The Singapore we enjoy today is largely the result of careful long-term urban planning. Every plot of land in Singapore is zoned for a particular use, be it residential, commercial or hotel, and these uses are made known far in advance as part of our Concept and Master plans.
Private residential properties in Singapore are subject to a minimum stay duration of 3 consecutive months. This differentiates residential properties from hotels. This distinction is necessary, given the impact of transient occupants on other residents and the potential impact on safety and security in the estate.
Within the residential zoning, we presently allow for Serviced Apartments (SAs), subject to certain safeguards. For example, SAs are allowed only in areas where infrastructure is able to accommodate the higher number of transient users, and where there is lower likelihood of dis-amenities to the residential neighbours. In addition, there is a minimum of 7 days for the duration of stay in a Serviced Apartment.
While this planning framework has served us well, advances in technology and changing consumer trends have led to a blurring of lines between residential and hotel uses. Facilitated by online platforms and mobile applications, there has been a surge of short-term accommodation (STA) options in residential properties all over the world. While this started off largely as an unregulated activity, the situation has evolved in recent years, due to concerns over abuses and the impact on housing affordability. Some cities like Berlin and New York City have clamped down aggressively on STA in residential properties, while others like Tokyo have allowed some form of STA activities, with regulations imposed on the activities and the parties involved.
Within Singapore, there are diverse views on the matter. Some welcome the trend of STA, as it allows homeowners to supplement their income and provides more accommodation options for tourists. Others are not supportive of homes being used for STA and have raised concerns about noise disturbance, abuse of common property, and the loss of privacy and security due to transient occupants in their estates. At the same time, those in the hotel and Serviced Apartment businesses have also called for a more level playing field in the regulatory framework.
The Government has been studying the possibility of introducing a regulatory framework for STA in private residential properties, with appropriate measures to address the concerns of residents and industry stakeholders. The detailed proposals are set out in the following sections.
New STA Use Category for Private Residential Properties
We propose that a new use category of STA be permitted for private residential properties. In other words, this will apply only to private properties that are already approved for residential use, and not for HDB properties.
Property owners have to agree for the STA use to be applied to their properties. For non-strata-titled properties (i.e. developments without Management Corporations, MCSTs), the owner(s) can decide on the matter, and put in an application to URA to be registered as STA, subject to the requirements highlighted below.
For strata-titled properties (i.e. those governed by an MCST) such as apartments and condominiums, it is necessary to get the views of all strata-titled property owners, as each owner owns a share of the common property, as provided for in the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA). Hence, they should be given a say in the decision on whether or not to fundamentally change the nature of their residential property to one with STA use.
Nevertheless we recognise that it may not be practical to get consensus from 100% of the owners. Hence we propose the following solution:
It would be sufficient for the MCST to get the support of at least 80% of the share value in favour of STA use in the development. This is to ensure that a significant majority of owners (i.e. Subsidiary Proprietors or SPs) agree to the presence of short-term rental activities in their development.
This MCST endorsement will be valid for a 2-year period and needs to be renewed with an updated vote count each time. If the level of consent falls below 80%, the earlier endorsement will not be renewed.
Legislative changes will be needed to the BMSMA to provide for this arrangement.
Planning Criteria and Requirements for STA
In assessing the applications for STA, URA will consider the impact of STA use on the surrounding community. This includes factors such as the type of residential development, the character of the area and the presence (or absence) of a formal self-governance structure within the residential estate.
For example, strata-title developments have an MCST in place to administer by-laws and implement localised security measures to protect the amenity of their residents and effectively mitigate the impact of STA use. Hence if there is owners’ consent for STA use, URA will be prepared to consider the application for STA use favourably. This would be especially so for properties that are located in mixed-use areas such as commercial centres and business parks, or sites that are fronting major and arterial roads with good traffic infrastructure.
On the other hand, most landed housing estates are located in areas that are relatively quiet with narrow estate roads. There is no MCST-like governance structure and the presence of STA will have greater impact on residents. Hence URA is unlikely to approve STA use in such areas. Likewise, properties where there are already dis-amenities in the surrounding area will not be allowed for STA use. This includes areas where there are existing social concerns related to security and vice.
In addition, we propose to introduce the following measures to guard against the erosion of residential amenity and character of our housing estates:
Annual rental cap of 90 days that the property can be used for STA;
Occupancy cap of 6 persons per unit at any one time, in line with URA’s occupancy cap of 6 un-related persons for private residential units;
Compulsory registration by each individual property owner with URA prior to listing the property for STA use, or to allow such use to take place;
All approved STA hosts will be required to provide URA a record of guest details for each stay. This is aligned with the requirement for the particulars of all guests staying in hotels to be recorded for security reasons.
Compliance with fire safety requirements specific to STA use.