There was a letter from a certain Mr Zhuang Li-Hao that was published in the Straits Times forum page yesterday. Mr Zhuang felt that existing policies curb transaction volumes, but are by themselves inflationary. This is why prices continue to rise despite the various rounds of cooling measures.
He suggested two ways to modify current housing policies to create more stable housing prices and demand:
1. Replace Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) and Seller's Stamp Duty (SSD) with a capital gain tax
Mr Zhuang feels that both ABSD and SSD deter speculators, but directly increase the costs of ownership and transaction. And in a rising housing market, buyers and sellers will hold on to their positions. Sellers in particular, will build the ABSD and SDD into selling prices. As such, the number of transactions drop as prices increase.
He proposed to replace ABSD and SSD with a capital gain tax of 100%, 75%, 50% and 25% respectively in the first four years. In this way, the cost of ownership remains the same. Speculators have no incentive to buy and sell since all profits are taxed, especially in the first year, while genuine buyers and sellers are not punished.
2. Replace the Cash Over Valuation (COV) with Cash Over HDB PriceThe COV component for resale flats creates a volatile and unstable system as valuation is based on the last transaction. In a rising market, every transaction increases valuation by the COV amount.
Mr Zhuang proposed to replace COV with cash over HDB price. The prices of flats that HDB sold to first owners are fixed. The new component will force buyers to fund the difference between the selling and original prices with cash or CPF savings, and not with loans. He felt that thus will immediately create a stable pricing system.
A couple of thoughts came to our minds after reading the article:
- The wife and I have bought and sold 3 different properties over the course of 6 years, prior to our current home. We only owned those properties for less than 2 years each BUT we were staying in all the property concerned during the period of ownership. So does that still make us a speculator as opposed to genuine buyer and seller?
- While we understand the (real) reason why our Government will prefer alternative form of measures to cool the market rather than imposing capital gain tax, is the later really a more effective measure to stabilize housing prices and demand? The proposal by Mr Zhuang is likely to kill the sub-sale market instantly and reduce activities in the resale market somewhat. But if it is indeed true that the current high prices are due to exceptional strong demand for mass-market homes from genuine upgraders with primarily HDB addresses, even the change-over to a capital gain tax will have a muted effect on buying interests.
- And speaking of COV and escalating HDB resale prices, the wife and I (wife in particular) believe that the whole purpose of subsidized public housing is to ensure that every Singaporean has a roof over their heads and to fulfill their aspirations of home ownership. It is not meant to be a mechanism for people to make (indecent) amount of money out of. We feel that one of the primary reason why prices for mass-market homes are being "chased up" to the current levels is because of the money that potential HDB upgraders can make out of selling their flats these days. As such, the Cash Over HDB Price proposal is an interesting proposition. The public housing market should be "controlled" for both the new and resale markets. You can have all the free market mechanism you want in the private housing sector.
The above are just our humble opinions as always. We love to hear what you think.
Have a great week ahead!