SINGAPORE will privatise two projects under the Housing and Urban Development Co in order to meet the increasing aspirations of its citizens to upgrade to private property.
The government has designated Pine Grove and Gillman Heights estates as a pilot project for the conversion, which will see the leases of the flats in the two estates converted to strata title.
Singapore commissioner in Hong Kong, See Chak Mun, said the move was to cater to the middle class and was part of the social policy of the country to keep up with the aspirations of the people.
He said the move would make it easier for the flats to be upgraded to condominium status, with self-management, higher property values and a higher standard of living.
Under the privatisation scheme, Hong Kong immigrants have another option - buying HUDC flats that are comparable to private properties, but less expensive.
Owners of the HUDC flats can sell their properties to foreigners if the building is at least six storeys high.
About 6,500 Hong Kong families have moved to Singapore.
But Mr See said this was not due to the housing situation in the island republic.
Mr See said that when HUDC flat owners sold their flats, they stood to gain on the land cost which was not inclusive at the time of purchase.
He said a private 1,000 square foot flat cost roughly S$800,000 (about HK$4.35 million).
About 87 per cent of Singapore citizens lived in public housing - Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats. Of these, 81 per cent owned their own flats.
The HDB flats were sold with a 99-year lease and lessees were required to complete a minimum of five years before resale was allowed.
Mr See said residential property prices had been increasing since early 1991.
Prices for detached houses had risen 400 per cent and semi-detached houses rose 30 per cent, while prices for condominiums rose by 20 per cent.
'This is in line with the jump in income,' Mr See said.
Property consultants believed demand for private apartments and freehold properties in Singapore was likely to rise, with more people wanting to upgrade and others aspiring to own a second or third property.