BTO delays spark rush for temporary housing

2,350 applications submitted last year but only 160 flats available, says MND

Demand for interim rental Housing Board flats almost doubled last year as more families were affected by Build-To-Order (BTO) construction delays because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The board received 2,350 applications under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS), compared with 1,370 in 2019, said the Ministry of National Development (MND) in a written parliamentary reply on Tuesday.

But there were only 160 available flats last year.

The PPHS provides help to households awaiting the completion of their new flats, with units allocated by ballot.

Rents are $400 for a two-room flat in Marsiling, $600 for a three-room type in Hougang and $1,500 for a four-room unit in Tiong Bahru.

While application numbers have increased, the MND said not all households may be in urgent need of temporary housing.

Some may have sought other options as about 40 per cent of successful applicants did not turn up for flat selection.

Food technologist Jowee Ng, 29, and his wife Joslyn Chua, 26, an engineer, consider themselves to be "one of the lucky ones" after they landed a unit on their fifth try.

"Honestly, we were already thinking of giving up if we failed on the fifth try and just renting a flat on the open market because we've seen how high the PPHS application rates were. We were quite surprised we got it," said Mr Ng.

They moved into the two-room flat in Canberra last month and spent around $6,000 on furnishings. The monthly rent is $400, excluding utility bills. They plan to live there until their BTO unit in Tengah is ready in 2023.

Married couples made up 66 per cent of the 2,350 applications last year while couples applying under the fiance/fiancee scheme comprised 31 per cent.

The remaining 3 per cent were applicants who were divorced or widowed with children.

The supply of PPHS flats is limited and depends on factors such as availability of vacated blocks that are not immediately needed for redevelopment.

There are about 110 two-room, 570 three-room, and 60 four-room flats under the PPHS across Singapore.

Construction delays faced by BTO developments have increased the demand for such housing.

About 85 per cent of the 89 ongoing BTO projects are around six to nine months behind schedule, affecting about 43,000 households.

These projects are now expected to be delayed by a further three months as bans on new arrivals from countries such as India and Bangladesh have exacerbated the manpower crunch in the construction sector.