Government studying ways to make Lease Buyback scheme more flexible: Khaw

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan mingling and listening intently during a group discussion before the post-National Day Rally dialogue for Sembawang GRC at the Woodlands Community Club on Sunday, Aug 31, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan mingling and listening intently during a group discussion before the post-National Day Rally dialogue for Sembawang GRC at the Woodlands Community Club on Sunday, Aug 31, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - The Lease Buyback scheme may become more flexible, with the Government looking at ways to make it work for elderly folk who might want to join the scheme at different ages.

This could include varying the number of years of lease that they can retain under the scheme.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said this on Sunday during a post-National Day Rally dialogue at his Sembawang GRC, where he revealed that his ministry is studying ways to increase the flexibility of the scheme so that it will appeal to more Singaporeans.

Details of changes to the scheme are set to be announced in the coming week.

The scheme now allows retirees to sell part of the lease on their flats to the Housing Board in return for monthly payouts. Under the scheme, they retain 30 years of the lease.

Depending on when they join the scheme, said Mr Khaw, some seniors may find the 30-year lease too long or too short.

"Many are rightly concerned about outliving the lease," he said noting that many women live beyond 95.

But others also felt the 30-year lease could be too long if they plan to join the scheme only when they are older, say at 80, he said adding that few people live beyond 110 years old.

To address these concerns, said Mr Khaw, the Government could vary the amount of lease it buys back, depending on the age a senior joins the scheme.

Someone who joins the scheme late, may hence be able to sell the Government a larger part of his lease to get a bigger lump sum, he suggested.

This follows Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement during his National Day Rally speech earlier in August, that the Lease Buyback scheme will be extended to include four-room flats as well. In the past, it was only eligible for three-room flats and below.

Mr Khaw said on Sunday that this makes about 75 per cent of seniors eligible for the scheme, compared to about 35 per cent previously.

Other topics addressed at the dialogue with youth, organised by the Sembawang GRC youth executive committees, include the recommendations made by the Aspire committee, and youth aspirations for more pathways to career success.