median-waiting-time-for-btos-should-come-down-in-the-next-2-years:-desmond-lee
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SINGAPORE: In the next two years, median waiting times for new Build-to-Order (BTO) projects should come down slightly to four to four-and-a-half years, compared to the waiting time of four to five years for projects currently under construction, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Wednesday (May 25).

Progress has been made in speeding up works, following close collaboration between the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and stakeholders such as contractors and suppliers, said Mr Lee.

As a result, there are now also fewer BTO projects facing delays of six months or more.

Mr Lee noted that in April, 58 of them – or less than 60 per cent of all BTO projects – faced such delays.

This is down from the 74 projects – or more than 80 per cent of all BTO developments – that were facing such delays in the same period a year ago.

GRADUALLY TURNING A CORNER

The last two years have been a “perfect storm” for the construction industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, border closures, supply chain disruptions and rising costs, said Mr Lee.

But he noted that HDB has supported contractors in various ways like helping to bring in foreign workers. For instance, about six to eight months ago, HDB lacked about 25 per cent of the workforce it needed, but manpower has now been “replenished”, he said.

The agency has also helped by sharing increased costs, building up stockpiles of materials and providing advanced payments to ease cash flow, Mr Lee added. 

“It is hard to get back on track (to a pre-COVID pace of work) for all the reasons I’ve articulated. But the single-minded commitment … was to try to build in a way that ensures as little delay as possible to home buyers, so that they can get on with their life plans,” he said.

Even though the sector is “gradually turning a corner”, Mr Lee said there will still be delays as the construction industry is “not out of the woods yet”. Progress will continue to be closely monitored, he added.

Mr Lee also noted that HDB delivered close to 15,000 new homes in 2021, higher than the 13,500 in 2019 before the pandemic.

His comments came on the sidelines of a visit to a newly completed block in the Northshore Edge BTO project in Punggol.

The project’s completion date was meant to be delayed by about six months, but a month was shaved off – with the first block completed in April.

Teambuild, the construction firm that managed the project, said that HDB helped share some costs for equipment, while providing exemptions that allowed them to do some work on weekends and public holidays.

Mr Hong Wee Khong, Teambuild’s construction director, added that the agency helped to coordinate the process of bringing in migrant workers, ultimately allowing the firm to bring in close to 40 workers to ease its manpower crunch.

KEEPING BUYERS UPDATED

At the visit, Mr Lee also announced that flat buyers will now get more specific updates about their unit’s completion date.

About three months before the completion, buyers will know the likely month in which it will be done, said Mr Lee, adding that HDB might provide a range of one to two months.

This is compared to the current approach of providing updates about the quarter in which the flat is likely to be ready.

The move will give buyers a “finer-grained timeline” that will better enable homeowners to make preparations, such as for their renovation or packing, he said.