Some 2,000 Build-to-Order (BTO) flats in the two towns were launched for sale yesterday, making up half of all BTO flats in the batch.
Together with leftover flats from previous launches, the Housing Board released a total of 8,748 flats, which Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong called a "bumper crop".
But the buzz in this batch comes from the units in Geylang and Bidadari, which are in mature estates and expected to be the most popular despite higher price tags. Prices in Geylang range from $179,000 for a two-room flexi unit to $489,000 for a four-room unit; in Bidadari, a two-room flexi unit costs $169,000 and a 3Gen unit commands $622,000.
Units in the north cost much less. In Woodlands, prices range from $73,000 for a two-room flexi unit to $320,000 for a 3Gen unit; in Yishun, a two-room flexi unit costs $77,000 while a five-room unit is priced at $331,000.
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In a Facebook post, Mr Wong encouraged buyers who are flexible with the location of their future homes to apply for Woodlands or Yishun to improve their chances.
Woodlands, in particular, has not been popular but the Government hopes a slew of developments could change this. It will have new MRT stations, including a terminus connecting Woodlands with Johor Baru. The North South Corridor also promises to shorten journeys to the city by up to 30 minutes. "All these will greatly improve transport connectivity for residents," said Mr Wong.
SLP International research head Nicholas Mak said the plans may sway those on the fence about living in the north: "The rejuvenation of Woodlands is a long-term process, and we can expect more BTO projects in the near future."
For now, the mature estates are attracting the most interest.
PropNex key executive officer Lim Yong Hock expects the flats in Geylang to be especially popular, where he predicts five applicants per unit. There is "pent-up demand", given that it has not had a BTO launch in the past three years.
This year, over its two launches so far, the HDB has offered 12,804 flats - more than three-quarters of its promised 17,000 flats for 2017. This is fewer than the 18,000 units last year, part of a generally downward trajectory over the past five years as fewer new families are formed.
The Straits Times