Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Comprehensive Set of Policy Options for HDB-CPF Mess

The HDB-CPF time bomb will blow up in 10-15 years time with a sudden surge of HDB flats passing their 40 year-lease mark. My estimate is that about 50% or more of HDB flats would have less than 60 years to their expiry by 2035.

As I have mentioned, the HDB problem cannot be tackled without tackling the CPF policies. They are like twin babies right now and the problem is magnified with such linkage between these two entities.

The following are the gist of the time bomb:

1) Inadequacy of Retirement financing due to over-consumption of Housing effected by the devious link between HDB and CPF.

2) PAP has misled a few generations of Singaporeans into believing that they could use their HDB flats for retirement by "monetizing it" and treating it as "pure asset" instead of consumption item. Nothing with an expiry date could be considered as a long term perpetual asset which one could depend on decades later in life.  Due to ageing population, there will be higher supply of old HDB flats than demand of these flats which are above 30, 40 or 50 years old. The financial regulations and illogical HDB rules restrictions have aggravated the situation.

3) Ageing population will result in potential oversupply of HDB flats in the long term if it is not kept in check. This is especially so when young couples are "forced" to buy BTO or HDB flats with longer lease while the HDB restrictions basically prevent them from buying old HDB flats with shorter lease left.

4) HDB rules also restrict Singaporeans from buying smaller and cheaper BTOs if their income level is high. These artificial rules will implicitly create over consumption of housing. 

5) The valuation system that HDB used has an inherent upward bias when it doesn't include the balance of lease as key consideration. This will create a market with pricing but without demand.

6) The massive problem of having huge number of HDB flats expiring their 99 year lease all within 5 to 10 years time will have to be dealt with careful planning decades in advance. PAP's refusal of initiating Enbloc for old flats will create an even bigger problem later.

The set of solutions are as follow:

A) De-link CPF from HDB or property purchase and Lowering of Employee's CPF contribution

CPF should be kept strictly as a fund catering for retirement. For a good financial planning, 20% of income should be saved for retirement. It means that while CPF could be de-linked from HDB purchases, Singaporeans could lower their Employee's CPF contribution from 20% to 3% while the Employer's CPF contribution shall remain at 17%.

Singaporeans should decide what to do with the excess cash as a result in the lower CPF contribution. They could use it for renting a flat, save it up, invest it in business or other financial products or use it to buy a property (HDB or otherwise) and pay the mortgage.

Such radical policy change will correct the past PAP's mistake in deliberately and artificially channeling Singaporeans' money into buying HDB flats, using more than what they should use of CPF money in paying the down payment and mortgage, resulting in over consumption of housing at the expense of retirement funding. Such problem will only surface decades later as more and more Singaporeans in my generations will realize.

Such social engineering to create an illusion of wealth and property ownership is extremely harmful to the Nation as a whole.

B) Dismantling of Restrictive HDB Rules of Social Engineering Manipulations. 

There are many HDB rules which are the results of social engineering attempts, should be removed. Rules that dictates high income level cannot buy smaller flats should be totally abolished. Housing consumption should depend on needs, not on income level. Whatever subsidies the government wanted to give should depend on income level and not HDB flat size. Thus, there is absolutely no reason why Singaporeans should be prevented from buying flats according to their needs.

Rules that dictate singles could only buy HDB flats after they are 35 year old should also be abolished. Such rules are based on "family-centric" reasoning but these rules are too restrictive and not helpful for singles to seek independence in living before they look for their lifetime partners. It also excludes people from other segments of the society to seek independence and privacy for their housing needs. As far as the government is concerned, each and every citizen will only enjoy grants or subsidies once, regardless of their age or whether they bought their flat before or after their marriage.

Rules that dictate young couples cannot buy HDB flats with short lease left should be abolished as well. If HDB flats are treated as a consumption goods, there is absolutely no reason for such rules to exist. Shorter lease, old HDB flats may cost much lesser and with the grants given by the government, young people could well afford to buy their first CHEAP old HDB flat to start their marriage life earlier. This will also encourage them to have children earlier with lower expenditures on housing.

Liberalization of the HDB rules will enhance market efficiency and liquidity, especially for the resale market of old HDB flats which have less than 60 years lease.

C) Re-configuration of Financial Rules and Valuation Methodology

At the moment, there is really an abnormality in the financial rules. For car purchase financing, although the COE restrict the car life span to 10 years, banks and financial institutes are still allowed to finance buyers for up to 7 years of mortgage. However, for some strange reasons, HDB flats with 60 years lease left will face a drastic drop in financial options and the purchase of flats with 20 years left, could not be financed at all!

If we just treat HDB flats simply as a consumption goods, there is no reason why there is a discrepancy in financial treatments by the banks and finance companies.

For owners of HDB flats with less than 60 years lease, they could not "monetize" or sell their flats mainly because of mismatch valuations of their HDB flats as well as liquidity problem due to such financial rules.

Re-configuration of the financing rules of old HDB flats based on the fact that it is just a consumption good like car, washing machine or any hire purchase items would allow adequate liquidity to flow into the resale market of these old flats. Of course, this must be accompanied by a revamped property valuation system which will give a more realistic valuation of old HDB flats based on the leasehold factor. It is just an old car. The older a car is, the lesser its valuation is.

Sellers of HDB flats should not be asked to repay back all the "lost CPF interests" due to their use of CPF funds to finance their HDB flats when they were young. Else, those elderly people who decided to sell their HDB flats to supplement their retirement financing will find it totally meaningless in their attempt to "monetize" their old HDB flats.



D) Kick Start a Redevelopment Plan for old HDB estates 

In anticipation of the impact of an ageing population with ageing HDB flats and estates, the government should start planning for the Redevelopment of these old HDB estates in stages. Instead of limiting SERS to 4% of total HDB stock of flats, there is an urgent need to kick start a Total Redevelopment Plan for ageing HDB estates.

This will of course involve enbloc of HDB flats in phases.

Although it is going to be an expensive ever-lasting process but it is a necessity to pre-empt a total chaos and collapse of the whole HDB resale market.

As the ageing population would mean that some land acquired via enbloc can be released for private development use while the resulting higher pricing of the redeveloped flats would make older flats with less than 60 or 50 years lease more attractive. This will create a new equilibrium which will effect a more efficient use of land and housing stock.

Redevelopment of old HDB estates will have to be carried out in phases, most probably stretching over 20 to 30 years time frame for one estate. Such staggered redevelopment plan will prevent a sudden chaotic situation whereby the whole old HDB estates with lots of HDB flats expiring within a short span of time resulting in a sudden shock shortage of housing stock to provide for those who are going to give back their HDB flats to the government.

It is totally irresponsible for PAP government to say that they will only redevelop 4% of HDB flats via SERS while just waiting to take back all other HDB flats from Singaporeans when their lease expired. Such method may save the government lots of money but it will create a great turbulence to the whole resale market for HDB.

Conclusion

The above outline of the combined policies needed to address the HDB-CPF Axis of Evil Problems will not prevent some Singaporeans from losing great amount of money from their misguided belief in PAP's Asset Enhancement Scam, especially so when they use lots of money to buy from the HDB resale market.

However, at the very least, we could achieve the objective to create a viable resale market demand for their old HDB flats which have less than 60 years lease left. This is done through liberalizing rules on HDB flats purchase, expanding the potential pool of buyers of these old HDB flats to singles and young couples with viable financing plan achieved by re-configuring of financial rules and valuation system based on rational reasoning.

While some Singaporeans will have to suffer a huge and painful cost  of greatly depreciated old HDB flats, the government should also bear the big bulk of the cost in creating this whole mess via a rational staggered enbloc redevelopment of those old HDB estates.

This is a very painful lesson for all Singaporeans that property transactions and speculations on your only residential home are simply a Zero Sum Game eventually.  Anyone's gain will be somebody's loss.

Goh Meng Seng

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

We will be wondering , "What will be so great in PM Lee's National Day speech?"

Well my friends, he will be delivering all the goodies in his speeches. Why, because he is not a bad person and bad people do not say bad things, correct?

Anonymous said...

Why, because he is not a bad person and bad people do not say bad things, correct?


Why, because he is a not a bad person and a person who is not bad will not say bad things, correct?

Anonymous said...

They will not be overspending on public housing!

How do you know?

That's what LTV & TDRS was introduce to prevent overspending.

Says who?

Says them.

Anonymous said...

HDB prime sites SERS and than turn it to GLS sell it to private developers at high psf. Some examples are the commonwealth area. Soon HDB in prime areas will be depleting.

Anonymous said...

Most people fear taking risk of stepping out comfort zone into the unknown. If we do not do it, we will not improve and grow. Too much security does not lead to progress. We must surrender safety and security when needed to make changes, otherwise we will never get anywhere for betterment.

Anonymous said...

Embracing Change.

Letting go outdated ways of doing things is not easy. Leaning only what they know, even if


its not what is best for the people and country, is recipe for disaster. We've heard this


statement a million times " If you want something that you never had , you must do


something you've never done." That means changing what has been done. There are many roads


that lead to nowhere in life. And its been happening.