Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Govt aims to cool property market, not crash it

MEASURES to cool the property market appear to have been successful in tempering market exuberance for private homes.

Addressing Parliament yesterday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that the latest figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) showed sales of private homes by developers falling month-on-month by 37per cent in September and 29per cent last month.

In response to a query from MP Cynthia Phua (Aljunied GRC) on sub-sales figures, Mr Mah also highlighted that the number of sub-sales had fallen.

The minister said that the government’s intention had been to ‘cool the market, not crash it’.

The interest absorption scheme and interest-only loans scheme – which had allowed home buyers to defer the bulk of the cost of their home purchases – were both stopped with immediate effect in September. The Government also recently added to supply by resuming its land sales programme.

Mr Mah did not rule out restoring some of the schemes that have been suspended to temper property demand.

Responding to a question from MP Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) about whether the measures would be temporary or permanent, he said it would take some time ‘to really gauge the response and the impact of these schemes’.

In the past, the Government introduced measures to curb excessive speculation only to later restore schemes when the market stabilised or weakened, he said.

‘So I won’t say that we will never restore these schemes, but I think it’s a little bit too early to make a call on that.’

The Government will continue to monitor the property market closely and ‘assess the market’s response to the measures introduced before deciding whether further measures are necessary to promote a stable and sustainable property market,’ he said.

Nominated MP Paulin Tay Straughan asked if the measures could be better targeted to distinguish between genuine and speculative home buyers.

But Mr Mah said the measures were already ‘rather targeted’ at speculators.

‘So I think we have…taken a calibrated approach to the property market. The idea is to cool the market, not to crash it. And I think this is the reason why we’ve been very careful in our approaches,’ he said.

Mr Mah noted that there was currently plenty of home supply. The URA’s latest figures show that the sites on its confirmed and reserve list can yield about 10,600 units – the highest number from any half-yearly government land sales programme since the reserve list system started in 2001.

He pointed out that there were about 35,000 units of planned private homes yet to be sold.

‘So the message must be that there’s a lot of supply out there (at) different prices, different locations. And I would urge Singaporeans to do their sums, but also to look around and not be rushed into buying something,’ he said.

Source: Straits Times, 24 Nov 2009

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