27 February 2011

Waiting for New HDB Apartments and the Procreation Goal

The average waiting time for a build-to-order ("BTO") HDB apartment is supposed to be three years.  But TODAY journalist Ong Dai Lin found that 17 of the 21 BTO projects launched in 2010 are estimated to be completed only in 2014 or 2015.

Responding to TODAY's queries, HDB said that —
  • The estimated completion dates took into account factors such as the size of the project and complexity of design.
  • The estimated completion dates for last year's BTO projects took into account the time needed to call the tenders for construction, which was about six to eight months.
  • The estimated completion dates were provided at the launch of the BTO projects to help buyers plan ahead, and were updated once construction started.
  • Processes had been streamlined to allow buyers of HDB apartments to collect the keys to their apartments about six months earlier.  (It is not clear whether this means that the completion dates have since been brought forward by six months or the completion dates mentioned in the TODAY report would have been six months later had this streamlining not taken place.)

HDB (Housing and Development Board, Singapore's public housing authority and a statutory board under Ministry of National Development) has been building apartments for the past 50 years.

Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan told Parliament on 11 January 2011 that typical BTO projects comprising five blocks of not more than 20 storeys took an average of 32 months to complete in the last two years.  More time was required for taller blocks or if construction was affected by factors such as poor soil conditions, site constraints or complex design features.  The longest construction time for a typical BTO project over the last 20 BTO projects was 42 months, and the shortest construction time was 26 months.

HDB apartments were already highly standardised and functionally designed to facilitate buildability. Nonetheless, HDB was working with its contractors and suppliers to shorten the construction period through other means.  By increasing resources, enhancing and streamlining work processes, and raising site productivity, HDB was confident that its contractors would be able to build and deliver most of the apartments in about 2.5 years (30 months), without compromising quality and structural safety.

Beyond shortening construction time, HDB had explored other ways to help buyers to get their new apartments faster after booking their apartments.  For example, HDB would bring forward activities such as preparing building designs for tender so construction could commence soon after the project launch.  Mr Mah estimated that buyers of typical BTO projects launched in mid-2011 onwards would generally need to wait for 2.5 years to collect their keys after booking their apartments.

Member of Parliament Ho Geok Choo had asked the Minister for National Development (a) how confident HDB was of its ability to complete the building of apartments in two-and-a-half years when some projects took more than five years to complete; (b) how much room HDB had to change strategy by concentrating on building apartments without frills; and (c) for the last 20 BTO projects completed by the HDB, what the shortest and longest time taken to complete building the new apartments were.

Any couple waiting for a new BTO apartment is not concerned about construction time nor whether their BTO project is or is not typical.  What only matters is the time from the point of booking an apartment to the time they receive their keys.

For one 24-year-old applicant of a BTO apartment, the completion date is in Q2 2015.  Although she will be getting married in December, the couple will live apart until the apartment is ready.  They do not intend to start a family until then.

For another applicant, aged 28 years, the completion date is Q2 2014.  She has been married for two years, and is living with her in-laws.  The couple started balloting for an apartment in 2008.  Having children might affect her in-laws due to space constraints.

Hopefully, neither they nor any other newlyweds have to wait too long to move into their new HDB apartments.


1.  "The Average Waiting Time for BTO Flats is Longer than 3 Years", TODAY, 17 February 2011.

2.  "Building of HDB Flats Duration of BTO Projects", Singapore Parliament Report, 11 January 2011.

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