Saturday, November 17, 2007

Newly-wed couples are postponing their traditional ceremonies while they wait for a new Housing Board flat.

AS PROPERTY prices rise, some newly-wed couples are postponing their traditional ceremonies while they wait for a new Housing Board flat.

Many have been priced out of the resale market while others want to buy a new home, which means joining the hordes trying their luck at ballots in HDB sales exercises.

It is leaving couples in a dilemma. While they have registered their marriages officially, they are reluctant to hold the customary ceremony that legitimises the union in the eyes of the community, until they have a home to call their own.

Members of Parliament say they are getting more appeals from distressed couples.

Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua, who raised a question on the availability of flats in Parliament this week, told The Straits Times that one or two such couples bring up the problem at her Meet-the-People session every week.

Although technically married, many of them live apart, in their family homes, while waiting to get a flat together.

Madam Phua said: ‘For us Asians, once you hold back your customary wedding, you can’t live together, and you can’t even have babies.’

Deliveryman Ang Kah Liong, 34, has unsuccessfully applied for a new flat 10 times since he registered his marriage with his girlfriend three years ago. The couple - who earn $3,000 a month - live with Mr Ang’s parents and three elder brothers in their family’s two-bedroom flat.

They were determined to wait until they had a flat of their own before holding the customary ceremony but family pressure finally prompted them to hold it in September.

‘I had no choice,’ said Mr Ang. ‘I could not wait anymore.’

People like Mr Ang are being caught in a supply-demand crunch.

The buoyant resale market, which has seen prices grow by 11 per cent in the first nine months of this year, is fuelling a demand for new HDB flats.

In the July to September quarter, five-room flats in Queenstown - a coveted district - sold for a median sum of $110,000 above their valuations. This means a buyer had to pay at least $110,000 in cash as that amount cannot be covered with a home loan.

So young couples who cannot afford such resale prices - even with government grants that can go up to $40,000 - are turning to new HDB flats.

MPs told The Straits Times that many seek help to get a new flat near their parents’ homes but this can be difficult as these are usually in older estates where few new flats are being built.

Jalan Besar MP Lily Neo said: ‘Many couples want to live near their parents in the Central Business District, but as you know, there aren’t many flats there.’

They stand a better chance of getting a flat if they are willing to consider other locations, said Dr Neo.

Application figures for recent HDB sales exercises show how competitive the flat race can get.

The HDB received almost 8,000 applications for just 400 flats in Telok Blangah recently, and more than 1,600 applications for 516 homes in Punggol.

The HDB is pumping up the supply of new homes to meet demand. A further 3,600 flats are expected to be offered under the build-to-order system from now until March.

However, the Government has stated that it cannot meet all the demand for new HDB flats as that would risk creating an oversupply in the future.

Meanwhile 28-year-old secretary Koh Bee Leng and fiance Julius Lim, 30, who hope to marry next year, carry on with their house-hunting.

The couple have set their eyes on four-room flats in a mature estate such as Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh, but have had no luck in two sales exercises this year.

Ms Koh said: ‘Everything is uncertain now, because of the issue of the availability of the flat. That’s delaying our plan to get married.’

Source: The Straits Times 17 Nov 07

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