Affordable homes in Singapore? Looking beyond cooling measures.

The 8th round of property cooling measures announced by MAS on 28th June is intended to be a long-term one, put in place not just to tackle the current market situation, but to maintain prudent credit controls in the years to come.

I think at this point it would be timely to remind ourselves why Singapore’s government is so fixated on avoiding a property bubble. Sure, housing affordability is always of certain political significance in any country, but I struggle to think of any other nation where the government is quite so heavily involved in the property market. Having chosen to take on the mantle of providing public housing to over 80% of the population for all these decades and being so closely involved in the control of the private housing market too, it is unsurprising that the electorate considers the health of the housing market a key element when assessing their overall satisfaction with the ruling party’s performance.

As Minister Khaw has pointed out previously, he faces the delicate task of balancing the public’s call for affordable housing, with the need to maintain stable property prices to protect the interests of many Singaporeans whose homes and real estate holdings represent the bulk of their total net assets. Thus in the government’s efforts to provide affordable public housing, they must at the same time avoid a property crash at all costs.

Bending over backward to balance
Bending over backwards to balance

The main focus thus far has been on beefing up rules and regulations: hiking stamp duties imposed on buyers and sellers, and reducing the availability of financing by lowering loan-to-value ceilings, restricting loan tenures, and general tightening of credit controls. But as any honest draftsman or legislator would be able to tell you, it is near impossible to draft a completely watertight book of rules without becoming unwieldy and impractical to implement. And in any case, is there substantive proof that heavy regulatory control is better at maintaining a stable market than free market forces?

An increasingly complex, convoluted series of rules and regulations governing the property market certainly poses a challenge for layperson consumers seeking to purchase or deal with their property holdings. I believe it would be helpful to take a look at trends that have been taking place both in Singapore and other cities for alternative means of coping with rising home prices. Continue reading “Affordable homes in Singapore? Looking beyond cooling measures.”

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Hot off the Press: MAS Introduces Debt Servicing Framework for Property Loans

MAS has just announced the introduction of a debt servicing ratio framework, with effect from tomorrow, 29 June 2013.

Whilst the cap of 60% on debt servicing ratios (monthly debt obligations versus monthly income) is not something drastically different from banks’ current practices, my focus would be the impact of the following restrictions:-

  • borrowers named on a property loan must now also be mortgagors (ie. co-owners) of the residential property for which the loan is taken;
  • “guarantors” who are standing guarantee for borrowers otherwise assessed by the bank at the point of application for the housing loan not to meet the TDSR threshold for a property loan are to be brought in as co-borrowers (and therefore, must also become co-owners); and
  • in the case of joint borrowers, that banks use the income-weighted average age of borrowers (based on borrowers’ gross monthly income) when applying the rules on loan tenure (i.e. lower LTV-ceilings for loan tenures exceeding 30 years or extending past a borrower’s 65th birthday ). Continue reading “Hot off the Press: MAS Introduces Debt Servicing Framework for Property Loans”

MAS Restricts Loan Tenure for Residential Properties – What Does the Future Hold?

After several rounds of cooling measures, Singapore’s residential market has continued to climb in Q2 and Q3 of 2012. Thus MAS has stepped in once again, and as of today, borrowers will no longer be able to take loans of longer than 35 years. Given that the average tenure of residential property loans in Singapore is well below 35 years (29 years, according to MAS’ official press release yesterday), and bearing in mind that this average does not take into account the percentage of homes in Singapore that are fully paid-up, I don’t foresee this measure having a huge impact on the market. Continue reading “MAS Restricts Loan Tenure for Residential Properties – What Does the Future Hold?”

Is the Singapore Property Market in Trouble? Part 1

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of speculation in the newspapers, blogs and forums about new cooling measures for the property market and how domestic lending has gone through the roof and may precipitate in property crash etc. The common thread in all the rumours and commentaries is that the property sector is not going to be good. I’d like to list out some of these topics to just discuss how bad the situation is, or if the speculation is unfounded.

It looks like it’s going to be quite a long discussion, so I’m going to break it up into a few posts to make it more readable.

Risk 1: More cooling measures

With housing prices continuing to rise, are we going to need new property market cooling measures? Before I try to answer that, here is a quick overview of the 5 rounds of property market cooling measures that the government has already implemented over the last few years:

Continue reading “Is the Singapore Property Market in Trouble? Part 1”