For many young Singaporean couples, getting their own place is one of the most coveted of milestones. After all, there’s nothing like moving out from under the wings of your parents to kinda feel like an adult (even if you’re not one, internally).
But the Covid-19 pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. With over 85% of BTO projects having their construction delayed due to manpower shortages, many young couples have been forced to hit a pause on their key collection – and other life goals as well. We speak to a few of them to find out how they’re handling the cards they’ve been dealt.
Project: Dakota One, Dakota
Delay: 1 year
For Alastair and Lynette, a sound engineer and admin executive respectively, the delay in housing meant a similar one for their life goals – especially when it came to finding a school for their 1-year-old son.
“If everything had gone as planned, my son would be going to nursery and kindergarten in our eventual estate of Dakota. But now, we are still staying with our in-laws at Sengkang, so he has to go to a temporary school,” said Alastair.
The couple originally hoped for the flat they applied for to be ready by December 2020. However, with the pandemic news, the couple managed their expectations, hoping for it to be done in mid-2021 as slated.
Months turned to a year, however. Soon, an email from HDB was the bearer of bad news: it was more likely due year end instead of mid-year, and the collection of keys could even hit 2022.
“We were so disheartened. We didn’t think our son had to transfer between schools originally – now, it’s more research.”
Another pain point: extra school fees which can add up to 4-figures for transferring a child midway. Enrolling a kid in a competitive neighbourhood like Dakota could take up to a year of pre-booking, too, which Alastair says is hard considering the uncertain timeline.
There is a silver lining, though: their son is spending more time with his grandparents. “My in-laws also helped so much when my wife was pregnant previously, like during confinement. And now, we get to enjoy home cooked meals.”
Ultimately, the couple has no regrets.
“I’d still go with BTO – everyone needs to go through a journey, painful though it might be. Things will work out eventually. Till then, I’ll keep driving by the site to check out its progress,” Alastair laughed.
Project: SkyOasis at Dawson, Queenstown
Delay: Nearly 1 year
Hannah and Yee Keong experienced a delay not once, but twice for their HDB. The first was six months from end-2020 till June 2021, and the second was four months later till October.
“We expected the first one,” said Hannah, “it was all in the news so we mentally prepared ourselves.” But the second delay came as a surprise. Their project site was specifically affected as one of the workers got Covid-19, leading to the entire team to get quarantined.
Image credit: Hannah
“Wah suay,” the couple had said when they heard the news. They are unsure if the Phase 2 Heightened Alert would further delay things, but they did hear from friends who opted for side-by-side projects that key collection was delayed.
The couple was exasperated that this would affect their milestones. For instance, they originally planned to register their marriage (ROM) in 2020 to submit the cert within six months of the expected key collection. Now, that was pushed back.
“We wanted to move in by this year’s Chinese New Year, but that didn’t happen,” Hannah laughed. “Hopefully, 2022. Maybe.”
They’ve since extended their stay at Yee Keong’s parents place, which is just across the road from their future project site. “We can actually see if there are people working on it!” Despite looking right at the block, they couldn’t plan renovation in advance either, due to a unique floorplan which makes virtual tours a poor substitute.
Image credit: Hannah
Space at the current place also became a challenge. “We bought appliances in advance during 11.11 sales like an oven, rice cooker and coffee machines,” Hannah explained. That led to stacking up in their current flat, coupled with even less space as more people had to WFH.
Renting or getting a resale isn’t an option, though. According to Yee Keong, the costs for renting doesn’t make sense in the long-run, and resale prices for Queenstown are “astronomical.”
His advice? Consider the needs of your partner and family when it comes to temporary arrangements, and have a few iterations of how to use space in case the situation changes.
Project: Kim Keat Ripples, Toa Payoh
Delay: 6 months
For Jack and Yen, the escalating Covid-19 situation was told to them at an earlier stage of the house-buying process when they paid the option fee. “We were informed right at the counter of HDB Hub that the completion date would be delayed by six months!”
Image credit: Jack
Besides the milestone of getting a house, the pandemic also wreaked havoc on the couple’s plans like marriage and kids. As Yen’s parents resided in Penang, they couldn’t hold their wedding as they wanted parents on both sides of the Causeway to be involved. The idea of having kids had to take a back seat, too, due to the volatile situation.
But instead of dwelling on the upset, the couple went into problem-solving mode and brainstormed a few options.
Option 1: Staying at their in-laws place. “We had to plan different wake-up times so we needn’t all wash up at the same time,” Jack explained.
Option 2: Renting their own space till the flat is ready in 2025. An idea floated was getting a studio apartment a stone’s throw from Jack’s parents place in Jurong West.
To other couples, the practical duo had this to say, “Devise back-up plans in case the situation doesn’t improve – it always pays to plan for contingencies.”
Project: Boon Lay Glade, Jurong West
Delay: 9 months
Lisa and Clement shared that they were scheduled to get their BTO in Q4 2022 originally, but it was estimated to be delayed for about nine months due to the shortage of labour during the pandemic.
“When we first got the email from HDB, we were devastated.” But the couple since grew to accept it as there was nothing they could do. Empathising with other couples in a similar plight also helped.
Lisa understands it’s due to the restriction of movement and number of workers on site to prevent Covid-19 from resurging, coupled with supply chain disruptions and manpower shortage in the construction industry.
Image credit: Google Maps
The still unbuilt Boon Lay Glade site (street view)
Image credit: Google Maps
Currently, the couple are staying at Clement’s parents’ house in Kembangan, and are extending their stay till 2023 at least. “Fortunately, we are married but family planning might be delayed since we do not have a place of our own,” Lisa explained of the couple’s plans.
The duo sees this as a blessing in disguise as Clement’s parents are accommodating, and give them space and freedom. “There is joy in knowing we spent more quality time with our elderly parents.” Another unexpected upside was that the delayed plans freed up more time for hobbies, such as cooking and baking for Lisa.
Image for illustration only.
Clement echoes this focus on looking at the bright side, “Make the best out of it, don’t fixate on it and try to focus on other important goals.”
Though it can be disappointing and frustrating to have your plans on hold due to the pandemic, the optimistic spirit of these couples prove that you don’t have to let it get you down. With the construction sector still in pause mode, and other pandemic-wrought challenges, couples can consider alternatives like interim rental housing via the HDB website.
Else, if you’re staying with relatives or renting out a space meantime, here are some helpful resources as well:
Cover image for illustration only.
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