Navigating housing policies for seniors in Singapore (wait-out-period exemption)

In a move that underscores Singapore’s nuanced approach to housing policy, about 940 senior households have been granted an exemption from the 15-month wait-out period for purchasing Housing Board (HDB) resale flats.

Introduction to the wait-out-period exemption

This exemption applies to those who owned private properties and sought to buy a four-room or smaller HDB resale flat between 30 September 2022, and 31 December 2023. Typically, private homeowners are required to wait 15 months after selling their property before they are eligible to purchase an HDB resale flat. This rule was introduced as part of a suite of property cooling measures to stabilise the housing market.

However, recognising the unique needs of the senior population, the Singapore government carved out an exception for those aged 55 and above. This demographic is allowed to bypass the wait-out period if they opt for a four-room or smaller resale flat. This policy adjustment reflects a commitment to ensuring seniors have more immediate access to affordable housing options, acknowledging their different life stages and housing needs.

Assessing the impact of the exemption

The decision to exempt senior citizens from the wait-out period has sparked discussions on its impact on the housing market. National Development Minister Desmond Lee highlighted that the 940 transactions facilitated under this exemption constituted less than 4% of all resale transactions for such flats in the specified period. This figure suggests a minimal influence on the overall prices and resale volume of four-room HDB resale flats, with authorities not anticipating any “spillover impact” on the prices of five-room resale flats.

Additional reading: Potential cooling measures (and why they might not happen)

Further analysis of the market dynamics reveals that the prices of four-room resale flats experienced the most significant growth across all flat types in the fourth quarter of 2023, marking a 0.7% increase. This segment also represented the largest proportion of total HDB resale transactions during the same period. The exemption for seniors is believed to have contributed to the firm demand for four-room resale flats, potentially influencing the uptick in prices. Nonetheless, the government maintains that the overall effect of this policy on the housing market remains limited.

The role of appeals in the policy framework

An interesting facet of this policy’s implementation is the number of private homeowners who appealed to the HDB for an exemption from the 15-month wait-out period. Approximately 850 appeals were granted, accounting for about 25% of the 3,470 appeals received between 30 September 2022, and 31 December 2023. Most successful appeals came from individuals who had either committed to selling their private property or buying a resale flat before the policy’s enforcement or those facing financial difficulties or extenuating circumstances with no alternative housing solutions.

These appeals underscore the government’s flexibility in administering housing policies, demonstrating a willingness to consider individual circumstances. By accommodating such appeals, the HDB ensures that the policy does not unduly disadvantage homeowners with legitimate reasons for needing to transition to public housing more swiftly.

The future of housing policies

housing policies for seniors 2024
Image credit: Galen Crotun on Unsplash

While the exemption for seniors and the appeals process offers immediate solutions to specific groups, they also raise questions about the future of housing policies in Singapore. Minister Desmond Lee has indicated that the 15-month wait-out period is a temporary measure, primarily aimed at moderating the demand for resale flats and ensuring they remain affordable for buyers with greater housing needs. Although there’s no indication that the policy will be lifted imminently, the authorities are committed to continuously assessing the market to determine the optimal timing for any adjustments.

This careful balancing act between cooling the housing market and providing for the needs of vulnerable groups highlights Singapore’s pragmatic approach to housing policy. As the government navigates these complex dynamics, the focus remains on creating a fair and sustainable housing market that caters to the diverse needs of its population.

HDB properties for you

This article is a product of and is based on information gathered from various sources, including The Straits Times. The usage of these sources was done in good faith to provide valuable insights. The source of the referenced content is duly credited and we recommend readers to refer them for a comprehensive understanding of the topic. is not responsible for any errors, omissions, or consequences arising from the use of this information.

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