GIC economist: SDP housing plan “excellent”

Singapore Democrats

Former GIC chief economist Mr Yeoh Lam Keong praised the SDP’s alternative housing plan for Singapore as of “remarkably high quality and in-depth piece of research.”$CUT$

Mr Yeoh made the remarks at the launch of Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies For Affordable Homes at the Quality Hotel yesterday. (Download the entire paper here.)

Mr Yeoh, who is also a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and an adviser at the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University, described the paper as “excellent”.

“Not only is the theory and methodology sound and rigorous, the empirical work seems well researched and remarkably detailed as well,” he said.

On the policy itself, Mr Yeoh said that the Non-Open Market (NOM) proposal is “coherently laid out and makes much sense in terms of the objective of potentially giving low-income and middle-class Singaporeans access to affordable, high-quality public housing.”

He added the SDP’s principle to de-link HDB prices from the private cost of land is a “fundamentally sound one.”

He also highlighted the paper’s discussion of the causes of asset price inflation and the dangers of an asset bubble in property, commenting that that these issues “are currently insufficiently tackled and highlighted by policy-makers.”

Mr Yeoh, who was Director of Economics and Strategy and Chief Economist at the GIC from 2000 to 2011, said that the paper “goes a long way” towards achieving its goal of outlining a holistic policy for affordable public housing in Singapore.

“Considering the authors are approaching a complex, technically arcane area with not much available data, it discusses the main arguments and alternatives cogently, rigorously and very competently,” the prominent economist pointed out.

But Mr Yeoh also had a few suggestions to improve on the policy. First, he said, the NOM scheme was unnecessarily restrictive. He suggested allowing resale of NOM flats on the open market after a period of 10 years.

The 10-year period should minimize any adverse impact on existing free-market prices of resale HDB flats.

Furthermore, he added, HDB should allow singles to buy flats irrespective of age (currently at 35).

He also wanted to see more emphasis on the need for a more extensive subsidised public rental market. Singapore needs to make such rental housing available to a large section of the population.

Another well-regarded analyst, Mr Leong Sze Hian (pictured, right), also viewed the SDP plan positively, saying that the policy “may help to reduce much of the financial that so many Singaporeans face today.”

“I therefore suggest that the Government, stakeholders and Singaporeans engage with more ideas, feedback and suggestions, and to explore the possibility of refining and using some, if not all of the features in the SDP Housing Plan,” Mr Leong urged.

Mr Yeoh concurred, remarking that the policy “is a much needed kick start to a crucial national debate on affordable housing.”

Read also: SDP proposes non-open market flats in housing policy

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