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High consent threshold for collective sales appropriate

Singapore may be one of the most populated cities in the world, but that alone is insufficient to justify lowering the threshold of consent for something as major as a collective sale ("Lower consent threshold for collective sales" by Mr Eric Ang Teck Sin; April 3).

In principle, for any decision that has serious ramifications for a large group of individuals, it is imperative that strict criteria be set.

For example, most legislatures, including Singapore's Parliament, require a two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution or introduce certain laws. In these instances, a simple majority is considered to be too narrow a margin.

Since a collective sale affects an individual's ownership of a residence - a high-value asset that is an integral component of living standards, and not so easily replaced - a high bar for approval, such as the current 80 per cent threshold, is entirely appropriate.

Residential properties are also often considered by their owners to be more than mere financial assets.

They are homes for long-term investments for the next generation as well.

Many people form sentimental attachments to their homes, especially if they associate them with powerful memories, priceless past experiences and neighbourly bonds.

The general reluctance to abandon a long-time abode is at least partially responsible for the failure of many collective sale proposals.

In purely pragmatic terms, even with reimbursement from the sale, many residents might lack the financial means to relocate to new properties, given the ever-rising cost of housing.

The arguments against streamlining the collective sale process also extend to the societal level.

Many of the properties involved in collective sales still have a considerable amount of useful life in them.

An over-reliance on collective sales to drive urban redevelopment, and shorter cycles of construction and demolition would entail a considerable waste of resources.

Therefore, in the interest of preserving homes and cultivating sustainable rates of urban redevelopment, the current rules governing collective sales should remain unchanged.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'High consent threshold for collective sales appropriate'. Print Edition | Subscribe