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Draft Master Plan 2019: CBD To See More Homes

The government is looking to build more homes in the Central Business District so that more people can live closer to workplaces and amenities.

In its Draft Master Plan 2019, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) revealed that it will raise the live-in population within the central area by planning a variety of homes and amenities in areas like Downtown, Marina South and Rochor.

“There are opportunities to tap on the draw of Downtown living, amenities in the area, high transport connectivity, and the convenience that city living brings, to introduce more housing in the area,” said URA.

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“The injection of new housing options in Downtown will bring more homes to where jobs are, and cut down on commuting times for workers to and fro work.”

A larger live-in population will also inject more life after work hours, adding to the vibrancy and attractiveness of the city, it added.

With this, the government will introduce a CBD incentive scheme that offers higher gross plot ratio to encourage developers to convert existing office developments to residential and hotel uses.

Christine Li, senior director and head of research at Cushman & Wakefield, noted that the scheme could be beneficial for many office developments facing challenges when it comes to land use zoning.

“As residential and hotel use typically have a lower capital value, it does not make sense for land owners to downgrade to those development options without the increase in the plot ratio. With the new CBD Incentive Scheme in place, it will make commercial sense to look at various development options.”

For the scheme to take off, Li believes that the government needs to make some tweaks.

For instance, current hotel development charge (DC) rates as well as the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) are considered to be too prohibitive for property developers to even consider these development options.

This is especially true for residential properties within the CBD wherein a significant portion of demand comes from foreigners who face a 20 percent ABSD.

And while bringing residential developments back to the CBD is nothing new, earlier efforts by the government failed to yield the desired outcome.

“Hence I am of the view that co-living should be extensively adopted when the developers consider redevelopment options in the CBD in the future,” said Li.

“Currently, only the affluent expatriates and rich locals are able to afford living in the CBD. However, in order to make the CBD truly work-live-play, we should also bring in people from all walks of life to the CBD.”

Li is convinced that co-living may help achieve the intended consequence.

However, current rules such as the prohibition in having over six related people occupy a unit should be relaxed in order to increase city-living’s attractiveness, she said.

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