Market Updates

The police are investigating Lippo Marina Collection - the developer of Sentosa Cove condominium Marina Collection - over alleged fraud.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Lippo unit under probe over alleged fraud in case involving UOB loans

Lippo Group is currently awaiting a court verdict on the amount of damages it has to pay UOB after a long legal battle which started in 2014, and the Indonesian company's woes may not be over. The Straits Times has learnt that police are investigating the group's subsidiary - Lippo Marina Collection (LMC) - over alleged fraud stemming from a court ruling in October 2022. LMC is the developer of Sentosa Cove condominium Marina Collection. The Appellate Division of the High Court had found LMC liable for using unlawful means in a conspiracy with real estate agents to sell properties financed by UOB. The conspiracy resulted in UOB losing a large amount of money after it disbursed about $182 million in inflated home loans, financing more than 100 per cent of the purchase prices of the high-end apartments. UOB is seeking to get $92 million from LMC, and a three-day hearing was held in January 2024 to determine the amount of damages the bank is entitled to. On Feb 21,2024, police confirmed ongoing investigations based on a report lodged by UOB in November 2022, a month after the bank won its appeal to overturn an earlier court decision. When contacted, an LMC spokesperson said the firm is assisting the police with their investigation and that it would be inappropriate to comment further. The Urban Redevelopment Authority website showed that LMC was delicensed on Aug 19,2011, after the development of Marina Collection was completed. This means the developer is no longer regulated under the Housing Developers (Control and Licensing) Act, which governs the sales and purchase of uncompleted private residential properties. UOB initiated the lawsuit against LMC and several others in 2014 for their involvement in a conspiracy to obtain inflated housing loans totalling $182 million. The 124-unit Marina Collection was launched for sale in late 2007, but only 42 units were sold by March 10,2011, after a series of cooling measures were introduced. UOB disbursed about $182 million in mortgages between December 2011 and September 2013 to purported buyers of 38 units in the condominium. By April 1,2015, all 38 buyers had defaulted on their loans. In a decision dated Oct 28,2022, the Appellate Division of the High Court found that LMC had intentionally provided false or inflated purchase prices to buyers in the option-to-purchase forms. LMC also gave substantial "furniture rebates" of 22 per cent to 34 per cent that were used to offset cash payments required for the condo purchases, which were not disclosed to UOB. These rebates inflated the prices of individual properties in option-to-purchase forms. Furthermore, LMC concealed the true identities of buyers, with most being nominees for Indonesian investors rather than the intended owners. Appellate Division judges Belinda Ang, Woo Bih Li and Quentin Loh expressed concern over LMC's lack of acknowledgement regarding the seriousness of its actions. They highlighted that by deceiving UOB, Lippo had also misled appraisers and other buyers who relied on the stated purchase price in the option to purchase. This not only affected the valuation of other units within Marina Collection, but also other similar projects. The inflated purchase prices presented a distorted picture of a segment of the property market, the judges said.

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Construction work for the bus interchange in the Woodleigh Village integrated development is about 85 per cent done.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Underground bus interchange in Bidadari to be completed by end-2024 after three-year delay

The Woodleigh bus interchange in the new Bidadari housing estate is expected to be completed by the end of 2024 after a delay of at least three years. The interchange in the Woodleigh Village integrated development was delayed due to "significant engineering challenges" and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Housing Board said in response to queries from The Straits Times. It was initially slated for completion in 2019, based on project plans seen and reported by ST in 2014. HDB on Feb 25 clarified that based on its eventual construction contract, the project was expected to be ready in 2021. Construction work on the first underground bus interchange connected to HDB flats is about 85 per cent done. It is expected to be completed by end-2024, barring any further delays, an HDB spokeswoman added. The integrated development, which was launched for sale in November 2016, comprises 330 HDB flats linked to the bus interchange, a hawker centre and Woodleigh MRT station. It was scheduled for completion in 2021 but faced pandemic-related delays, and its final blocks were completed in November 2022. Woodleigh Village residents that ST spoke to - many of whom collected the keys to their flats in December 2022 - had raised concerns about noise and dust arising from ongoing construction works and a lack of sheltered walkways in the precinct after moving in. Ms Michele See, 35, told ST in December 2023 that she thought the footpath from the development to Woodleigh Mall, which passes the bus interchange construction site, could be dangerous for pedestrians. The student care centre founder flagged heavy vehicles moving in and out of the entrance to the construction site, which she said was right beside the path. Software developer Chew Chong Qiang, 31, said: "When it rains, there's no sheltered route to the mall and MRT station, which can be quite inconvenient, and the path gets slippery. " A sheltered linkway connecting the hawker centre and Woodleigh Mall opened on Feb 19. Ms See said this was "long overdue" but welcomed. She added that the various construction sites in the project result in dusty common areas, and the construction noise disrupts her three-year-old son's sleep. "These issues are to be expected in a new estate, but I hope all these works will be finished soon as it has been more than a year since I collected my keys. " Asked about the development's delays, an HDB spokeswoman said the Woodleigh Village project presented "significant engineering challenges" as it is integrated with an underground bus interchange, the existing Woodleigh MRT station, and a new hawker centre. She noted that extensive work and coordination between different contractors was needed to skirt or divert existing underground services - such as water, gas and electricity pipes, sewers and fibre optic cables - and ensure that these were not interrupted during construction. "The diversion of these service pipes is necessary before HDB can resume building and excavation works for the bus interchange and other underground facilities such as the pedestrian underpass to the MRT station. This has further delayed the project timeline, " she said. HDB worked with the contractor to carry out excavation and building works in phases, and took a cautious approach to ensure that the nearby MRT structures and vital service pipes were not affected, the spokeswoman added. She said HDB had prioritised the construction of flats over common precinct areas to let buyers collect their keys and move into their homes "as early as possible". As at January 2024, buyers have collected keys for 319 of 326 booked units. Housewife Mira Yunos, 32, said she felt resigned to the dust and noise after she moved into her three-room flat in April 2023. Her unit overlooks construction at the roof garden on top of the multi-storey carpark which links all three blocks in the development. "I have to keep my windows closed at all times, " she said. Ms Mira added that a kerb between the lift lobby and the sloped main road at her block obstructs residents with strollers and wheelchairs. "As there is no ramp, I have to carry my son's stroller over the kerb. It's a hassle, especially when it rains because I have to juggle an umbrella while lifting the stroller, " she said. Residents also highlighted that the Woodleigh Village Hawker Centre has not opened. It was slated to be ready in the second half of 2023. Retired safety officer Superamaniam N. K, 74, said he takes the train to either Serangoon or Little India to buy food and groceries, as many of the amenities in the precinct are not ready. "I'm waiting for the hawker centre to open, so it's easier for me to get cheap food, " he added. In a written parliamentary reply in November 2023, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said the hawker centre in Woodleigh is projected to open in the first half of 2024. HDB's spokeswoman said more than 70 per cent, or 6,418, of the 8,872 flats in Bidadari, have been delivered. The remaining 2,454 flats are on track to be completed by 2025. The Woodleigh district, which consists of 2,685 flats across three Build-To-Order projects, including 312 rental units, is the first in Bidadari to have all its flats completed. More shops are expected to open at Woodleigh Hillside progressively from the second quarter of 2024, the spokeswoman said. Over at Alkaff LakeView and Alkaff Vista, which were completed in 2019,21 out of 22 precinct shops have commenced operations, she added. The Alkaff district is expected to be completed by mid-2024, and four more projects in the Bartley Heights and Park Edge districts by mid-2025. Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that the Woodleigh bus interchange is expected to be completed by end-2024, after a nearly five-year delay. This was based on project plans seen and reported by ST in 2014. HDB has clarified that based on the eventual construction contract, the project was slated for completion in 2021 instead of 2019.

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HDB noted that in 2023, close to eight in 10 buyers serviced their HDB loans with CPF contributions, with little or no cash payments.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

$4.5 billion in housing grants given out from 2020 to 2023: HDB

The Housing Board gave out more than $4.5 billion in housing grants to buyers of new or resale flats from 2020 to 2023. In those four years, around 63,700 households received the Enhanced Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant, which gives up to $80,000 to families buying their first new or resale flat. Providing updates on other grants on Feb 12, HDB said 41,600 households also tapped the CPF Housing Grant, which gives first-time buyers of two- to four-room HDB resale flats $80,000 in grants, while those who buy five-room or larger resale units can get $50,000. Around 44,700 households received up to $30,000 under the Proximity Housing Grant, for buyers of resale flats who choose to live with or near their parents or children. These grants were either introduced or enhanced in recent years. For instance, the CPF Housing Grant was increased in 2023 to support Singaporeans who wanted to buy resale flats but found prices too high. Buyers of two- to four-room resale flats previously got $50,000, while the grant for five-room or larger units was $40,000. The Enhanced CPF Housing Grant was rolled out in 2019 to streamline two older grants, while the Proximity Housing Grant was increased from $20,000 to $30,000 in 2018. The Straits Times has asked the public housing agency for a yearly breakdown of grants disbursed. HDB noted that in 2023, close to eight in 10 buyers serviced their HDB loans with CPF contributions, with little or no cash payments. "This is a clear and concrete measure of housing affordability not found in many other countries, " HDB said on Feb 12, which marks 60 years of the Home Ownership Scheme. In 1964, HDB started selling flats to citizens on a 99-year lease while providing housing subsidies and loans. Today, HDB has built 1.25 million flats, and houses about 80 per cent of the resident population, of which about 90 per cent own their units. National Development Minister Desmond Lee said: "In the years ahead, we will continue to ensure that our housing remains affordable, inclusive and fair, and reflects the changing and evolving society. " Mr Lee, who spoke to reporters at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh on Feb 8, said the authorities are working towards the roll-out of the new classification of flats in October. Instead of demarcating estates as mature or non-mature, new Build-To-Order (BTO) flats will be categorised into Prime, Plus and Standard flats from the October sales exercise. BTO units in choicer locations will fall under the Prime and Plus categories, which come with stricter resale conditions. Mr Lee added that the Government is studying more areas to support the vulnerable and those with disabilities, as well as singles, and will engage Singaporeans when these are ready. Turning to its upgrading efforts, HDB said more than 1.5 million households benefited from one or more of such programmes by the end of 2023. These included the Home Improvement Programme, which fixes issues such as spalling concrete and ceiling leaks in ageing flats; the Enhancement for Active Seniors programme, which provides elder-friendly fittings to homes; the Lift Upgrading Programme to provide lift access on every floor where feasible; and the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme to revamp blocks and precincts. HDB said it also provides funding to residents who wish to spearhead initiatives to encourage bonding in community public spaces. It had given out more than $1.1 million across 228 projects by 2023 under the Lively Places Programme. Such initiatives include the establishment of pet parks, community cafes, allotment gardens and community libraries. Ms Marissa Chua, 30, who works in finance, said the housing grants she and her husband received made the purchase of their four-room resale flat more affordable. They received $80,000 under the CPF Housing Grant, and a Proximity Housing Grant of $20,000. "We were able to fully offset our down payment with the grants and our CPF Ordinary Account savings, " said Ms Chua, who bought her Clementi flat in August for about $750,000. "As we didn't need to touch our cash savings, we could spend more on renovations such as choosing better tiles and materials that are more durable, " she added. Asked about the issues faced by the first batch of residents in Tengah, Mr Lee said Tengah is the first new town since Punggol was launched more than two decades ago. "Every time we launch a new town, there are issues that are associated with launching a new town, but Covid-19 had an additional impact on Tengah, as well as on our builders and on the service providers, " he said. Tengah, planned as an eco-friendly and car-lite "forest" town, is the first HDB estate to provide a centralised cooling system as an option for home owners. The Straits Times reported earlier that the cooling system had run into teething problems after the first batch of residents collected their keys at the end of last August, with some saying the air-conditioning in their units was not cold enough. Some residents had also received the keys to their flats when the cooling system was not yet installed. Utilities company SP Group had attributed these issues to an accelerated construction schedule by HDB to hand over units to residents, following delays due to Covid-19. Residents had also complained about the inaccessibility of public transport in the new town. An additional bus service to Jurong Town Hall Bus Interchange was added in November, with a new bus interchange slated to open in 2024. Mr Lee said HDB is working closely with service providers to ensure that any issues Tengah residents are facing are addressed. "Please be assured that they are working hard to make sure this new town is successful and comfortable for all residents, " he said. Mr Lee was also asked for an update on the future Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers), where owners of flats aged 70 years and older can vote for the Government to buy back their homes before their leases run out. Responding, he said the authorities are still studying the policy as there are many details and processes that need to be put in place. "We have to plan Vers very carefully because it will be the start of rejuvenation and the reimagination of what public housing means to Singaporeans, " he said. On rising prices in the HDB resale market and the record 74 million-dollar flat transactions in January, Mr Lee said both HDB and private property prices have been climbing due to the supply-demand imbalance caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, among other factors. "We have been working hard steadily over the last few years to stabilise the property market and ensure that we inject supply as well as moderate demand, " he said. HDB resale prices rose 1.5 per cent in January, flash data from real estate portals Singapore Real Estate Exchange and 99.co showed. It was the first time prices had climbed more than 1 per cent since April 2023. Mr Lee said the authorities have put in place three rounds of property cooling measures since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and made efforts to increase the supply of public and private homes. He added that quarterly data released by HDB and the Urban Redevelopment Authority has shown that resale prices have been stabilising. "We will keep a very close eye on the state of the property market and will not hesitate to take measures if necessary. "

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Of the 950 families who became home owners in 2023, four in five bought a flat from the Housing Board, and the rest went for resale units.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

Nearly 950 families in rental flats bought HDB homes in 2023, highest since Covid-19 hit

About 8,300 families in public rental flats became owners of Housing Board flats over the past decade from 2014 to 2023. In 2023, nearly 950 families who lived in rental flats bought homes, the highest since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, HDB said on Feb 8. This is up from more than 700 households in 2022. When contacted, the public housing agency did not provide a breakdown of figures for the previous years, but in 2022, it said that about 4,500 families in public rental flats had become flat owners from 2017 to 2021. Of the 950 families who became home owners in 2023, four in five bought a flat from HDB and the rest went for resale units. About two-thirds received grants for first-time home buyers, such as the Enhanced CPF Housing Grant of up to $80,000. About 80 of the 950 rental households tapped the Step-Up Housing Grant, which gives second-timer families or those who had bought a subsidised flat a $15,000 grant to buy two- or three-room new or resale flats in non-mature estates. As at December 2023, another 2,100 rental households had booked new HDB flats, which are still being built, HDB said. At present, about 50,000 households are living in public rental flats. In a written parliamentary reply in November 2020, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the number of public rental households that moved into their own homes each year had increased from about 500 in 2013 to around 950 in 2019. For 13 years since 2010, Madam Aliya Qamaria Abdollah, 61, had been living in rental units - at times with her six children - before she bought her own home. In May 2023, she moved into a two-room flexi flat in Punggol with her 26-year-old son. Madam Aliya, who is unemployed, bought the unit on a shorter lease of 35 years in June 2022. She paid for the flat, which cost $80,200, with her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings and the Step-Up Housing Grant. "I wanted to have a home to call my own as it's more stable than having to think about paying rent every month, " said Madam Aliya, who is divorced. She said she was referred to HDB's home ownership support team in 2020 after approaching her MP for help in buying a flat. The team, established in 2019, guides rental households through the process of home ownership - from planning their purchase until they collect their keys - while considering factors such as family and financial stability. "After an HDB officer spoke to me, I felt like it was possible to have my own home and I felt a strong urge to put in the effort to get there, " said Madam Aliya. "I'm relieved that my home is fully paid for and I have no mortgage to worry about. " HDB officer Cherine Liu, who was assigned to the case, said she guided Madam Aliya through the process of applying for a flat and accompanied her to appointments such as for flat selection, signing of the agreement and key collection. Madam Aliya secured her unit through a Sale of Balance Flats exercise under the Tenants' Priority Scheme, which allocates up to 10 per cent of two-room flexi and three-room flats for families in public rental flats. Sale of Balance Flats exercises give applicants a chance to apply for balance flats from earlier Build-To-Order flat launches. These homes are usually already under construction, near completion or completed. Ms Liu, 44, who has been part of the home ownership support team since 2019, said that for some families, home ownership is more than just a financial commitment. "We need to think about what other issues are preventing them from buying a flat, such as changes to financial stability, medical issues, other caregiving responsibilities or divorce, " she said. The team comprises seven HDB officers. HDB said that before the team was formed, it would encourage rental tenants to consider moving towards home ownership during their tenancy renewal, which is usually done every two years. On Feb 8, Minister of State for National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said that as at 2023, the team had reached out to nearly 1,600 rental households, beating its goal of 1,000. Of the 1,600 families, more than 120 have moved into their new homes, while nearly 100 have booked their flats and are waiting to collect their keys, he wrote on Facebook. #DidYouKnow that about 8,300 public rental households have progressed to home ownership over the past ten years? In. . . Ms Liu estimates that she has engaged 300 to 400 rental households since 2019. She said that even after a family has bought a home, she will stay in touch with them for a year or two through calls and house visits, to see if they need further help. Other schemes to help families living in rental flats include the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, which helps second-timer families with at least one child below 18 years old buy two- or three-room flats on a shorter lease. Under the scheme, eligible families receive $35,000 upfront in their CPF Ordinary Account when they collect their keys. Another $15,000 is disbursed into the account in equal tranches over five years after key collection.

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A five-room, 117 sq m unit between the 40th and 42nd storeys at The Peak@Toa Payoh changed hands for $1,568,888, making it the highest transacted price on record for a resale flat.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

HDB resale prices rise 1.5% in January; record 74 units sold for at least $1 million each

The Housing Board resale market gathered pace in January from the year-end lull, with a record 74 flats changing hands for at least $1 million each. Prices were up 1.5 per cent in January, rising at a faster clip than the 0.6 per cent rise in December, flash data from real estate portals Singapore Real Estate Exchange (SRX) and 99.co showed on Feb 6. Year on year, prices climbed 5.7 per cent. It is the first time prices have risen more than 1 per cent since April 2023, said Ms Christine Sun, chief researcher and strategist at property firm OrangeTee Group. More resale flats were also sold in January, with transactions climbing 30.8 per cent to an estimated 2,629 units after a 6.2 per cent dip in December, the data showed. Property analysts attributed the price growth to stronger demand for larger resale flats and the record number of million-dollar transactions. While resale prices increased across all flat types in mature and non-mature estates, prices of five-room flats climbed the most, by 2.1 per cent. Ms Sun said the number of five-room flats transacted increased 33.3 per cent, from 456 units in December to 608 units in January, which is the highest since September 2022. Based on SRX and 99.co data, five-room resale units formed 23.8 per cent of total transactions in January, up slightly from 23.5 per cent in December. Four-room flats formed the bulk of transactions in January, at 45.6 per cent. Analysts noted that the first batch of private home owners who served their 15-month wait-out period after selling their homes would be able to buy HDB resale flats from January. The wait-out period is a temporary measure rolled out in September 2022 to cool the resale market. Ms Sun said: "Some of these private home downgraders may have the means to purchase a bigger flat, while others could find it more worthwhile to buy a large unit for the rental expenses incurred or effort spent in fulfilling the wait-out period. " Ms Wong Siew Ying, research and content head at real estate firm PropNex Realty, said this group of buyers could also have contributed to the record number of million-dollar resale flat transactions in January. January's million-dollar transactions topped the previous record of 54 such sales in August 2023, and were also higher than the 48 lodged in December. Of the 74 million-dollar HDB resale flats sold in January, 19 were four-room units, 31 were five-room flats and 24 were executive apartments. Most of them were in mature estates such as Bishan, Bukit Merah, Kallang/Whampoa, Toa Payoh, Queenstown and Ang Mo Kio, while four were in non-mature towns Hougang, Punggol and Woodlands. A five-room, 117 sqm unit between the 40th and 42nd storeys at The Peak@Toa Payoh changed hands for $1,568,888, making it the highest transacted price on record for a resale flat. Another 117 sqm five-room flat between the 31st and 33rd storeys in another block at the same development was sold for $1.54 million. The two transactions beat the previous record of $1.5 million for a 176 sqm adjoined flat at Moh Guan Terrace in Tiong Bahru, which was sold in June 2023 despite having about 48 years left on its 99-year lease. A 149 sqm executive apartment in Punggol Field fetched $1.1 million, the top transaction in a non-mature estate in January. "While the number of million-dollar resale flats sold has increased, these flats are still outliers, owing to their unique attributes and attractive locations, " Ms Wong said, noting that such flats accounted for 2.8 per cent of HDB resale transactions in January.

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The loans were intended for purchasing 38 units in Marina Collection, a high-end waterfront residential enclave developed and sold by LMC, a subsidiary of Indonesia's Lippo Group.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

UOB seeks $92 million in losses from developer over inflated home loans

UOB is seeking to get $92 million from Indonesian developer Lippo Marina Collection (LMC) over losses incurred from disbursing approximately $182 million in inflated home loans. The Appellate Division of the High Court had in October 2022 overturned an earlier decision, finding LMC liable for using unlawful means in a conspiracy with real estate agents to sell properties to be financed by UOB. A three-day hearing that started on Jan 29 is focused on determining the amount of losses UOB is entitled to. The housing loans, granted and disbursed between December 2011 and September 2013, were intended for the purchase of 38 units in Marina Collection, a high-end waterfront residential enclave developed and sold by LMC, a subsidiary of Indonesia's Lippo Group. UOB, represented by lawyer Eddee Ng of Tan Kok Quan Partnership, is not only seeking to recover the outstanding principal amount of the housing loans but also the cost of funding those loans, expenses related to investigations into the conspiracy, and costs associated with the repossession of the units. Additionally, UOB aims to quantify its claims by considering what it could have earned from lending the funds to legitimate borrowers, along with statutory interest on the outstanding principal sum of the loans. The long legal battle started in 2014 and concluded in 2022. In a decision dated Oct 28,2022, the Appellate Division of the High Court found that LMC had issued an option to purchase (OTP) to each buyer, intentionally providing false or inflated purchase prices for their respective units. The courts had heard that LMC gave substantial "furniture rebates" of 22 per cent to 34 per cent that were used to offset cash payments required for the condo purchases. The furniture rebates, which were not disclosed to UOB, inflated the prices of individual properties in OTP forms by the value of the rebates. These misrepresentations were deemed pivotal as the entire financing and conveyancing processes for the 38 units were directly influenced by the inflated purchase prices. LMC's failure to disclose the actual purchase prices was seen as an effort to secure a loan higher than what would be obtainable if the furniture rebates had been accurately presented to UOB, noted Mr Ng in his opening statement. "The conspiracy was planned by Lippo's director, Ms Woo Pui Lim, and the second defendant, Rick Goh, to brazenly circumvent the Government's property cooling measures, " said Mr Ng, pointing out that LMC had collaborated with the purchasers to deceive UOB. The 124-unit Marina Collection was launched for sale in late 2007, but only 42 units were sold by March 10,2011, after a series of cooling measures were introduced. By December 2013,36 buyers had defaulted on their loans. By April 1,2015, all 38 buyers had defaulted on their loans. UOB's executive director and head of group credit management Kenneth Gan testified on the first day of the hearing that the conspiracy resulted in UOB suffering losses amounting to about $92 million after it financed more than 100 per cent of the purchase prices of the condominiums. The court heard that as part of the bank's efforts to mitigate losses, the repossessed units were rented out for rental income. As at Oct 31,2023, UOB had collected about $24.5 million in rental income. By Oct 6,2023, the market value of the 37 units, excluding one unrepossessed unit, was $139.48 million. Meanwhile, Senior Counsel Siraj Omar of Drew & Napier, representing LMC, argued that UOB failed to discharge its obligation to mitigate loss. He highlighted UOB's limited marketing efforts and questioned UOB's entitlement to seek statutory interest, emphasising that the interest sought forms a significant portion of the total claim. Mr Omar noted in his opening statement that UOB had benefited from rental and loan repayments over time, and the units served as security. Hence, UOB should not be entitled to seek statutory interest. Mr Ng argued that UOB's claim for statutory interest was based on the principle that such interest is intended to compensate a successful plaintiff for being wrongfully kept out of the monies to which it is entitled and reflected UOB's cautious approach in quantifying damages. During his cross-examination of Mr Gan on Jan 29, Mr Omar also pointed out that there was no attempt by UOB to market the properties even when property prices were rising, citing prices taken from the Urban Redevelopment Authority's caveats. According to UOB's own evidence, the bank marketed only two units for sale from 2013 to 2014, and decided by Aug 26,2014 not to sell any of the units. It only revived its marketing efforts in 2023 by promoting two units, Mr Omar said in his opening statement. Mr Gan explained that besides the Covid-19 pandemic, UOB was waiting for the outcome of the litigation. At some point in 2023, the bank put up two units to "test the market", but "in the six months that we tried, there was no offer", said Mr Gan.

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Lumina Grand in Bukit Batok features unit sizes ranging from 936 sq ft for a three-bedroom to 1,496 sq ft for a typical five-bedroom unit.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

53% of units sold at first executive condo launch of 2024

The first executive condominium (EC) launched this year saw more than half of the available units sold over the weekend, with analysts offering mixed assessments of the take-up. Some said the 53 per cent of units sold at Lumina Grand, launched in Jan 27, shows healthy demand for ECs, while one analyst noted that proportion sold has dropped from the highs of the previous years despite favourable conditions. City Developments Limited (CDL), developer of the Bukit Batok project, said in a media release that 269 out of 512 units had been sold as at noon on Jan 28, with the three-bedroom premium and four-bedroom units the most popular. Lumina Grand units are priced from $1.34 million for a three-bedroom to $1.39 million for a three-bedroom premium and $1.63 million for a four-bedroom. A five-bedroom unit at the EC is priced at $2.1 million. The average launch price was $1,464 per sqft, with an additional 3 per cent applied to units sold under the deferred payment scheme. CDL group chief executive officer Sherman Kwek, in a statement, said: "The strong take-up rate for Lumina Grand reflects the keen interest among first-time buyers and HDB upgraders for well located and thoughtfully designed properties. " In the statement, the property giant noted that only 30 per cent of ECs can be allocated to second-time buyers during the initial launch under current regulations, and that this quota had been reached for Lumina Grand. Huttons Asia CEO Mark Yip said the demand from second-time buyers was "very strong". He noted that the split between first-time and second-time buyers was 43 per cent and 57 per cent. ERA Singapore CEO Marcus Chu said there was sizeable pent-up demand from qualified buyers for the project as it is likely to be the only EC launch this year. Mr Chu noted that there is a price gap of 44 per cent between an EC and a newly launched suburban private condominium located outside the central region. This is up from the gap of 29 per cent in 2019, making ECs an attractive option, he added. He said astute home buyers are also drawn to the potential for ECs to be sold at private property prices, adding that EC owners typically make a gross profit of between $300,000 and $450,000. Based on EC projects completed since 2015, there were only three unprofitable transactions, he said. Propnex CEO Ismail Gafoor, meanwhile, said there is pent-up demand for ECs as there was a limited number of unsold ECs in the area. He cited the nearby Altura development being 89 per cent sold as at Jan 20. "Furthermore, (with the project) being located near the upcoming Tengah new town, where plenty of new HDB flats are being built, some EC buyers may see it as a potential exit plan in the future, by selling their EC units to HDB upgraders eventually, " said Mr Ismail. However, Mr Nicholas Mak, chief research officer of Mogul. sg, observed that the take-up rates of the most-recent EC project launches have been slipping gradually, with Lumina Grand the lowest among four projects. In the first weekend of its launch, Copen Grand EC, launched in October 2022, saw 73 per cent of its 639 units sold; Tenet EC, launched in Dec 22, had 72 per cent of its 618 units sold, and Altura EC, launched in August 2023, had 61.1 per cent of its 360 units sold. Lumina Grand's lower take-up rate is despite the factors in its favour, said Mr Mak. He cited how the project is likely to be the only EC launched this year and also the low stock of available EC units. He attributed the falling take-up rate to the rising prices of EC units. The average price of Copen Grand was $1,300 psf, while the average price of Lumina Grand is 12.6 per cent higher, at $1,464 psf after the "early-bird" discount, he said. Over the same period, the non-landed residential property price index had risen more slowly at 6.9 per cent, he added. "Hence, the price increase of new EC units has outpaced the prices of the rest of the condominium market, " he said. "Although ECs are still popular, the housing budgets of home buyers are limited. " ERA, Huttons and PropNex are the marketing agents for Lumina Grand, along with OrangeTee & Tie. The 179,000 sqft development, which consists of 10 12- to 13-storey residential blocks, features unit sizes ranging from 936 sqft for a three-bedroom flat to 1,496 sqft for a typical five-bedroom unit. Located at the junction of Bukit Batok West Avenue 5 and Bukit Batok Road, Lumina Grand has facilities such as a 50m-long lap pool, reading lounges and a kids' play zone. The EC is located near the Bukit Gombak MRT station on the North-South Line, as well as the future Tengah Plantation and Tengah Park stations on the upcoming Jurong Region Line.

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The former New Town Secondary School campus (left) and the former New Town Primary School will yield roughly 7.6ha of land for housing development.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

2 former schools next to Commonwealth MRT station to make way for housing

Two former schools that pre-date Singapore's independence are set to be demolished, paving the way for a plum site next to Commonwealth MRT station to be developed for housing. The roughly 7.6ha site - equivalent in size to more than 10 football fields - houses the former New Town Primary School at 402 Commonwealth Drive, the former New Town Secondary School at 121 Queensway, as well as a track and field the two schools shared. Property analysts said the site is suited for both public and private homes or a mix, and at about 7.6ha is large enough to house more than one project. But given current property developments in the area, they said there is no urgency to roll out new homes. Based on the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) 2019 masterplan, the site is zoned for housing. It has yet to be assigned a gross plot ratio that determines how much development is permitted. Responding to queries, the Housing Board (HDB) said agencies are studying plans and will announce details when ready. It added that site preparation is under way and contractors have been appointed for the demolition of structures that will take place "over the next few years". When The Straits Times visited the site on Jan 25, notices to residents of nearby HDB blocks in Commonwealth Close, which abuts the site, indicated that demolition works for 402 Commonwealth Drive began on Oct 3,2023. A project title board at the site states that works are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2025. While contractors were seen in 121 Queensway, a project title board has yet to be put up, and it is unknown when demolition works will formally start and end. New Town Primary School was officially opened on July 26,1965 by then Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee. It was located alongside Permaisura Primary School, which opened on June 7 that year. Mrs Margaret Anderson, 74, a teacher at New Town Primary for more than 35 years from 1967, said the two schools were originally known as Queenstown North and Queenstown South, before getting their respective names - Permaisura and New Town - as postmen would confuse the schools with Queenstown Primary School in Margaret Drive. Sports matches among pupils, and even teachers, of New Town and Permaisura primary schools were common, she added, noting that there was no fence between their two compounds. In 1992, New Town took over Permaisura's campus when the latter closed down. The school relocated to 300 Tanglin Halt Road in January 2009, ending its stay of more than four decades in Commonwealth Drive. The campus was then used as the Ministry of Education's Heritage Centre, which opened in 2011 and closed in September 2019, before reopening in Balestier in August 2022. New Town Secondary School was founded on Jan 2,1965, a few months prior to the opening of its neighbour, Baharuddin Vocational School, by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on June 19 that year. In 1969, the vocational and secondary schools were merged, with New Town taking over Baharuddin's campus. Mrs Anderson said the two New Town schools decided to build a sports track. She took part in several rounds of fundraising, which eventually led to the track being completed between the two schools in 1975. Plans to build a swimming pool did not materialise due to a lack of funds, she added. New Town Secondary School eventually outgrew its Queensway campus, and at end-1998 moved to its current Dover Road site. The compound was then used as an interim campus for seven schools over two decades - Queensway Secondary School (2000-2001), Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary) (2002-2003), River Valley High (2005-2006), Clementi Town Secondary School (2007-2008), CHIJ Theresa's Convent (2010-2011), Assumption English School (2013-2015) and CHIJ Kellock (2017-2018). Mr Daniel Lim, 60, who attended New Town Primary School from 1971 to 1976, said it is a pity to see the school go. The semi-retired piano teacher fondly recalled times spent with friends, and that the canteen's mee siam was "very good and cheap", costing 10 cents per serving. Also etched in his memory was a visit to the school's ground-floor dental clinic, where he had a decayed tooth extracted in his lower primary years. "The syringes were frighteningly large in those days, " he added. Mrs Anderson, who was his form teacher in 1974, said the school's doors were originally saloon-style types, which she felt were a safety hazard for pupils who might get hit by the swinging doors. She recalled returning to school one morning to find all the doors' copper hinges had been stolen overnight, purportedly by a thief who wanted to sell the metal parts. "I will miss the buildings but changes are inevitable, " said the retiree. More reluctant to accept the impending demolition is Commonwealth Close resident Catherine Leong, 72, who feels the schools are part of Queenstown's heritage. Ms Leong, who has lived in Block 84 for about six decades, is concerned that development of the site - the track in particular - would inconvenience residents. They have used it for exercise and as a short cut between their homes and amenities in the town such as Tanglin Halt Market, even when the schools were still in operation. Having to skirt the former New Town Primary School - which takes thrice as long - would inconvenience residents, especially seniors, she added. Asked about the concern, HDB said pedestrian connectivity between Commonwealth estate and Commonwealth MRT station will continue to be available "during the demolition phase and as part of future development", but did not address the impact during potential development. Ms Christine Sun, chief researcher and strategist at OrangeTee Group, said the site could accommodate two HDB Build-To-Order (BTO) projects, noting that the nearby 973-unit Tanglin Halt Cascadia BTO development occupies about 3.6ha. Property portal Mogul. sg's chief research officer Nicholas Mak added that if used entirely for private housing, the site could be divided over three to four plots. Both said the gross plot ratio, when assigned, is likely to be on the higher end, with Ms Sun highlighting that many new BTO launches have a plot ratio of 4.2 or more to optimise land use. Mr Mak said a plot ratio of about 4.9 to 5.1 is possible, citing the current range of 2.1 to 5.1 for other residential sites in the area. "Vacant residential land near an MRT station in the central region is rare and valuable, " he said, adding that the Commonwealth station is on the "very popular" East-West Line, thus increasing the land's value. Given the recent completion and ongoing development of new homes in Queenstown, Ms Sun and Mr Mak said they feel there is no urgency for the site to be developed. Tanglin Halt Cascadia was launched in October 2023, while the HDB is slated to roll out another 250 flats as part of an upcoming integrated development in Tanglin Halt in February. These are part of the 5,500 flats that the authorities plan to build in the estate over the next 10 to 15 years. Ahead of the integrated development's construction, URA on Jan 26 published a proposed amendment to its masterplan for the development site, increasing its plot ratio from 2.9 to 3.5. The development is set to comprise shops, a market and hawker centre, as well as a polyclinic.

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In a proposed amendment to its 2019 masterplan, the Urban Redevelopment Authority rezoned a roughly 1.5ha site in Tanglin Road, next to Crescent Girls' School.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

New homes to be built within walking distance of Redhill, Clementi MRT stations

New homes are set to be built within a short walk of Redhill and Clementi MRT stations, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Jan 26 readying a plot in each town for development. In a proposed amendment to its 2019 masterplan, it rezoned a roughly 1.5ha site in Tanglin Road, next to Crescent Girls School, from civic and community institution use to residential use, assigning it a gross plot ratio of 4.2. The agency also increased the gross plot ratio of a housing plot - about 1.6ha - in Clementi Close from 4.3 to 5. Each of the two plots is equivalent in size to about two football fields. The Tanglin Road site, URA said, will be used for "high-density residential development with commercial amenities and social and communal facilities", allowing residents to tap its proximity to Redhill MRT station and recreational offerings along Alexandra Canal. Agencies will study how the site can be "developed sensitively in relation to surrounding residential developments", with attention paid to the height of the upcoming housing project. Apart from abutting Crescent Girls School and the canal, the site is near a private residential enclave and the High Commission of Brunei. Future residents will be within a 500m walk of Redhill MRT station. Ms Christine Sun, chief researcher and strategist at OrangeTee Group, said the site could be used for private homes, given its proximity to a good class bungalow area and condominiums. About 700 to 750 homes could be rolled out on the site, given its size and plot ratio, she added. Property portal Mogul. sg's chief research officer Nicholas Mak said between 530 and 580 flats could be built, should the Government want to inject diversity into the area and make public homes in the city fringe more accessible. Both Ms Sun and Mr Mak noted the site's proximity to Orchard Road, as well as schools and other amenities that would make upcoming homes attractive to buyers intending to invest in them or to live there. The Clementi Close plot partially occupies a site vacated under a Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, or Sers, project that was announced in March 2005 as part of a rejuvenation of Clementi Town Centre. URA said its proposed intensification of the site will help meet housing needs and "allow more people to enjoy the convenience of living close to a well-connected public transport node and amenities". Future homes will be within a 350m walk of Clementi MRT station, and will also be next to the new Clementi Polyclinic, which is set to be completed in 2027, as well as Clementi Town Secondary School and Clementi Primary School. Pointing to the mix of private and public homes in the area, Mr Mak said it is difficult to tell what type of housing the plot would be used for. Analysts said that with its size and plot ratio, about 920 to 1,000 condominium units could be built on it, or about 650 to 720 flats. Ms Sun and Mr Mak both said that a Build-To-Order (BTO) project on the site, if launched under the Housing Board's new classification system of flats from October 2024, could fall under the new Plus category. Mr Mak noted that the flats would be near an MRT station but outside the central region. To be offered alongside the existing Prime flats - those in the choicest locations close to the city centre - and Standard flats, which come with standard subsidies, the new Plus flats are a step down from the Prime ones. Plus flats are in attractive locations within each region across Singapore, such as those near an MRT station or town centre. Plus flats, like the Prime types, will have a 10-year minimum occupation period, among other restrictions. Mr Mak added that BTO projects in Clementi are hard to come by - the last was launched in 2017. The Redhill and Clementi sites are not part of the list of projects for February's BTO launch, or on the current list of Government Land Sales sites.

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Subdued housing demand, higher interest rates, and inflationary concerns among buyers likely contributed to the slower price growth in 2023.

Source: Straits Times

Dated:

HDB resale prices rise 4.9% in 2023, lowest increase since 0.1% rise in 2019

Prices of Housing Board resale flats rose by 4.9 per cent in 2023, marking the slowest year-on-year growth since the 0.1 per cent increase recorded in 2019 before the pandemic. In 2023, HDB resale flat prices grew less than half of the 10.4 per cent increase seen in 2022, in a sign that property prices are moderating. In 2021, prices surged by 12.7 per cent. This comes on the back of a slower price growth of 1.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2023, lower than the 1.3 per cent growth seen in the previous quarter, data released by HDB on Jan 26 showed. Subdued housing demand, higher interest rates and inflationary concerns among buyers likely contributed to the slower price growth in 2023, said Ms Christine Sun, chief researcher and strategist at OrangeTee Group. In addition, fewer buyers paid cash over valuation (COV) for their resale flats in 2023, with about 15 per cent doing so in the last three months of the year, according to figures from the Ministry of National Development. This is down from 30 per cent in the same period in 2022. COV is the difference between the sale price of a flat and its actual HDB valuation, which can be paid for only in cash by the buyer. Ms Sun noted that in the fourth quarter of 2023, average resale prices rose in 14 HDB towns, down from 16 towns in the third quarter, and price gains were mostly less than 2 per cent. In the fourth quarter of 2023, prices of four-room flats grew by 0.7 per cent, followed by three-room and five-room units at 0.6 per cent. Prices of executive flats rose by 0.3 per cent while two-room flats edged up by 0.1 per cent, she added. Huttons Asia senior director of data analytics Lee Sze Teck said Punggol led the pack with the most HDB resale transactions recorded in 2023 at more than 2,000 units, followed closely by Woodlands, Sengkang, Yishun and Tampines. In total, they account for 37.1 per cent of total HDB resale transactions in 2023. To date, the most HDB expensive resale unit to change hands is an adjoined flat at 50 Moh Guan Terrace in Tiong Bahru for $1.5 million. The 50-year-old flat was sold in May 2023. A total of 470 HDB resale flats changed hands for at least $1 million in 2023, an increase from the 369 such units sold in 2022. However, these flats remain the minority, making up around 1.8 per cent of total transactions in 2023. In 2023, fewer HDB resale flats changed hands, with the number falling by 4.2 per cent from 27,896 units in 2022 to 26,735 units in 2023. The increased number of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats launched by HDB offered buyers more options and drew some demand away from the resale market, said Huttons' Mr Lee. In the last three years, HDB put up more than 63,000 BTO flats for sale. In 2024, some 19,600 BTO flats will be launched, including 2,800 flats with shorter waiting times of below three years. These will be offered across three sales exercises in February, June and October, down from the previous four launches a year. In February, home seekers can look forward to about 4,100 BTO flats in Bedok, Queenstown, Choa Chu Kang, Hougang, Punggol and Woodlands and another 1,500 flats under the Sale of Balance Flats exercise. The new classification of flats into Standard, Plus or Prime categories will take effect from the October launch, which will also be the largest in 2024. OrangeTee's Ms Sun said the dwindling stock of HDB resale flats that will be eligible for sale and rent in 2024, along with increased BTO supply, may shift demand away from the resale market. However, not all analysts share the same view. Mr Mohan Sandrasegeran, head of research and data analytics at property firm SRI, said less frequent BTO sales exercises and limited availability of flats may instil a sense of urgency among home seekers, and thus redirect demand to the resale market. OrangeTee's Ms Sun said about 11,900 units are expected to complete their mandatory five-year minimum occupation period (MOP) in 2024, down from 15,500 units in 2023. As a result, she expects HDB resale prices to rise modestly by 3 per cent to 5 per cent in 2024, at a comparable rate with 2023. Mr Nicholas Mak, chief research officer at property search portal Mogul. sg, shared similar predictions of a modest price growth ranging from 3 per cent to 6 per cent in 2024. "Many homebuyers are losing the fear of missing out, and the ample supply of BTO flats is drawing demand away from the HDB resale market, " he said. "In addition, the declining proportion of HDB resale flats transacted with COV indicates that the days of the HDB resale market being a seller's market are numbered. "

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