Design, Build and Sell Scheme

Singapore Infopedia


The Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) was announced on 7 March 2005 in Parliament by then Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan. The scheme aimed to involve the private sector in building public housing and create a public housing programme that was more responsive to the needs of residents. In addition, it sought to introduce greater innovation in the building and design of flats, hence resulting in more options for flat buyers. DBSS was also part of the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) plans to gradually outsource projects to the private sector.1 The scheme was suspended in 2011.

Before the implementation of DBSS, private architects and contractors were already involved in the design and building of some HDB flats under the Build and Design Scheme.2 Under DBSS, however, developers could also bid for the open land tender and were involved in the design, construction and marketing of the flats. Private developers had the freedom to come up with the flat design, size, type and configuration as long as they follow HDB’s general principles of open concept, building quality and safety, and avoidance of facilities that are expensive to maintain. Private developers could also set the sale prices and any sale conditions such as deferred payments or discounts, as long as these are in line with the rules of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. After construction was completed, maintenance of common areas would be handed over to HDB, which was also responsible for the enforcement and administration of the lease conditions of the flats.3

Though built by private developers, DBSS flats were sold under the Housing and Development Act. This meant that criteria such as family nucleus, ethnic integration policies and the monthly household income ceiling would still apply in the sale of such flats. First-time buyers could apply for Central Provident Fund (CPF) housing grants ranging from S$20,000 to S$50,000. Eligible buyers could also obtain loans from HDB at concessionary rates.4 The price of DBSS flats was measured against the prices of new and resale HDB flats.5 To make DBSS flats more attractive to buyers, the priority given to first-time buyers during balloting and to couples who bought flats within close proximity of their parents’ homes would be removed by HDB one month after a development is launched. Second-time buyers were also exempted from paying the resale levy on the price of their previous flat when they bought a DBSS flat.6

The launch of DBSS initially generated little interest from private developers due to uncertain demand, especially with a surplus of 9,000 new flats and unfamiliarity with the public housing market, which came with a list of government policies and restrictions. To encourage private developers’ participation, HDB released the demand and supply statistics of its new and resale flats, which had previously been confidential data. These statistics included the number of bookings for new flats, resale demand and prices in an area to help private developers gauge the demand for flats in a particular area. A number of briefings were also held between HDB, the Real Estate Developers Association and private developers to update on the new scheme and its restrictions.

Pilot site
The pilot DBSS site sale tender was launched on 27 October 2005 and public sale of the flats was opened in October 2006. The development, The Premiere@Tampines, was located at Tampines Avenue 6. It offered 616 units of mixed five-, four- and two-room flats. Unlike typical HDB flats, the units at The Premiere@Tampines came with balconies, built-in wardrobes and air-conditioning. Purchasing of the flat was done through a balloting system due to the overwhelming response: there were 3,655 applications for 616 units.8

Subsequent developments
Interest for DBSS flats remained high for subsequent projects due to their centralised locations and condominium-like finishing.9 Between 2005 and 2012, 13 DBSS flats were launched:10

1. The Premiere@Tampines
2. City View@Boon Keng
3. Park Central@Ang Mo Kio
4. Natura Loft (Bishan)
5. Parc Lumiere (Simei)
6. The Peak@Toa Payoh
7. Adora Green (Yishun)
8. Centrale 8 (Tampines)
9. Belvia (Bedok)
10. Parkland Residences (Hougang)
11. Lake Vista@Yuan Ching
12. Trivelis (Clementi)
13. Pasir Ris One

Suspension of scheme

In June 2011, when Centrale-8 was launched in Tampines, the estimated price of S$880,000 for its five-room flat caused a public outcry: DBSS flats were said to be too expensive despite being public housing flats. Later that month, the developer announced that the confirmed price for a five-room flat at Centrale 8 would be S$778,000.

As public complaints about the escalating prices of DBSS flats continued, the Ministry of National Development reviewed the scheme in 2011, and in that same year, suspended future land sales for DBSS projects. However, this suspension would not affect DBSS sites that had already been awarded to developers. As such, the last DBSS development, Pasir Ris One, was launched in 2012.

Subsequently, in 2018, the Ministry of National Development confirmed that it would not reactivate the scheme.11

Lee Meiyu

1. Alexandra Ho, “HDB Flats to Be Designed, Built, Sold Like Private Ones,” Business Times, 8 March 2005, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Chua Mui Hoong, “Private Sector to Sell HDB Flats: Risky But Bold,” Straits Times, 8 March 2005, 5; “Steps to Allow New Housing Scheme,” Straits Times, 19 July 2005, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Ho, “HDB Flats to Be Designed.”
4. Ho, “HDB Flats to Be Designed”; “CPF Housing Grants for DBSS Flats,” Housing and Development Board, accessed 10 September 2019; “Design, Build and Sell Scheme,” Housing and Development Board, accessed 2 March 2020.
5. Mah Bow Tan, “The Housing & Development (Amendment) Bill Second Reading,” speech, 15 August 2005, transcript, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20050815981)
6. Daryl Loo, “HDB Moves to Attract Private Builders,” Straits Times, 14 October 2005, 12; “Private Developers Can Now Design, Build – and Sell – HDB Flats, Today, 8 September 2005, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Loo, “HDB Moves to Attract Private Builders.” 
8. Daryl Loo, “Builders Attend HDB’s Site Sale Launch,” Straits Times, 28 October 2005, 18; Arthur Sim, “HDB’s Design & Sell Flats Awaited,” Business Times, 5 October 2006, 28; Arthur Sim, “Overwhelming Response to HBD’s The Premiere,” Business Times, 12 October 2006, 37. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Fiona Chan, “3,500 Vied for 714 Condo-Like Flats in Boon Keng, But only 460 Sold,” Straits Times, 25 March 2008, 24; Joyce Teo, “Over 2,300 Vie for 578 Condo-Like Flats in AMK,” Straits Times, 7 August 2008, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Esther Teo, “Over 1,000 DBSS Flats Still Unsold Since Scheme’s Suspension,” Straits Times, 17 September 2012, 6; Jessica Cheam, “Natura Loft to Be Launched on Friday,” Straits Times, 29 October 2008, 46; Joyce Teo, “Simei Condo-Style Flats: No Balloting,” Straits Times, 17 April 2009, 34; Gabriel Chen, “Huge Demand for Flats at The Peak,” Straits Times, 29 April 2009, 31;Karen Ng, “First Yishun DBSS Project to Be Launched After CNY,” Business Times, 17 November 2010, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Cheryl Ong, “Prices Slashed After DBSS Flats Uproar,” Straits Times, 22 June 2011, 1; “DBSS Land Sales Suspended as Scheme Being Reviewed: Khaw,” Business Times, 5 July 2011, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Parliament of Singapore, “Circular for Questions for Written Answer – 6 February 2018,” press release, 6 February 2018. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. 20180206007)z

The information in this article is valid as at March 2020 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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