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Time for HDB to Claw Back Subsidies for BTO Flats?

ELSON: Senior Minister of State Sim Ann has waxed lyrical about how Singaporeans appreciate the “windfall” effect that comes with selling their BTO flats after the Minimum Occupation Period.

She would be considered a Karen by today’s standards, except that most Karens don’t have pattern more than badminton.

Someone’s got to pick up the bill, and that someone is going to be another Singaporean family?

Why should public housing descend into a zero-sum game between fellow countrymen?

Going by the direction set by “heir to the throne” Lawrence Wong in Budget 2023, it appears that the government might just have to give out more subsidies every other year to appease angry youngsters who can’t afford their own home.

After all, the MND has explicitly maintained it will not build ahead of demand, so what is there to cool prices except a market collapse?

This just puts a bigger strain on taxpayers, for the benefit of that “windfall” that Sim refers to, and that just means that more people are being roped in to pay for the benefit of the few.

It’s not fair or equitable.

The HDB is so hard up about their “losses” that they have to make a big deal about it in state media.

And, whether to milk political points or not, MND chief Desmond Lee has been going on about how the government gives such generous subsidies despite this loss to first-time homebuyers.

The subsidies are there to help people afford a flat.

So, why not claw back the subsidies once these homebuyers have made good later down the road?

Loans can only be taken on market valuation of HDB flats, and not some tikam price the seller has in mind, so already-squeezed buyers will be reluctant to fork out more out-of-pocket cash over the valuation amount.

This way, it’ll make it tougher for sellers trying to make a quick speculative buck, because public housing should be an equitable public good, otherwise we should just call it private housing.

And if the government stops kicking the can down the road with more temporal subsidies that further burden generations of Singaporean taxpayers, we might well see the resurgance of a buyers’ market.

This will lessen the need for a GST hike due to “profligate spending” (in PM Lee’s words), ease the burden on HDB’s balance sheet, moderate the resale flat market, and further downstream result in relatively more affordable public housing for all.

Of course, the government has the best and brightest who can devise the best schemes possible with all the data at their fingertips.

But does the government have the political will to do right by Singaporeans of today, and the generations to come, and admit that it cocked up in terms of long-term vision years ago and is now willing to take steps to set things right?

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