Some expats in Singapore are to be limited in the number of properties they can buy in certain public developments to prevent the growth of enclaves of foreigners.
The government has imposed limits on the number of public flats in each apartment block and neighborhood that can be sold to those with permanent residency (PR) status. The new quotas have been set at 5% for Housing Board neighbourhoods and 8% for blocks.
The differentiation in housing benefits enjoyed by citizens and PRs is also changing. Under existing rules, all Singaporean couples and couples where a citizen is married to a PR can buy new flats at subsidised prices or apply for housing grants for resale flats. Now a citizen-PR couple will have to pay a $10,000 premium for new flats launched by the HDB.
They will also get $10,000 less in housing grants if they buy a resale home. But the amount will be restored if the PR family member becomes a citizen or the couple has a child who is a citizen.
National Development Minister Mash Bow Tan said that the changes were also aimed at providing an incentive for PRs to take up citizenship and also reinforce the principle that Singaporeans are a priority. He added that it would contribute to integrating locals and migrants. ‘Even though PR enclaves are not a problem today, we should put precautionary measures in place early. Otherwise, it might be difficult to unravel problems later.’
PRs comprise about 14% of the population living in HDB flats, according to 2009 figures and own 5% of them. However, there are western and northern towns where this proportion is slightly higher than the 5% average, Mash said.
The new limits for PRs will apply in addition to the existing Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), which sets ratios for ethnic groups to ensure a balanced mix in housing estates.
The changes come amid rising anxiety among local residents about the impact that PRs have on the public housing market and social environment. But Mash claimed that there is no evidence that specific buyer groups, like PRs and private property owners, are driving up prices.
According to estate agents PRs have a slight impact but the real reason why HDB resale flat prices are rising is due to shortage in supply amid higher than expected demand.