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Woodlands: Affordable housing and nearby jobs

uni.sutiah@edgeprop.sg

More than 30 years ago, Woodlands was not the town it is today, but a collection of kampungs. With the advent of industrialisation, the area underwent a facelift that has transformed it into a major urban town.

One of Singapore’s biggest HDB towns, Woodlands experienced a population boom in the 1990s, shortly after it was developed. Today, it has a population of more than 240,000 residents living across 68,153 HDB flats. Its original, thickly wooded façade when viewed from the Johor side of the Johor Straits inspired the name Woodlands.


Woodlands consists of nine subzones, and is surrounded by Sungei Kadut, forested Mandai, and sea-facing Sembawang. Photo credit: www.ura.gov.sg

Woodlands is bound by the Seletar Expressway to its south, Woodlands Avenue 12 to its east, Bukit Timah Expressway to its west, and part of its north is bound by Admiralty Road West. It has nine subzones: Woodlands Regional Centre, Woodlands East, Woodlands West, Woodlands South, Woodgrove, Senoko West, North Coast, Midview, and Greenwood Park. Admiralty and Marsiling are also part of Woodlands. As examples, Admiralty Grove is within Woodlands East, and Marsiling Road is within Woodlands West.


Established township with extensive amenities


Causeway Point is adjacent to Woodlands MRT Station. Photo credit: Loh Xiu Ruth

Woodlands’ main shopping mall is Causeway Point. Housing Cathay Cineplex movie theatres and more than 250 shops, including Cold Storage and Courts, the mall is a one-stop centre for shoppers. Woodlands also remains true to its name, with multiple parks dotted across its land. These include Woodlands Waterfront Park along the coast; Admiralty Park with its 26 slides—the most in any park nationwide—and a total size of 27 hectares; the refurbished and picturesque Marsiling Park; and Woodlands Town East Park.


With 26 slides in Admiralty Park, kids will have no shortage of outdoor fun to keep them occupied for a good few hours. Photo credit: Loh Xiu Ruth

As Woodlands is an old heartland with deep community roots, there are multiple wet markets for the residents, including Woodlands Vista Wet Market and Marsiling Lane Market & Cooked Food Centre.


How prices of Woodlands HDB units fare

Ong Teck Hui, senior director of research and consultancy at JLL, says, “Prices of HDB resale flats in Woodlands are among the lowest of all the HDB towns, which reflects the affordability of their buyers.” He says this means upgrading to private homes may not be so robust among Woodlands HDB residents.

As an example, a 1,345-sq-ft, five-room premium apartment model HDB unit on a middle floor transacted in March 2019 for $485,000 ($360 psf). This unit is a 15-minute walk from Woodlands MRT Station and Causeway Point shopping mall. Another 721-sq-ft, three-room new generation model HDB unit on a low floor transacted in March 2019 for $255,000 ($353 psf). It is a 10-minute walk from Causeway Point.

Slightly farther away, a 980-sq-ft,four-room, new-generation model HDB unit on a mid-to-high-floor transacted in June 2019 for $250,000 ($255 psf). This unit lies along Marsiling Drive, about 15 minutes from the MRT station and Causeway Point by bus.

URA Realis data shows only 2,769 private residential units in the Woodlands planning area, says Ong. In contrast, the number of executive condos (ECs) has grown to 3,850 because of many EC sites being sold by the state and developed in recent years, he says.

A recent addition to the Woodlands EC family would be Northwave EC, completed this year. Built along Woodlands View within the Woodlands East subzone and showcasing 358 units, Northwave’s current highest psf price to date is $993 for a 980-sq-ft new unit transacted in June 2019. Another recent EC is Bellewoods, which was completed in 2017, has 561 units, and showcases a historical psf high of $903 for a 1,066-sq-ft unit, transacted in June 2019 as a new unit.


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Largest business node in the north

“Woodlands is seen as the gateway to Johor Bahru, as well as an industrial node. Buyers tend to perceive it as far from the city,” says Ong. These characteristics, he says, may have contributed the “relatively less developed” private residential market in Woodlands.


A collection of HDB flats located across the road from Causeway Point. Photo credit: Loh Xiu Ruth

However, under the Draft Master Plan 2019, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has identified  Woodlands Regional Centre as the largest business node in Singapore’s north. “Over the next 15 years, new spaces for business, industry, research and development, and learning and innovation will be introduced to Woodlands Regional Centre on over 100 hectares of developable land,” says the URA website, listing the development of the new Agri-Food Innovation Park at Sungei Kadut next door as a springboard for growth in innovative sectors.

JLL’s Ong observes that the URA’s plans are to develop several “gateways” that will encompass key employment nodes and infrastructure in supporting global connection to external markets and strengthen Singapore’s competitive advantage. “Woodlands Regional Centre will be The Northern Gateway’s strategic centre…connected to other parts of the island through the North-South Line (NSL) and the Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL),” he says.

The expected boost in employment will increase demand for both public and private housing, according to Ong, although he notes “demand for private homes in Woodlands and their price appreciation are likely to remain modest as before”.


Rental yields

Over the past 10 years, prices of certain major non-landed and private residential developments in Woodlands rose by an average of 45% to 60%, Ong says. This is modest compared to the 76% increase over the same period in the URA price index for private non-landed homes in Singapore’s Outside Central Region (OCR) area. But he reckons this could be down to the age of these projects—two examples are Northoaks (19 years old) and La Casa (11 years old).

Despite the perceived distance from town, Woodlands’ 99-year-old leasehold condos command an average rental yield of 2.5%. Ong says this rental yield is on a par with those of other properties in different suburban areas.

For homebuyers wondering if an area in the OCR such as Woodlands is a good investment bet, Ong says, “About half the private residential stock [in Singapore] is located in OCR areas, but the OCR only accounts for 37% of total leasing transactions. This shows that properties within OCR areas generally are good for owner-occupiers, rather than [investors looking at rental yield].”

However, he says that there is still investor demand for properties like those in Woodlands that are near employment nodes, MRT stations, and amenities, since these properties are more likely to attract tenants. Woodlands also beckons with affordable public housing, seasoned private housing, and an ecosystem of functional amenities with leisure options, plus a boost from its proximity to Johor Bahru.

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