Shoebox flats 'almost inhuman'

Shoebox flats 'almost inhuman'

SINGAPORE should curb the increasing trend of so-called shoebox apartments because they are 'almost inhuman', CapitaLand chief executive officer Liew Mun Leong said. The Government last week said it was concerned that shoebox apartments are mushrooming as private home sales surged to a three-year high with record purchases of units that are smaller than 50sq m, or 538 sq ft.

'I am dead against shoebox developments,' Mr Liew said, in an interview at the downtown Singapore headquarters of South-east Asia's biggest developer. 'The Government should intervene. Singapore's land is very precious and you are wasting your scarce resources.'

Population growth, scarce land and surging property values have prompted developers to shrink apartment space.

Home prices surged to a record at the end of last year.

The Government may introduce measures to regulate the sale of shoebox apartments after a record number were sold in the first quarter, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament last week.

Developers sold 1,764 shoebox units in the first quarter, or 27per cent of all home sales, the most since the Urban Redevelopment Authority began collating the data in 2007.

'It's almost inhuman, it's not good for the welfare of the family to feel that constrained,' said Mr Liew, 65, who grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with nine people and often slept along the corridor.

Government controls have not slowed housing transactions in Singapore, driven by suburban projects, he said, reiterating the company's aim to sell as many as 1,000 homes annually over the next two to three years.

'We don't think we have an issue with' the target, he said. 'If you're aiming for the high-end, central core areas like Orchard Road, the numbers will not be so optimistic. If you're selling to the mass market, then the demand is still there.'

The next set of curbs may be targeted at smaller apartments, said Maybank Kim Eng Holdings analyst Wilson Liew.

CapitaLand is lobbying against shoebox units, said Mr Liew, citing a recent visit to a 400sq ft unit in Hong Kong.

'I used to joke that when I sat on the sofa, I didn't need the remote control to switch on the TV, I used my toes,' he said. 'If you build 200 sq ft, 300 sq ft for a family of two or three, you might as well stay in a box. There needs to be some degree of comfort level.'

Source: The Straits Times – 25 May 2012