More flexible HDB flat options for elderly buyers

PHOTO: ST FILE

New scheme offers range of shorter leases; BTO units to be set aside to ensure supply

Elderly flat buyers will have a good number of units allocated to them under a new flexible housing scheme, which will also allow existing studio apartment owners to top up their leases .

At least 40 per cent of the flats under the new Two-Room Flexi scheme in each Build-to-Order (BTO) project will be set aside for those aged 55 and above.

This quota will be subject to a minimum of 100 units in each project, to ensure "adequate supply" for the elderly, said the Housing Board yesterday.

Under the scheme which kicks off next month, existing studio apartment owners, including those who have not collected their keys, can opt to top up their current 30-year lease by five, 10 or 15 years at any time. They can do so from April next year, at prevailing market rates. Alternatively, they can apply for a 10-year extension when their current lease expires.

 

Elderly buyers waiting for their new flats or studio apartments to be completed can cancel their applications and apply for a flat with a shorter lease instead. Any forfeiture fee will be waived if they do so before Aug 19 next year.

The new scheme, which takes effect from next month's BTO launch, merges and replaces the current studio apartment and two-room flat schemes.

It allows applicants aged 55 and above to choose units with shorter leases ranging 15 to 45 years, in five-year intervals. The lease they choose must last them and their spouse till they are at least 95.

First- and second-timer families and first-timer singles will continue to be offered the usual 99-year-lease flats.

Currently, studio apartments are meant for elderly home owners who have sold a previous flat to fund their retirement. These have a 30-year lease and are for those aged at least 55.

Two-room flats come with a 99-year lease and are meant for families or singles. Both flat types come in 36 sq m or 45 sq m sizes.

The HDB said it will launch over 70 BTO projects with Two-Room Flexi flats over the next five years.

Generally, a first-timer family eligible for housing grants can expect to pay about $50,000 for a 99-year-lease flat under this scheme, and $16,700 for a 15-year-lease unit.

The shorter-lease homes will be fitted with elder-friendly features such as grab bars.

Like studio apartments, these shorter-lease flats will be available to private property owners or those who have previously enjoyed housing subsidies. Flats with shorter leases cannot be sublet or sold on the open market.

Experts said the scheme lives up to its name by being flexible.

But ERA Realty's Mr Eugene Lim said the price methodology could be made clearer. He said: "Given that there are many lengths of leases available for the elderly, perhaps there should be some explanation as to how the prices of flats with shorter tenures are derived."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'More flexible HDB flat options for elderly buyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe