1. Good morning. It is great to be here. I just want to say a big thank you for inviting me to be part of your convention.
2. I want to start off by extending warmest congratulations to all award recipients. The awards are an appreciation of your steadfast commitment and valuable contributions to the industry. Well done!
3. Last year, I spoke about recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick snapshot:
a. Steady and significant progress has been made since – we lowered the DORSCON level from Yellow to Green, stepped down the remaining community measures, and established an endemic COVID-19 as the new norm.
b. So, we are pretty much back to normal, but this would not have been possible without all of you. It wouldn’t have been possible, without the mutual trust between the Government and people, and for each of us looking out for each other. We have emerged stronger from COVID-19, and this is a clear testament to Singaporeans’ resilience.
4. But I also want to share something about the lessons we have learnt and to say something about how we shouldn’t let our guards down. And that’s because of the geopolitical situation in the world today.
a. Singapore continues to face strong geopolitical headwinds, mainly the US-China tensions, the Russia-Ukraine war, and a global multilateral trading system under siege. You may wonder why I’m sharing this is, since it is not specific to the property market. But that is because I believe that all Singaporeans and people living here need to have an understanding of the larger situation, the global situation. Because we as Singaporeans must know our place in the world and how to navigate it. It is important to understand some of the bigger picture.
b. Our international reputation, for credibility, diligence, and bringing value to the table wherever we go, will stand us in good stead amidst an unprecedented global environment, and all of us ought to continue building and maintaining this “Singapore brand”.
c. More importantly, in these challenging times, there will be stresses on society. Instead of letting this break us, Singaporeans must stand united together whilst keeping up our go-getting spirit. Instead of letting adversities get to us, we must remain resilient and optimistic. We can achieve this by trusting in one another and supporting one another through difficult times. It is by doing so that we can overcome obstacles and emerge stronger than ever.
5. In line with today’s theme, “Aspire”, I want to take the opportunity to update everyone on our aspirations and the ongoing efforts in three key areas. First, housing and the property market; second, the real estate agency industry; and third, Singapore as one nation.
Aspirations for affordable and accessible public housing, as well as a stable and sustainable property market
6. Post-pandemic, Singapore’s housing situation and property market remains a hot topic. We have pandemic-induced disruptions and delays, along with changing societal trends, which have led to tighter supply and higher demand, contributing to rising property and rental prices.
7. Despite this, we have never lost sight of our aspiration to keep public housing affordable and accessible for Singaporeans.
a. HDB has been working hard to catch up on lost time. As of end March 2023, HDB has successfully delivered about 63% of the delayed BTO projects over the last two years.
b. We are also starting to see early signs that the market may be stabilising. In the February 2023 BTO sales launch, HDB received the lowest number of flat applications since the onset of the pandemic. This doesn’t mean that HDB flats are not in demand. But what it means is that the supply is beginning to catch up with the demand.
8. While these numbers are encouraging, our work does not stop here.
a. In Budget 2023, we announced tighter rules for non-selection and greater support for First-Timer Parents and Married Couples.
b. We have also increased the CPF Housing Grant to help First-Timer families buy resale flats.
c. On the supply side, we will not only launch up to 100,000 new BTO flats from 2021 to 2025, but also launch more flats with shorter waiting times.
9. We understand that there is also concern on the current tightness in the rental market. While rents had stayed broadly flat in the years preceding, we have seen sharp increases since 2021.
a. We expect the exceptional demand-supply imbalances in the rental market to improve as considerable supply comes onstream.
b. Across both public and private residential markets, we are expecting close to 100,000 home completions between 2023 and 2025, of which almost 40,000 will be achieved this year alone – the highest number in the last 5 years.
c. This means that households who are temporarily renting while awaiting the completion of their new homes will soon vacate their rental units, and this in turn will help to ease the rental market.
10. Housing is close to the hearts of many, and we are working hard to support the diverse housing aspirations of Singaporeans.
a. While we have been ramping up supply, with limited land resources, we will need to come together and agree on what to prioritise. That is a function of what happens when you have land constrains. That is why we are refreshing our social compact around housing.
Aspirations for a professional and robust real estate agency industry
11. I hope that all of you will continue to support us in our aspirations, not just for housing and the property market, but also for a professional and robust real estate agency industry.
12. We have often times shared with you the importance of consumers’ trust and the responsibilities that come with it, to act in the best interest of your clients. This would entail being transparent, honest and ethical in your dealings with clients. So I want to encourage all of you to continue to uphold these values and always act with responsibility and ethics at the forefront of your minds.
13. CEA has observed and received complaints on emerging trends in the advertisements put out by some property agents.
a. Some marketed new developments that have not been approved for sale, as well as HDB flats where the owners had not fulfilled the Minimum Occupation Period.
b. Others, when pitching to homeowners, alluded to having a network of new citizen clients willing to purchase or rent homes at exorbitant prices, which may give the wrong impression that such clients are driving up property prices and rents.
c. In carrying out estate agency work, I hope all of you will conduct your duties ethically and professionally by complying with CEA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care and regulatory guidelines. This includes advertising properties responsibly. Property agencies must also play their part in vetting their agents’ advertising materials. I am sure that this is something that we can all work together to address.
14. My colleagues and I have also spoken much about digitalisation, particularly in the context of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map, or Real Estate ITM in short.
a. OrangeTee & Tie has taken big and concrete strides in this area. Currently, among the five largest property agencies, which include OrangeTee & Tie, many processes are digitalised.
b. The OrangeTee Agent App has also made progress through its RenTAPP feature, which I understand was recently upgraded with an improved condition report process to further ease agents’ workload for rental transactions.
c. Today, the majority of its agents are also digitally trained, and we hope you can continue to provide training for digital skills.
d. This is as much a mindset, to be digital-ready and think about how we can improve processes while protecting against risks. So it is both mindset as well as a technical skill.
e. Digitalisation is a necessary effort, but it will take time and determination.
15. Another point to the industry is about upskilling. OrangeTee & Tie has been a very constructive partner with CEA and the industry on Project ADEPT (Advancing and Enhancing Professionalism and Training) to strengthen the competencies of our agents so that they can deliver better property transaction experiences.
a. The workgroup’s report was published on the CEA website last month and the finalised recommendations will be announced in the coming weeks.
16. OrangeTee & Tie is also participating in another workgroup co-led by CEA and the industry that seeks to review the industry’s examination syllabi to better prepare aspiring property agents and Key Executive Officers in their new duties and roles.
a. All of you are very busy servicing your clients, which is why I want to express my appreciation for your contributions to industry development.
Aspirations for a united Singapore and moving forward amidst global uncertainty
17. Finally, let me just say a little bit about what we hope to do for Singapore moving forward and also about ForwardSG. My parliamentary colleagues and I have been actively speaking about and engaging citizens on Forward Singapore. Just last week, Parliament debated on the President’s Address, which sets out our plans for the future, we talked about how we can refresh our social compact, and how we can reshape Singapore’s society going forward.
a. These plans go beyond housing. This concerns the future of Singapore and all Singaporeans, including all of you here today.
b. The Government will continue to keep our economy vibrant, innovative, and open. At the same time, we will empower Singaporeans and upskill workers to seize the opportunities.
c. We also want to keep our society inclusive, and we will put resources into caring for different segments of society, including youths, seniors, Persons with Disabilities, and those in need, and also for the seniors. You will see parents and grandparents aging. As they do, you will know that they need care, that there are resources that we need to put in to to look after them. So, this is something that we must do together as the profile and age of our society changes.
d. More broadly, we also want Singapore to remain a socially mobile society – our children must have a chance to do better than us, just as each of you had the chance to do better than your parents and grandparents. To achieve this, we will also refine our approach to meritocracy, by valuing Singaporeans’ diverse abilities, and creating more diverse pathways and opportunities. MOE is hard at work at that, but it doesn’t stop a school, it continues when we go into working life. So all our agencies are looking at this to make sure that we create different pathways to allow all of you and, most importantly, your children, to achieve their aspirations.
18. As always, we welcome any feedback you have. Please sign up for the ForwardSG engagements and discussions if you have not already done so. There are many different topics, choose the one that’s close to your heart. And just remember that in doing so, you will be actively contributing to how we reshape Singapore and refresh our social compact.
19. So let me end by once again, congratulating all award recipients on your achievements. Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to our Muslim friends, and Happy Labour Day in advance to everyone. Thank you.