CEO's Word

Dr Cheong Koon Hean
Chief Executive Officer

Home is where the heart is. For many Singaporeans, home invariably brings to mind memories of life in the HDB heartland. In our quest to build the best possible home for Singaporeans, we continued to push new frontiers in design, construction, and technology, and refine our policies, programmes, and services – always with people at the centre. Guided by our Roadmap to Better HDB Living, we are committed to creating well-designed, sustainable, smart and community-centric towns that all Singaporeans can call home.

Pioneering Innovative Technologies

Riding on technological and digital advancements, we pioneered new and innovative solutions to better plan and design our towns and flats, as well as rejuvenate and redevelop older ones to keep pace with evolving standards.

This Financial Year (FY), we embarked on several key research and development initiatives. The New Urban Kampung research programme will help us advance the ‘science’ behind how we plan, design and build our HDB towns through behavioural science studies and advanced modelling tools. Another initiative involves the development of a Smart Integrated Construction System (SICS) that leverages smart sensors and automation to transform traditional construction work processes and boost productivity. A third initiative studies how smart sensing and analytics can enhance services within housing estates.

On the construction front, HDB continued to make strides in construction productivity, attaining an overall construction productivity improvement of 14.8%, up from 12.3% in the previous calendar year. This is a result of the wider deployment of innovative construction materials and methods such as the Prefabricated Bathroom Unit (PBU), Building Information Modelling (BIM) and uPVC skirting.

Even as we build new HDB towns, we also continued to improve on our existing towns. Following the successful transformation of earlier batches of towns identified for the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, Woodlands, Toa Payoh and Pasir Ris are the next 3 towns to undergo the makeovers. In the renewal of our towns, we engaged residents extensively to understand their needs and hear their views. The plans for these 3 towns, incorporating ideas and feedback from residents who participated in hands-on design workshops, will focus on strengthening the towns’ existing character, community and connectivity.

Meeting Housing Aspirations

In meeting housing aspirations, we offered about 17,200 flats under the Build-To-Order (BTO) exercises and another 7,300 flats under the Sale of Balance Flats (SBF) exercises across mature and non-mature estates this FY. To help young couples buy their first homes earlier, we have commenced the construction of 1,100 BTO flats in Sembawang, Sengkang and Yishun, ahead of their sales launch in the second half of 2018. The first batch of BTO flats with a shorter waiting time of about 2.5 years from time of application will come with an open kitchen concept, where feasible, which is popular among young families.

Another 2,100 flats were offered under the new Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) sales mode, which comprised unsold units from previous SBF exercises. This new sales mode for unsold balance flats enabled those with more urgent housing needs and are less particular about location to have quicker access to a flat.

To meet the diverse needs of Singaporeans, existing policies and schemes were enhanced. Under the enhanced Proximity Housing Grant (PHG), families who buy a resale flat to live with their parents or children will enjoy a higher-tier PHG of $30,000 while those living near will continue to receive a PHG of $20,000. Singles aged 35 years and above who buy a resale flat to live with or near their parents will receive half the amount that families receive. The proximity condition was also simplified and extended to ‘within 4 km’ instead of ‘within 2 km or the same town’ previously, offering families a wider choice of flats.

The 3-year time bar was lifted for divorced couples to make it easier for both parties to transit to their next housing arrangement. Second-timer rental families with young children who are ready to be placed under the Fresh Start Housing Scheme will benefit from a shorter minimum stay requirement of 1 year.

Enabling Engaged Communities

Communities hold the key to town vibrancy and their active participation is sought in many ways. Ground-up community projects are supported through the HDB Friendly Faces, Lively Places Fund, and heartland volunteerism facilitated under the new ‘Friends of Our Heartlands’ network.

In fostering greater community ownership and pride of their town, we broke new ground with the Build-A-Playground (BAP) initiative at Canberra Division. Some 2,000 residents were actively involved in the end-to-end process of building a playground. The BAP initiative will be rolled out to 5 playgrounds, in towns undergoing the ROH programme and the Town Councils’ Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).

Ready for the Future

In this digitalised era, mobile and e-Services are fast becoming a way of life. As part of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map and Singapore’s Smart Nation drive, we launched the new HDB Resale Portal, which enabled the integration of all eligibility checks and reduced the resale transaction time from 16 to 8 weeks. The app was a hit with motorists, with 4.1 million parking sessions recorded within the first 6 months. Our new branch at Bukit Panjang, which opened this FY, also features an e-lobby that is open around the clock, enabling our customers to transact any day, any time.

As we enter into 2018, HDB’s functions were streamlined with the transfer of the management of 12,536 industrial properties and 156 staff to JTC Corporation. The move enables businesses to enjoy one-stop support for all their land and space needs. HDB living is Singaporeans’ way of life, a shared experience that binds the hearts of generations of Singaporeans. Throughout their life stages, Singaporeans can look forward to endearing homes and raising their next generation in sustainable, smart and community-centric towns.