these regulations will impact the construction industry. We will continue to consult our industry partners before making any major moves." Further, the Government will enhance the buildability framework to raise productivity standards, and make design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) the default method for large projects. Mr Lee noted that these moves may cause some pain in the short term. "But as we have learnt from Covid-19, these structural changes are necessary so that we can build greater resilience in our industry."

Source: Straits Times
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23 million-dollar HDB resale flats sold in February as overall prices rise for 8th month

The Housing Board resale market continued to perform strongly in February as 23 million-dollar flats changed hands - a new monthly record - and overall prices rose for the eighth straight month. Resale prices climbed 1.4 per cent last month compared with January 2021, according to flash data from real estate portal SRX released on Thursday (March 4). Year on year, resale prices are up 8.3 per cent from February 2020, though they are still 5.7 per cent lower than their peak in April 2013. The flats which went for at least $1 million make up about 1 per cent of the total number of units resold. The highest transacted price for a resale flat last month was $1.21 million for an executive maisonette at Toh Yi Drive. In non-mature estates, the highest transacted price was $890,000 for an executive premium maisonette at Choa Chu Kang Street 64. With 13 million-dollar flats sold in January, the number of such buys total 36 for the first two months of the year - compared with just eight for the same period in 2020. Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president of research and analytics at OrangeTee & Tie, noted that six of the million-dollar units were from the Pinnacle @ Duxton, while four were Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) units at The Peak @ Toa Payoh. Four maisonettes larger than 140 square metres were also sold for over $1 million. For the overall HDB resale market, a total of 2,165 flats were sold in February, down 13.4 per cent from January but 29.8 per cent higher than a year ago. PropNex head of research and content Wong Siew Ying said the resale market took a breather last month due to the Chinese New Year festivities, and will likely pick up again. Ms Sun noted that while fewer flats changed hands last month compared with January, the volume was still the strongest February sales recorded since 2010. Four-room flats made up 40.7 per cent of flats resold, while five-room flats constituted 28.6 per cent and the share of three-room flats stood at 21.6 per cent. The rest were executive, two-room and multi-generation flats. Ms Sun said that high demand, tight supply and recovering market sentiment may be propping up HDB resale prices. "Many young couples have also turned to the resale market, as many were either unsuccessful in recent BTO (Build-To-Order) launches or could not wait more than five years for the completion of new BTO flats. Further, demand may have been pushed up by Singaporeans downgrading from private condominiums, " she added. Ms Wong noted that Punggol led February's sales with 208 resale flat transactions, followed by Sengkang with 205 transactions and Tampines with 153 transactions. "Generally, resale flats in the suburban areas tend to enjoy keen buying interest, compared with those located closer to the city, owing to their more affordable prices, " she said. Ms Wong expects HDB resale prices to remain resilient for the full year, potentially growing by 3 per cent to 5 per cent. Demand will be driven by a bumper crop of newer resale flats entering the market after attaining their five-year minimum occupation period, as well as BTO applicants who turn to the resale market, as they are deterred by oversubscription of attractive BTO projects and longer wait for BTO completions, she added. On the rising resale prices, ERA Realty head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said some homebuyers might be rushing to purchase resale flats in anticipation of property cooling measures. He said: "The Singapore Government recently issued warnings that it is keeping a close watch on the market to ensure sustainable prices. Some HDB flat buyers may be concerned that any introduction of addition cooling measures, even if they are targeted at the private residential property market, could have negative spillover impact on the HDB residential market."

Source: Straits Times
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Guoco Midtown's second condo to launch in two weeks

The 558-unit Midtown Modern condominium in Tan Quee Lan Street in Bugis will go on sale in about two weeks. Developer GuocoLand said on Wednesday (March 3) that prices will start from $1.1 million for a 409 sq ft to 474 sq ft one-bedroom apartment or around $2,400 per sq ft. A five-bedroom penthouse of about 3,500 sq ft is going for around $14.98 million or about $4,000 per sq ft. The condo, comprising two 30-storey towers and a retail podium, goes on sale on March 20 and is slated for completion in 2024. Midtown Modern is the second condo of GuocoLand's Guoco Midtown, a 3.2ha mixed-use mega development in Beach Road. The project, due to be completed in phases starting from 2022, includes a 30-storey office tower with 770,000 sq ft of Grade A office space, three retail clusters, and two condos - Midtown Bay and Midtown Modern - with more than 700 apartments. There is also a five-storey business and social networking club. The development is connected to Bugis MRT interchange station, which is served by the East-West and Downtown lines. Midtown Modern itself is a joint venture between GuocoLand, Hong Leong Holdings and Hong Realty (Private). It will have around 10 thematic gardens and landscape areas, a 50m swimming pool, clubhouse, tennis court, hot spring and tea house, among other features. Demand for residential projects in the Central Business District has been healthy despite the pandemic, said Ms Christine Sun, senior vice-president of research and analytics at OrangeTee & Tie. The sale of non-landed homes in CBD areas such as Districts 1,2 and 7 rose from 602 units in 2018 to 674 in 2019 and 896 last year, she added. Midtown Modern is the second condo of GuocoLand's Guoco Midtown. Prices will start from $1.1 million for a 409 sq ft to 474 sq ft one-bedroom apartment, or around $2,400 per sq ft. Ms Sun said: "The higher sales inked in quarters three and four of 2020 indicate that buying interest picked up significantly in the second half of last year, possibly because many Singaporeans and foreign investors saw the rising potential of properties in the CBD and they are keen to park their money in such properties for the long term." Ms Wong Siew Ying, head of research and content at PropNex, added: "(Midtown Modern) prices are relatively attractive in comparison to some of the other projects in the core central region. "With prices starting from $1.1 million for a one-bedder, it generally aligns with that pricing sweet spot of $1.2 million to $1.5 million for many buyers."

Source: Straits Times
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Pre-1987 HDB flats mostly upgraded; 56k newer flats next in line for home improvement programme

The majority of the 320,000 eligible flats built up to 1986 have undergone upgrading works under the Housing Board's Home Improvement Programme (HIP). Of these, about 215,000 flats, spread across 230 projects, have completed upgrading works, while works are currently under way for about 96,800 flats, spread across 101 projects, said the HDB in an update on Tuesday (March 2). Works on the remaining flats will be implemented progressively. Next in line for upgrading will be a newer batch of 230,000 flats built between 1987 and 1997. The HDB also said on Tuesday that the first batch of about 56,000 units have been selected for the Extended HIP, but did not specify a time frame for the roll-out. As at March 31,2020, the Government has spent about $3.2 billion on HIP, which focuses on improvements within the unit to address common maintenance problems related to ageing flats. Under this scheme, the Government bears the full costs of repairing of spalling concrete and structural cracks, replacing piping for waste or soil discharge, and upgrading the electrical load in eligible flats. The programme can proceed only when at least 75 per cent of a block's eligible households that are made up of Singapore citizens have voted for it. Flat owners have the option of further improvements such as upgrading their toilets, door, grill gate and refuse chute hopper. Depending on their flat type, they would pay between 5 per cent and 12.5 per cent, or between $550 and $1,375 for these upgrades. Under the HIP, households with seniors can also opt to have a range of elderly friendly fittings such as ramps for multi-step entrances, grab bars and slip-resistant treatment to toilet floor tiles installed under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme. As at Dec 31, more than 234,000 households have applied for this programme, said the HDB on Tuesday. Of these, more than 147,700 households opted for Ease together with HIP while the remaining 86,300 households applied directly. To be eligible for Ease, households must have elderly family members aged 65 and above, or aged between 60 to 64 and requires assistance with at least one of the activities of daily living. Seniors who live in blocks that do not qualify for HIP can also apply for the Ease programme directly from HDB. Residents can expect to pay between $125 to $480, depending on flat type. As at March 31,2020, the Government has spent about $90 million on Ease. More than 1,770 households with multi-step entrances have been installed with ramps since it was introduced in December 2018. Madam Lai Swee Lian,82, who relies on a wheelchair to get around after a bad fall last June, said the customised ramp at her front door has lifted her quality of life. Under the scheme, the Government bears the full costs of repairing of spalling concrete and structural cracks. Domestic helper Elok Indrawati pushes Madam Lai Swee Lian out of the toilet via a ramp, on March 1,2021. The two steps at the entrance of her four-room flat in Hougang made it "almost impossible" for her to go out of the unit, as she would have to hobble down the steps before getting into her wheelchair, she said. But the new ramp, installed in February, solved that as her Indonesian helper Elok Indrawati,37, can now easily wheel her out. She said: "Last time, it took us 10 minutes to get out of the house and it was very dangerous because I had a lot of trouble going down the steps. Now, I can ask my helper to bring me to the nearby park to get some fresh air any day."

Source: Straits Times
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Asia's ultra-rich rank S'pore as region's top choice for luxury homes

Singapore has become one of the world's most sought-after locations for buying investment homes as its safe-haven reputation has been further strengthened by successfully managing the coronavirus pandemic and supporting businesses. According to Knight Frank's Wealth Report, while private home prices in Singapore's prime districts dipped 0.2 per cent in 2020 as travel restrictions kept foreign buyers away, demand is expected to recover this year as such properties remain relatively affordable, and as the vaccine roll-out continues and borders reopen. Knight Frank's survey of over 600 private bankers, wealth advisers, intermediaries and family offices, found "a change in strategy" by ultra-high net worth individuals - those whose net wealth exceeds US$30 million (S$40 million) - due to global uncertainty in the wake of the pandemic. "As a result, they are investing in additional homes domestically wherever they can, followed by second homes in cities and countries that best fit their needs in the new normal, " said Ms Victoria Garrett, head of residential property in Asia-Pacific at Knight Frank. Singapore's luxury residential market is the top Asian territory of choice for the ultra-wealthy in Asia, after the UK, US and Australia, noted Mr Nicholas Keong, head of residential international project marketing at Knight Frank Singapore. "Home buyers from India, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea rated Singapore in their top five locations when considering investment homes abroad. The manner in which Singapore's government was able to financially support businesses as well as put in place measures to control the spread of Covid-19 further enhanced Singapore's reputation as a safe bastion for investors, " he said. This could augur well for luxury home prices this year, with 26 per cent of those surveyed planning to buy a new home in 2021, up from 21 per cent in 2020. "This demand could help fuel price rises of up to 7 per cent in key markets" this year, the report said. Moreover, unlike Auckland, Shenzhen, Seoul and Manila, where average home prices ended between 10 per cent and 18 per cent higher last year, prices of prime homes in Singapore dipped 0.2 per cent and sales plunged 20 per cent due to a lack of new launches and as travel restrictions kept foreign investors away. Nevertheless, Singapore continues to be an oasis for investments due to its stable political environment as well as the extensive measures to mitigate any recurrence of the outbreak, the report said. This is borne out by a 10.2 per cent increase in the number of ultra-high net worth individuals in Singapore last year to 3,732, despite the recession and an overall drop in median household income from work of 2.4 per cent, Ms Wendy Tang, group managing director of Knight Frank Singapore, said. "Given that South-east Asia has one of the fastest-growing middle-class demographics in the world, Singapore is well positioned to ride the growth. As such, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals in Singapore is forecast to grow by about 31 per cent between 2020 and 2025 to 4,888, " she said. Mr Leonard Tay, head of research at Knight Frank Singapore, added: "Singapore also has a smaller ultra-high net worth individuals population compared against other Asian countries in the list. With a lower base, a relatively decent growth in quantum results in a higher percentage increase."

Source: Straits Times
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Australia home prices surge at fastest pace since 2003 in February

Australian home prices climbed by the most since August 2003 in February as record low borrowing rates and government incentives lure more buyers into the market, raising fears of overheating. Nationwide house values surged 2.1 per cent last month, CoreLogi data released on Monday (March 1) showed. Capital city prices gained 2 per cent, led by Sydney and Melbourne. "Australia's housing market is in the midst of a broad-based boom, " said Tim Lawless, head of research at CoreLogic. The rapid gains have been "spurred on by a combination of record-low mortgage rates, improving economic conditions, government incentives and low advertised supply levels." While housing prices are surging from Singapore to Canada and the US, a return to boom times in Australia threatens to swell an already worrisome pile of household debt and make it harder for young people to get a foot on the property ladder. Sydney is the world's third-least affordable housing market, and Melbourne the sixth, according to a report last week. The nation's property values have taken off again after the central bank slashed interest rates to a record low and said they'll stay there for at least three years. People are also looking for larger houses with space to work from home, while the rapid price growth has rekindled a fear of missing out, sending buyers flocking to the market. That could see home prices surge 16 per cent over the next two years, according to Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation's largest mortgage lender. "Auction clearance rates are sitting at levels consistent with double-digit dwelling price growth" said Gareth Aird, head of Australian economics at Commonwealth Bank. "History shows people like to buy into a rising market." Hot Property An auction for a small, dated two-bedroom house in the inner Sydney suburb of Paddington on a recent Saturday attracted more than 250 people. Bidding began at A$1.4 million (S$1.44 million) - A$150,000 over the reserve and immediately knocking most would-be buyers out of the race. It eventually sold for just shy of A$1.7 million, A$450,000 above the reserve. "We are seeing a significant increase in demand across all price points and all suburbs, " said real estate agent Ben Collier, who handled the Paddington sale. Usually "you see different markets moving at different speeds, whereas it seems to be somewhat more uniformed right now." In New Zealand, where home prices soared 13 per cent in January from a year earlier, the problem is so acute the government will now require the central bank to consider the impact on housing prices when setting interest rates, a change the bank opposed. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is also reimposing lending restrictions on property investors in an attempt to cool the market. Fears that Australia's housing market would be flooded by distressed sales as people were thrown out of work by the pandemic have faded as the economy recovers faster than expected, and people resume paying their mortgages after being offered six-month loan holidays last year. Instead, a shortage of supply is helping fuel the price boom. The number of houses advertised for sale in the first three weeks of February was down 26 per cent from a year earlier, CoreLogic said. "Housing inventory is around record lows for this time of the year and buyer demand is well above average, " Mr Lawless said. "These conditions favour sellers. Buyers are likely confronting a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), which limits their ability to negotiate." In another sign of strength in the housing market, home-loan approvals rose 10.5 per cent in January, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed on Monday. Home prices could rise about 20 per cent over this year and next, according to Westpac Banking Corp. "The upturn is being supported by record low interest rates; the confident expectation amongst borrowers that these rates will remain low for years to come; ample credit supply; and an improving economic backdrop as the roll-out of vaccines promises to bring the pandemic to an end, " the bank's economists said in a report last week.

Source: Straits Times
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Half of all two-room flexi flat buyers are aged above 55, says HDB

Two-room flexi flats have proved popular with older buyers, with more than half of them aged 55 and above, figures revealed on Saturday (Feb 27). Singles have been the second-largest group purchasing the units since they were introduced six years ago, the Housing Board (HDB) said. As at Dec 31, about 34,700 two-room flexi flats had been launched for sale since they were brought in by the HDB in 2015. Around 84 per - or 25,189 flats - of the 29,924 units offered have been booked by home buyers, said the HDB. Selections are still ongoing for the remaining 4,700 units. Of these buyers,56 per cent were older people aged 55 and above. Singles made up 38 per cent while the remaining 6 per cent of home buyers were families. Among the flats purchased by older buyers,92 per cent were on short leases. The remainder were on 99-year leases. The 40-year lease was the most popular, at 4,046 units, followed by the 35-year lease at 3,526 and the 30-year lease at 2,291 units. Only 215 older buyers opted for the shortest lease of 15 years, with the oldest being 99 when applying for a flat with such a lease. Sizes for these flats range from 36 to 46 sq m. Older buyers pay less for a flat with shorter lease. In the February Build-To-Order (BTO) sales exercise, prices for a two-room flexi flat with a 15-year lease started at $34,000 at West Hill @ Bukit Batok and $39,000 at Parc Woods @ Tengah, both non-mature estates. Prices for same flat with a 99-year lease started from $101,000 at Bukit Batok and $110,000 in Tengah. Prices also depend on the location. In the same sales exercise, prices for a 15-year lease at McNair Heights in the mature estate of Kallang/Whampoa started at $69,000. The two-room flexi flats in the project did not come with a 99-year lease option. These short-lease two-room flexi flats will have to be paid for fully upfront with cash or with Central Provident Fund monies. They also cannot be resold or rented out. Owners who no longer need the flat can return it to the HDB, which will refund them the value of the remaining lease based on straight line depreciation. Another housing option for seniors are the assisted living HDB flats, targeted at those aged above 65 who wish to live on their own and yet enjoy some care, support and communal activities. The pilot batch of Community Care Apartments at Harmony Village @ Bukit Batok, which launched in February's BTO sales exercise, were well-received. There were 706 applicants vying for the 169 units on offer. The Government previously said that it has plans for the Community Care Apartments housing model to be piloted at additional sites if the take-up rate and public response for the first pilot at Bukit Batok is good. Government subsidies such as the Silver Housing Bonus (SHB), which gives seniors a cash bonus of up to $30,000 when they sell their existing flat and use the proceeds to top up their CPF Retirement Account, are applicable. As at Dec 31 last year,970 households have benefited from the SHB, said the HDB. Eligible first-time buyers can also tap the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) of up to $80,000 and do not have to pay a resale levy. In the upcoming May and August BTO sales exercises, the HDB will launch two-room flexi flats in Geylang, Hougang, Jurong East, Tampines, Tengah and Woodlands. Madam Hamidah Rosman,65, who works as a clerical officer, and her husband Abdul Rahim Abdullah,73, sold their four-room resale HDB flat in Yishun for about $370,000 before moving into their two-room flexi unit in Canberra in December 2019. Their flat in Canberra, which they bought on a 35-year lease, cost around $70,000. The couple's daughter and three grandchildren, aged six to 10, live with them. What the family of six lack in space, they make up for in financial freedom. "It was not easy for me to keep up with the housing bills in the previous flat. With this new flat, although smaller in size, I have lesser bills to pay which is less of a financial burden on me, " said Madam Hamidah. Eden (left) and Aura, Madam Hamidah Rosman's grandchildren, in the bedroom on Feb 25,2021. OrangeTee & Tie senior vice-president of research and analytics Christine Sun said the short-lease two-room flexi flats are one way for seniors to monetise their existing units but still ensure they have a roof over their heads. She said: "Some seniors may opt to cash out and sell their bigger flat that they bought a long time ago and buy a cheaper short-lease two-room flexi to leave a sum of inheritance money for their children. Others may simply just want to live in a smaller home to enjoy their retirement life."

Source: Straits Times
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Bidadari BTO flats: 50-70% of home owners have moved into first three completed projects

More than 2,000 Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flats in Singapore's newest large estate, Bidadari, have been completed, with families progressively moving into their new homes. These flats are spread across three projects - Alkaff Vista, Alkaff LakeView and Alkaff CourtView - which were launched for sale by the HDB in 2015. More than 70 per cent of residents have moved into their new homes in Alkaff Vista and Alkaff LakeView, said the HDB in an update on Friday (Feb 26). About 50 per cent of residents have done the same in Alkaff CourtView, where works on community spaces are still in progress. All 12 public housing developments in Bidadari have been rolled out, with the final three projects - Bartley GreenRise, ParkEdge @ Bidadari and Alkaff Breeze - launched in February's BTO sales exercise. Bartley GreenRise will be the last BTO site to be ready, and is estimated to be completed in the second quarter of 2025. The BTO projects in the 93ha Bidadari estate were highly sought after by home seekers. The five-room flats typically drew more applicants than there were available units. This is despite Bidadari's past as a grave site, which some have drawn similarities to the mature town of Bishan, which was also once a cemetery. Since 2015, Bidadari has been the only centrally located mature housing estate where the HDB has launched five-room BTO flats for sale. Most of the units in Alkaff LakeView and Alkaff CourtView have been designed with structural columns tucked to the edges to allow residents greater flexibility in configuring their home layouts. Bidadari's connectivity is also a major draw. It is served by three MRT stations - Woodleigh, Potong Pasir and Bartley - and will house the first underground air-conditioned bus interchange, next to Woodleigh MRT station. Most units are located within 400m of an MRT station. Residents will also be served by an extensive cycling and pedestrian network that runs within the estate. About 50 per cent of residents have moved into their new homes in Alkaff CourtView. Announced in 2013, Bidadari estate was envisioned as a "tranquil urban oasis" with a garden-like setting, and is split into four distinctive districts Alkaff, Bartley Heights, Park Edge and Woodleigh, said the HDB. It will have the upcoming Bidadari Park as a centrepiece. The 10ha park, that sits snugly among HDB blocks, will have a lake, heritage walk, open lawns and experiential trails, and will be connected seamlessly through the estate. Bidadari's connectivity is a major draw. Another distinctive feature of the estate is the Bidadari Greenway, a 1.6km "green spine" co-developed with the National Parks Board. It will feature rest spots, fitness corners, social communal facilities along with pedestrian and cycling paths. The southern stretch of the greenway is expected to be completed in the first half of this year, and residents living in Alkaff Vista, Alkaff LakeView and Alkaff CourtView will have access to these amenities. The three completed BTO projects boast other green spaces, such as landscaped rooftop gardens at all three of their multi-storey carparks, each with its own identity. At Alkaff Vista, there are garden-themed playgrounds, viewing decks, open lawns and trellised linkway to encourage community interaction among residents. At Alkaff Vista, there are garden-themed playgrounds, viewing decks, open lawns and trellised linkway to encourage community interaction among residents. Seniors living in all three projects and beyond can access care facilities and services at an active ageing hub at Alkaff LakeView. A 6m-wide verandah that runs the length of Alkaff CourtView serves not only as a sheltered pathway linking residential blocks to the precinct pavilion and bus stop, but also as a community space for future events. Mr Jeffrey Chong and his wife Heather Yew moved into their flat in September 2019. Finance executive Jeffrey Chong,28, and his wife Heather Yew,28, who is the principal of a childcare centre, said they have got to know their neighbours quite well. The couple moved into their three-room BTO flat in Alkaff LakeView in September 2019 and are looking forward to the upcoming amenities such as the Alkaff Lake and The Woodleigh Mall. "We have a group chat for our block and as neighbours, we look out for each other. We update each other on different happenings in our estate and organise group buys to get better deals, " he said.

Source: Straits Times
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Commercial land development charges in S'pore reduced; those for residential use raised

Development charges (DC) for commercial land have decreased, while residential rates have risen with the largest increases in prime areas such as Orchard Boulevard, Stevens Road, River Valley Road and Bukit Timah Road. DC rates for commercial land use were adjusted down by 1.5 per cent on average in the latest half-yearly review released by the Ministry of National Development (MND) on Friday (Feb 26). The largest decrease of 3 per cent was applied to the central region, including Raffles Place, Collyer Quay and Shenton Way and Marina Bay Sands areas. Residential rates for landed use rose 1.5 per cent on average, while those for non-landed use increased by 0.3 per cent on average. Only one out of the 118 sectors for residential non-landed use- 34 in Sophia Road - had its DC rates reduced. In this case by 4 per cent. The largest increase - 6 per cent - applied to Bedok South Avenue 1 and the Kaki Bukit sectors. Property analyst Ong Kah Seng noted that the increased DC rates for residential use are in line with the Government's recent urging of developers to be prudent in their land bidding. "The slight increase in DC rates reminds developers of added development costs, so they will not excessively acquire sites to shore up land inventory and over-develop beyond their capacity in this pandemic, " said Mr Ong. CBRE associate director of research Catherine He said the revisions were "largely within expectations" and reflected the lower level of transactions over the past six months due to the pandemic. The DC rates remain unchanged for hotel and hospital development use, industry use, place of worship/civic and community institution uses as well as for three other land-use groups: nature reserves; agricultural land; drains, roads and railways. Mr Leonard Tay, head of research at Knight Frank Singapore, said it was surprising that there were no cuts in DC rates for hotel and hospital development use, given that the hospitality sector continues to suffer from a lack of tourist arrivals as Covid-19 travel curbs are still largely in place. He said: "Perhaps the Government (hopes) to discourage new hotel developments until economic recovery is certain and some measure of cross-border travels are allowed as that would signal the promise of international visitors for the hotel sector."

Source: Straits Times
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Hong Kongers buying more UK homes after new national security law

Hong Kong residents are buying more houses and apartments to lease out for income in Britain, property agents say, a trend that coincides with what many expect to be a wave of emigration after China passed a national security law last year. Hongkongers became the fifth largest foreign investors in central London as of last August and have been driving up prices in some popular districts outside the UK capital. But the new wave of buying also includes some Hong Kong residents who are pooling money to invest, a trend property agents expect to continue as more middle-class Hong Kong residents consider leaving for Britain and look to establish a source of revenue in advance. "It's become much more of a trend in the past six months or so, " Guy Bradshaw, head of London Residential at Sotheby's International Realty told Reuters. "I've certainly been involved in a lot more conversations and Zoom calls with people in Hong Kong and funds in Hong Kong." The UK government is offering a new visa to Hong Kong holders of British National Overseas (BNO) passports that gives them a chance to become British citizens - a change it made after China's national security law for Hong Kong. A steady rental income would be useful in applying for the citizenship, as the BNO holders need to prove they can provide financial support for themselves for at least six months. London estimates that over 300,000 Hong Kong residents could emigrate over the next five years, and Bank of America expects Hong Kong residents moving to Britain could trigger capital outflows of US$36 billion (S$47.5 billion) in 2021. While Hong Kong residents have long been active buyers of homes in Britain, real estate agents say more recently there has been increasing interest in older apartments and houses as rental assets. Hongkongers have an affinity for real estate investment, with property prices in the Asian financial hub among the most expensive in the world. Alan Wan,38, who owns 13 residential properties in Britain, launched classes in Hong Kong two years ago - at the height of anti-government protests in Hong Kong - aimed at potential investors in properties in and around Manchester. So far, his "UK Property Owner Association" class has attracted around 1,500 students. Enrolment spiked in the second half of last year after Beijing imposed the national security law. One of Mr Wan's students,30-year old Isla Kwok, who moved to Manchester in late January waiting to start a degree, is using the rental income she receives from a terraced house bought in 2019 to finance the cost of renting a smaller flat and mortgage payments. She plans to re-mortgage her first property to buy a second one this year after getting a residence permit, as mortgage interest rates will be much lower. "Once you've started your first property, it's much easier to create more income to ease the financial pressure of living here, " Ms Kwok said. Mr Wan said most of his students bought their properties individually, but he also had some who pooled money to buy in London. Marc von Grundherr, director at realtor Benham and Reeves in London, said he has seen the same trend. "I've had a few clients come to us and say, 'Look, my son or my friend is wanting to invest in property because they're thinking about coming (to Britain), but they can't afford to do it on their own or they want to buy something slightly different - is it okay with two or three or four of them buying together?" "That's a change. Obviously you always had larger investment companies who bought large amounts of stock, but we're talking not the very, very, very wealthy, " Mr von Grundherr said.

Source: Straits Times
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