HDB flats approaching end of lease (MND – COS)

If the Government does not have any specific plans for flats when their leases expire, I think it should make this clear to the public, so that buyers can factor this in when choosing a resale flat, and they don’t pay too high a premium for older flats.

This speech today was a follow up to a Parliamentary Question I asked in January, regarding the value of HDB flats at the end of their 99-year lease. I will post the Minister’s reply next week once it is out on the Hansard.

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Madam,

Government leaders have, over the years, frequently told Singaporeans that their HDB flats are an asset which they can monetise during retirement. However, less frequent are the reminders that, as a flat approaches the end of its 99-year lease, its asset value will depreciate to zero.

While most Singaporeans know that their flats are on a limited lease, many assume that HDB will not let their assets become worth nothing, or that their flats will eventually go through an “en bloc” before their leases expire.

The Minister told me in a reply to my PQ in January that the selection of sites and the pace of SERS (the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme) will depend on factors such as their redevelopment potential, and the availability of replacement sites for rehousing, and other resources.

Can the Minister confirm whether all old flats will eventually be replaced through SERS before they reach their end of lease? If not, what proportion will be not be replaced?

Other than SERS, what are the Government’s plans for HDB flats that approach their end-of-lease? For example, will their leases get topped up, and will the topping up cost be borne by HDB, or the lessees?

There are now over 31,000 flats which are more than 40 years into their lease. I’m sure many young couples are still buying these resale flats, which would mean that the leases may end within their lifetimes.

If the Government does not have any specific plans for flats when their leases expire, I think it should make this clear to the public, so that buyers can factor this in when choosing a resale flat, and they don’t pay too high a premium for older flats.

Parliamentary Questions: Rental housing, MRT overcrowding and healthcare expenditure

During Question Time in Parliament on Monday (21 November 2011), I asked five questions on the issues of rental housing, MRT overcrowding, MediShield insurance premiums and claims, Medifund claims and healthcare costs vis-a-vis Singaporeans’ household expenditure. Here are the salient points from the ministers’ answers and debate.

During Question Time in Parliament on Monday (21 November 2011), I asked five questions on the issues of rental housing, MRT overcrowding, MediShield insurance premiums and claims, Medifund claims and healthcare costs vis-a-vis Singaporeans’ household expenditure. Here are the salient points from the ministers’ answers and debate.

Rental housing

I asked National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan if his ministry would consider allowing those earning more than $1,500 a month to still rent flats from the HDB, but pay higher rental rates.

Currently HDB rules prohibit households earning more than $1,500 a month from renting from HDB, where they enjoy significant rental subsidies. The minister had said individual appeals from those earning slightly more than the threshold are allowed on a case-by-case basis. He said that the government preferred to encourage people to buy flats rather than rent. Citing statistics from recent sales of Built-to-Order (BTO), or new, HDB flats, he pointed out that new three-room flats were within the purchasing power of even households earning less than $1,500 per month, taking into account the housing grants available.

However, from my meetings with residents during meet-the-people sessions (MPS), I have encountered many who earn slightly more than $1,500 a month yet cannot afford to buy BTO flats. Some had just sold their flats, due to divorce or financial difficulty, and could not afford to pay the resale levy on the profits of their sale. Others needed housing urgently and could not wait for two to three years for the BTO flat to be built. In short, many of these residents are shut out of the BTO market and had no choice but to bunk in with friends or family in very crowded conditions. They would usually come to MPS when their friends or family members were threatening to evict them. Rental from the open market is not really an option, since they would need to pay over $800 just for a single room.

Hence my suggestion was to have a middle tier of public rental rates, somewhere in between the $200 or so that HDB currently charges and the $800 open market rental rate, for those who earn beyond the $1,500 income threshold but are not able to buy BTO flats.

The minister said his ministry will look into this suggestion and that he belongs to the “school of thought” which agrees that exceptions can be made for these families.

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