Singapore acts to stop apartments from shrinking further

Tue Sep 4, 2012 10:12am EDT
 
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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore took steps on Tuesday to ensure developers build apartments of different sizes rather than just tiny "shoebox" units, addressing complaints about the shrinking size of accommodation on a small island with big land constraints.

From November 4, apartments in new suburban condominium projects must have an average floor area of 70 square meters (753 square feet) -- a rule that will prevent developers from building whole blocks of shoebox units as small as 30 square meters.

Shoebox units, which can be the size of three parking lot spaces, have been popular with investors because of lower selling prices but they tend to be more expensive than other apartments on a per square meter basis.

"The new guidelines will discourage new developments consisting predominantly of 'shoebox' units outside the central area, but at the same time give flexibility to developers to offer a range of homes of different sizes," the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said in a statement.

"A large concentration of such (shoebox) developments can strain the local road infrastructure as the number of housing units ends up much higher than what was originally planned for."

Anger has been flaring in Singapore, a trade and finance center, over rising prices, an influx of foreigners and worsening congestion on a land-scarce island.

The city-state's housing minister warned earlier this year that the government was concerned about "pockets of hot activity" in the housing market, citing shoebox apartments as an example.

Liew Mun Leong, chief executive of Southeast Asia's largest developer CapitaLand, weighed in on the debate by describing the tiny apartments as "almost inhuman".

Chua Yang Liang, head of research for Southeast Asia at Jones Lang LaSalle, described the latest URA measure as "a welcome move in light of rising concerns over the proliferation of such smaller housing forms".

(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by John O'Callaghan)