For the 30 July BTO exercise, HDB allowed for the first time, first-timer single Singaporeans, aged 35 years and above, with a monthly income of S$5,000 and below to apply for two-room flats in non-mature estates.

Contrary to some market watchers’ expectations, response was overwhelming. Due to the small size of the units and profile of residents living in two-room flats, initially some experts were sceptical about how popular these units would be.

But their fears were proved wrong when applications reached a record high. By closing time, there were on average 55 singles competing for each flat.

However, another policy landmark that received less publicity in July’s BTO exercise was the relaxation in policy for couples with one non-citizen spouse. Previously Singaporean-Foreigner couples were only allowed to buy HDB flats from the resale market, similar to singles.

Now this group of buyers are also allowed to purchase two-room flats in non-mature estates from HDB if the Singaporean spouse is at least 35 years old and the couple’s houshold income does not exceed S$5,000.

Like singles applying under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme (SSC), these couples will have to pay S$15,000 more than married couples with both spouses who are Singaporeans. But they are eligible for the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) of up to S$20,000, and the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) of up to S$10,000 if they meet the income criteria.

In addition, they can later apply for a top-up of the grant if the foreign spouse becomes a Permanent Resident (PR) or citizen, or if they have a child who is either of the two.

Property analysts believe two main reasons are behind this policy change.

Firstly, there is a growing number of Singaporean-Foreigner couple. In the population White Paper, it is revealed that such marriages make up 40% of marriages annually.

The second factor is to look out more for Singaporeans, according to Suntec Real Estate Consultants research head Colin Tan.

Mr Tan noted that now couples made up of two PRs are eligible to buy a HDB flat from the open market, so it becomes necessary to provide more privileges to couples with one Singaporean.

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